RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) — Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs enriched worship, study and fellowship among those gathered at Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, an annual week of spiritual enrichment for the nearly 4,000 African American churches in cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention.
“Praise the Lord everybody. Come on, clap your hands and give Him some praise. Come on, just give Him a little more praise,” cried evening worship leader John Ray, minister of music at Light of the World Christian Church (SBC) in Indianapolis, Ind.
“I know we’re on the mountain,” he told those gathered July 22 in Ridgecrest Conference Center’s Spilman Auditorium in Black Mountain, N.C. “We’re on the mountain today, but some of us may have left a situation or two at home. You might have brought a situation with you. I want to encourage you to put it all in His hands. How many know [Jesus Christ] can handle it?” Ray asked.
“Just tap your neighbor and tell them to put it all in His hands,” Ray told worshippers.
A week of enrichment
Activities July 21–25 included 6:15 a.m. praise and worship, 60 morning classes offered in two concurrent segments, morning coed Bible study, separate afternoon Bible studies for men and women, fellowship meals, evening worship and state-specific fellowships. At the same time, Centrifuge Camp engaged teenagers in worship, small-group Bible study and team-building activities. Educational, spiritual and recreational activities also kept children busy during the week.
Mark Croston, national director of Black Church Partnerships for LifeWay, organized the event with a host of sponsors and supporters.
“Black Church Leadership and Family Conference is first, a great training event. We seek to provide training for all ages and areas of church life,” Croston told Baptist Press. “Second, BCLFC is a great place to showcase all the entities of the SBC, to help people to see what they offer and how they can help the local church fulfill its kingdom mission. Third, BCLFC is a great time of fellowship and spiritual renewal.”
Black church week registration totaled 1,000, including 671 adults, 53 youth, 85 children, and 191 teenagers who attended Centrifuge. Joining LifeWay in sponsoring the week were the North American Mission Board, International Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, the Woman’s Missionary Union, the National African American Fellowship and the National Black Pro-Life Coalition.
K. Marshall Williams, president of National African American Fellowship and pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., preached the July 22 evening sermon. Using Philippians 4:6-7 as a text, he addressed worshippers as “beloved” and encouraged those in attendance to rely on God for all they need.
“Don’t you know [a] king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, and He moves it any way He wants,” Williams preached, invoking Proverbs 21:1. “You know the folk can’t put you out unless the Lord say so. … We don’t have to worry about tomorrow because tomorrow belongs to Him.”
Worry is like a rocking chair, Williams said. You move back and forth, but go nowhere.
“Let me throw this in parenthetically, beloved,” Williams said. “The problem in our nation today is that we haven’t settled the bread [livelihood] issue. We’re allowing political ideology and even our cultural ethnicity to be elevated over our biblical authenticity.”
He encouraged worshippers to call on God for provision and guidance.
“I heard Him say, ‘My grace is sufficient,'” Williams said. “He said, ‘If you yoke up with Me, My yoke is easy; My burden is light. When trouble comes in your life, whoever you yoke up with, that’s who you ought to trust. If you yoke up drugs, then call on your cocaine. If you yoke up with alcohol, call up your Seagram’s 7…”
Cross-cultural discipleship, conflict management within the church, financial stewardship, urban discipleship, marriage and biblical sexuality, church revitalization, ministry to people with special needs, and the history of African Americans in global missions were among numerous topics addressed during breakout sessions.
Gary Frost, vice president of the Midwest Region and Prayer for the North American Mission Board, was one of nearly 100 breakout session teachers. He taught sessions on “Revival and Awakening: The Greatest Need of Our Cities.”
He likened the United States to the doomed ship the Titanic, which had been billed as unsinkable.
“The water is creeping into this ship. This ship is about to go, as we call America,” Frost said, “and the blame cannot be laid at the feet of President Obama, President Bush, no president. The blame is to be laid at the feet of the body of Christ…. God has no covenant with America. God has a covenant with the body of Christ.”
He referenced 2 Chronicles 7:14, which points out God’s promise to heal the nation if Christians will humble themselves, repent from sin, seek God’s face and pray.
Men and women gathered in separate afternoon Bible studies and fellowship dinners.
Valerie Carter, executive director/treasurer of the Women’s Missionary Union, addressed hundreds of women gathered for a fellowship dinner sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.
Carter, WMU’s first African American executive, used the account of sisters Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42 to encourage women to flourish in their individual callings and to respect the callings of one another.
Every calling in the body of Christ is essential, she said, and women only hurt themselves by trying to operate in someone else’s calling.
In other activities, NAAF presented inaugural $1,000 annual scholarships to Stephanie Joy Pigg, a Leavell College student and member of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., where she led worship; and Joel Caffey, a 2014 International Baccalaureate Program graduate of Granby High School, Norfolk, Va., and keyboardist at Fairwood Agape Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va.
In presenting the awards, NAAF president Williams recognized LifeWay as the scholarship’s leading contributor among SBC entities, and praised A.B. Vines, immediate past NAAF president, for leading NAAF in founding the scholarship.
Croston, national director of Black Church Partnerships for LifeWay, recognized churches for attendance, based on congregation size, during the final worship service.
“If you are a member of a church with 1,000 or more members I want you to stand,” Croston said. “I want you to think about how many actually came with you.”
As he narrowed those standing to churches that brought more than 90 members, the only church left standing was Franklin Avenue Baptist Church, the pastorate of immediate past SBC President Fred Luter, with 147 in attendance.
Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).