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Neighbors, nations not alone, SBC Va. proclaims

HAMPTON, Va. (BP) — Cooperation aimed at reaching neighbors and nations with the Gospel was the focus of the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia Annual Homecoming Nov. 11-13 in Hampton.

Effective since an October vote of the SBCV executive board, the state convention retains its founding name of Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, but in business matters refers to itself as the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia and SBC of Virginia.

“They are Not Alone” was the theme, capping a 2017 theme of “We are Not Alone.”

“Over the past few years, the SBC of Virginia has stated clearly and emphatically that churches are not alone,” said Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia executive director. “However, we join in Gospel partnership not just for our mutual benefit but to reach our neighbors and the nations with the good news of Jesus Christ. We are not alone so they are not alone.”

Worship, sermons, breakout sessions and business meetings were part of the event at Liberty Baptist Church with 1,691 registered attendees, including 803 messengers and 888 guests from 263 churches.

Guest speakers

The Gospel was shared throughout three days of meetings with worship and keynote speakers including David Platt, teaching pastor of McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Va., and former president of the International Mission Board.

“If you want to live, you have to die to sin,” Platt preached Nov. 11. “We are prone to sin, but that’s just it. We hate that. We hate that we are prone to sin.

“We don’t want to sin. And when we do, we confess it before God and before others, and we repent, we turn from it. We don’t toy with it,” Platt said. “We run from it.”

Other speakers were Fred Luter, senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former Southern Baptist Convention president; Edgar Aponte, IMB vice president of mobilization; David Wheeler, professor of evangelism and executive director of the Center for Ministry Training at Liberty University; and Ben Gutierrez, a Liberty University School of Divinity professor.

SBC of Virginia President Eric Thomas, senior pastor of First Norfolk Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., and Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia executive director, also spoke.

The event included 19 breakout sessions and more than 40 exhibitors including LifeWay Christian Resources.


The Cooperative Ministry Investment Plan for 2019 was unanimously approved for $9,804,000, an increase in Cooperative Program gifts of $100,000 over 2018. A portion of the CP gifts, $404,000, will be provided through a combination of gifts from the SBC of Virginia Foundation, the North American Mission Board, and LifeWay Christian Resources.

The SBCV will forward 51 percent of CP gifts, or $4,794,000, to the SBC Executive Committee for national and international causes, including 3.26 percent for CP resourcing ($306,440). The percentages are unchanged from 2018.

In officer elections, Thomas was elected to a second term as president, and pastor Tim Ma of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas was reelected secretary. Newly elected officers are first vice-president Rob Pochek, pastor of First Baptist Church of Charlottesville, and second vice-president Charles Maney, pastor of Mt. Tirzah Baptist Church in Charlotte Court House.

“To be elected as an officer was so humbling,” Maney said. “And it also communicated to me as a pastor of a small church that we are not alone in the mission that Jesus has given to us. In the SBC of Virginia, everyone’s voice matters, and we are truly blessed to be a part of this great state convention. I am just so thrilled to be a part of such a loving and growing family.”

Other officers also praised the event.

“I’ve attended annual meetings in other states,” Pochek said. “But none compare to the time of spiritual refreshing that occurs at the SBCV homecoming…. I left the SBCV homecoming more in love with Jesus and more committed to His mission than I was when I arrived.”

Ma described the homecoming as an “assembly of grace.”

“We thank the LORD when it happens, as we thank Him when rain refreshes the land (Psalm 68:9),” Ma said. “For me, the best part is seeing the Word replenish hearts.”

SBC of Virginia welcomed 28 new church affiliations, bringing total membership to 740 churches.

Messengers unanimously passed six resolutions. Resolutions included:

— the condemning of religious violence against Jewish people in light of the Oct. 27 massacre at a Pittsburg, Pa., synagogue,

— affirming the inerrancy and authority to Scripture,

— reinforcing the impact of disaster relief,

— expressing appreciation for U.S. armed forces,

— offering prayer for the U.S. president and other national leaders,

— and expressing appreciation to the annual homecoming’s host church.

Bless Portsmouth

In a ministy event a day in advance of the meeting, Bless Portsmouth included concerted evangelistic outreach to the neighboring city. More than 300 volunteers from 19 churches, including 30 volunteers from West Virginia, took to the streets and completed 11 projects.

Projects included landscaping and painting at local schools, installing smoke detectors, teaching young men basic life skills, encouraging battered women, and preparing 69,000 meals for families in need locally and nationally. The purpose for Bless Portsmouth was to glorify God and share the Gospel, which led to three people confessing faith in Christ as their Savior.

James Taylor Jr., pastor of the Village Church of Portsmouth, welcomed the evangelism.

“You took the time to come to a city that you knew needed the Gospel, and you were willing to come to work and serve,” Taylor told volunteers. “And that is all that you can ask from somebody. So thank you, thank you, thank you, and thank you!”

SBC of Virginia launched its participation in the evangelistic outreach “Bless Every Home,” a Mapping Center for Evangelism and Church Growth ministry that encourages participants to pray daily for their community. Bless Every Home’s interactive mapping center prompts participants to pray for the salvation of five families nearest them and to live a “pray, care, share missional lifestyle,” according to the ministry website.

Other outreaches

Messengers honored veterans with a Nov. 12 luncheon following Veterans Day. In 2012, the Praetorian Project was adopted by SBC of Virginia churches at the annual homecoming to plant churches at U.S. Marine Corps bases globally. Today, one of nine resulting church plants is in Twentynine Palms, Calif. Roy Garza and his family were sent from Pillar Church in Stafford, Va., to pastor the California congregation.

This ministry effort was highlighted during the lunch and received a check for $12,000 from SBC of Virginia churches to continue the mission. Douglas L. Carver, North American Mission Board executive director of chaplaincy, was luncheon speaker. Carver retired from the U.S. Army as a major general and chief of chaplains.

Doug Echols, chairman of the SBCV executive board, described the luncheon as a homecoming highlight.

“I remember being at the meeting seven years ago and hearing the vision that was cast,” said Echols, senior pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown. “It was exciting to see the fulfillment of that vision and to hear what God is currently doing in places like Twentynine Palms, Calif.”

Many SBC of Virginia messengers brought backpacks, participating in the Christmas Backpacks mission project that provides school and hygiene supplies, gifts and the Gospel message for children in need in Appalachia. More than 3,900 backpacks were donated to NAMB’s Send Relief for distribution preceding Christmas.

LU Praise from Liberty University in Lynchburg led praise and worship during the annual event, joined by the worship team and choir of the host church.

The 2019 annual homecoming will be held at First Baptist Church in Roanoke Nov. 10-12.

    About the Author

  • Ishmael LaBiosa