ROANOKE, Va. (BP) — The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia celebrated the 20th anniversary of their convention’s founding and eclipsed 700 cooperating churches during their annual meeting Nov. 13-15 at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va.
Messengers also elected the convention’s first Hispanic officer, voted to continue forwarding more than half of Cooperative Program receipts to Southern Baptist Convention causes and heard a report of 31 salvation decisions through a pre-annual meeting evangelistic blitz.
“In celebrating the SBC of Virginia’s 20th anniversary,” SBCV executive director Brian Autry said, “we now have more than 700 Southern Baptist churches partnering together — smaller churches to some of the largest [Southern Baptist] churches from across Virginia and Metro D.C., united with a bold commitment to the Great Commission and God’s Word.”
With more than 1,200 total people in attendance, messengers approved 27 new churches for affiliation with the SBCV, bringing the total number of cooperating churches to 707.
A reception was held Nov. 13 to honor SBCV founding members and former presidents, as well as to reflect on 20 years of ministry. The convention was founded in 1996 at Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond.
“To be a part of the SBCV has been one of the richest most rewarding blessings of my life,” said pastor Carl Weiser of Hyland Heights Baptist Church in Rustburg, Va.
David Johnson, former pastor of Rileyville (Va.) Baptist Church, said that when “people ask us, ‘How did it happen?’ … we have to say it was a God thing from beginning to end.”
Doyle Chauncey, the SBCV’s first executive director, said, “If you want to look at the history of SBCV, you’ve got to take into consideration the laypeople — they played a major role.”
Evangelist Bob Davis said “it felt really good to see what God did with a handful of men who met in a hotel room to pray for God to do something unusual through them.”
SBCV President Bryan Smith noted, “From numbers so small that others regularly joked that the entire group could fit into a telephone booth to a convention of 707 churches and church plants, the evidence is clear — God is doing something special in the SBCV.
“I’m thankful to God,” Smith continued, “for all of our past convention leaders who were so instrumental in helping lay the foundation for what the SBCV has become today. I’m also grateful for a leader like Dr. Brian Autry who not only understands where God is leading us in the future but recognizes the wonderful examples of where we’ve come from in the past.”
Smith, pastor of First Baptist Roanoke, was elected to a second term as president. Other officers elected included: first vice president, Greg Brinson, pastor of London Bridge Baptist Church in Virginia Beach; second vice president, Carlos Payan, pastor of Iglesia de las Americas in Lynchburg; and secretary, James Ford, discipleship pastor of The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.
Payan, the SBCV’s first Hispanic officer called serving the convention “an honor and privilege.”
“I am proud of the multicultural openness of our convention,” Payan said. “I pledge to represent our convention responsibly to the churches of our state and to continue promoting the conservative values that our convention supports both in the new churches and those that are to be added.”
The convention’s 2017 budget, known as the Ministry Investment Plan, totaled $9.2 million and was unchanged from 2016 levels. It was unanimously approved, with 51 percent of funds allocated to SBC causes and the remaining 49 percent to SBCV ministries.
A slate of seven resolutions all were adopted unanimously, including a call for “prayer for elected officials,” a call for “revival and spiritual awakening” and an affirmation of the Gloucester County School Board, which is the defendant in a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning transgender restroom use.
Executive director’s report
In his executive director’s report, Autry announced three major initiatives: a challenge for every church to adopt a local school, the launch of Virginia Global Response and a church revitalization campaign.
Virginia Global Response is an SBCV initiative providing a humanitarian and compassion ministry platform to help churches and individuals mobilize for rapid response and ongoing ministry following natural disasters and other crises.
“Because of our Gospel partnership,” Autry said, “churches are being strengthened, Christians are being mobilized, churches are planting churches and disciples are being made.”
The convention’s church revitalization goal, Autry said, “is that no church be left behind as we seek to advance the Great Commission.”
On the Saturday prior to the meeting, messengers and churches participated in their first-ever Crossover evangelism effort, a citywide campaign in the annual meeting’s host city similar to the annual Crossover event preceding the SBC annual meeting.
More than 300 volunteers from 30 churches gathered to host door-to-door evangelism, block parties and gas buy-downs as well as to provide disaster relief supplies to recent flood-impacted families in the Covington area.
Local organizers reported 31 first-time professions of faith in Christ as Lord and Savior by the end of Crossover Roanoke.
“We’ve always been about the Gospel,” said Reggie Hester, Crossover coordinator and SBCV southeast regional missionary. “I can’t think of a better way to show our Gospel partnership than coming together and doing an event like this.”
Speakers at the annual meeting included Smith; Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; Dave Earley, lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Grove City, Ohio; J.D. Payne, pastor for church multiplication at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala.; H.B. Charles Jr., pastor-teacher of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; and Dhati Lewis, lead pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta.
Charles Billingsley, recording artist and worship leader at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, led worship throughout the annual meeting. Other worship leaders included recording artists Not Easily Broken; the First Baptist Church of Roanoke choir and praise team; LU Praise, from Liberty University; and choirs from Franklin Heights Baptist Church in Rocky Mount and Cave Spring Baptist Church in Roanoke.
The 2015 annual church profile reported 6,896 baptisms in churches cooperating with the SBCV, a 3.3 percent increase from 2014. Nearly 80,000 people participated in missions, a 20 percent increase from the previous year. Also, 59,675 young people enrolled in Vacation Bible School, a 20 percent increase from 2014.
Since October 2015, 18 new church planters and nine church planter apprentices have been approved, bringing the total number of established church plants and small groups in Virginia and D.C. to 89. More than 10 percent of cooperating churches partnered with SBCV church planters in 2016 alone.
Churches continued the annual collection of backpacks for impoverished children in Appalachia. The backpacks were filled with school supplies and daily necessities that will be delivered by Christmas. A total of 2,312 backpacks were collected.
Many of these were brought to the North American Mission Board tractor-trailer at the annual meeting while others were collected prior to the meeting. In total, the ministry will provide approximately 2,300 children with backpacks, 800 more than in 2015.