NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Enhanced collaboration in spreading the Gospel was a key focus as national and regional Southern Baptist leaders gathered March 22 at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
The regional leaders gathering of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention (NAAF) and Send Network emphasized the benefits of working together, said NAAF President Frank Williams.
“NAAF desires to actively participate in bringing our pastors and entity leaders together to hear firsthand what’s happening in convention life, ask questions, and interact in meaningful ways that hopefully bridge gaps,” Williams said, “that are sometimes formed through misunderstandings, perceptions of each other, or virtual experiences that do not bring out the best in others.”
SBC President Bart Barber, North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell, SBC Executive Committee Interim CEO and President Willie McLaurin, NOBTS President Jamie Dew, Former SBC President Fred Luter, NAAF board members, SBC EC Vice President for Black Church Relations Charles Grant, Lifeway Christian Resources Black church relations leader Mark Croston, Send Network church planters and various pastors were among the 50 invited guests.
Meeting attendees heard an update on a NAAF/Send Network partnership to plant churches in areas lacking African American Southern Baptist congregations. They also heard reports of diverse church partnerships and church replants, updates on church and discipleship trends, updates on Executive Committee resources available to pastors and churches, and received spiritual enrichment.
“We are indeed better together,” Williams said, “and the Gospel compels us to go through the tough places, love when it’s hard, and celebrate how God is at work in our convention of churches.” Williams is pastor of Wake Eden Community Baptist Church and the Bronx Baptist Church, both in the Bronx borough of New York.
McLaurin attended the meeting as a ministry of care and concern, he told Baptist Press.
“The National African American Fellowship invested in me as a young pastor. Because of their investment, I was elected the first president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention African American Fellowship,” McLaurin said. “I needed to participate in the spring NAAF meeting to provide a ministry of care and concern. I’m letting NAAF members know they have a friend and partner serving on the SBC Executive Committee.”
Such collaborations as the NAAF/Send Network partnerships are among convention hallmarks including cooperation and generosity.
“Strategic alliances are best when churches are on a mission together. For almost 100 years Southern Baptist churches, through the Cooperative Program, have demonstrated interdependence,” he said. “I am incredibly thankful for the faithful focus that NAAF and NAMB are placing on partnership. The partnership will mobilize more Black Churches to reach the harvest.”
The partnership is also a valuable tool in expanding Southern Baptists evangelism and diversity, McLaurin said.
“Frank Williams and Kevin Ezell have provided a healthy model of collaboration which will accelerate the advancement of the Great Commission,” McLaurin said. “Now is the time for our entire convention to double down on our efforts to partner with every ethnicity. Over the past five years, our entities, state conventions and associations have witnessed intentional efforts to appoint minority leaders. In order to accelerate the momentum, the SBC must position more ethnic leaders in positions of service.”
Grant unveiled a new video series highlighting the Navigating the SBC resource that has been heartily received.
“The video enhances the partnership I have with NAAF. We’re working together for progress in assisting our churches in understanding the structure and functions of our convention,” Grant said. “The end result is to have a voice that edifies our convention for the glory of God.”
Featuring Williams, NAAF Executive Director Dennis Mitchell and NAAF Secretary and Tracy, Calif., pastor Kevin James, the video includes testimonies of the benefits of the Navigating the SBC resources and describes best ways to use the guide.
“It serves as a promotional and supplemental tool,” Grant said, “for sharing the orientation guide in the Black church context.”