HAMPTON, Va. (BP) — The Great Commission was emphasized throughout the 2015 annual homecoming of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV), where messengers also proclaimed biblical marriage, the sanctity of life, sexual purity and the dangers of pornography and sexual sin.
Great Commission stories from the mission field included sharing the Gospel in Guam, serving people in earthquake-ravaged Nepal, offering hope to fleeing refugees in Greece and Germany, sharing the Gospel with Muslims in Barcelona, Spain, earning the right to be heard in Montreal, baptizing the lost in Lithuania, boldly witnessing to lost motorcyclists in Daytona, and pushing through life’s challenges by planting churches in the Washington metro area.
A total of 826 registered messengers and guests attended the Nov. 8-10 meeting at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, with the theme “Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission.”
Several resolutions proclaimed biblical tenets of living.
Messengers affirmed that “declaring God’s Word and warning people of the consequences of their sins, including sexual sins, is an act of loving concern,” while pointing out that “hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual, including those involved in sexual sin, are not in accord with Scripture nor the doctrines of the church and are to be repudiated.”
Regarding sexual purity and pornography, messengers expressed “deep grief over the widespread devastation inflicted by the pornography industry in our churches and communities,” and committed themselves “as disciples of Jesus Christ to lives of purity in thought, word, and deed.” They encouraged churches to teach sexual purity and foster a culture of grace, mercy and restoration.
Messengers affirmed the God-ordained value of human life, spanning “pre-born babies, the aged, the physically or mentally challenged, and every other stage or condition from conception through natural death,” and vowed to “oppose any law or court decision that permits taking an unborn child’s life as a clear violation of biblical principle.”
For the first time in four years, messengers approved an increase to the ministry investment budget. The 2016 $9.2 million budget is a $200,000, or 2.2 percent, increase from 2015. The SBCV will continue to forward 51 percent of the budget, or $4,692,000, to the Southern Baptist Convention, and retain 49 percent, or $4,508,000, for SBCV ministries. If the $9.2 million budget is met, messengers voted, the SBCV will send an additional $252,000 to the SBC.
Bryan Smith, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, was elected president.
“I’m humbled and honored to have the opportunity to serve with so many mission-minded pastors and churches of the SBCV,” Smith said. “I believe that we (SBCV) are moving ever closer to a genuine, heaven-sent, spiritual awakening throughout the churches in our state.”
Other newly elected officers are first vice president Matthew Kirkland, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Christiansburg; second vice president Travis Ingle, pastor of North Bristol Baptist Church in Bristol, and secretary James Ford, singles and discipleship pastor at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights.
Messengers approved the affiliation of 27 new churches, including 17 newly planted congregations, bringing the total of SBCV churches to 672.
Ron and Linda Kidd were commissioned to serve as Mission Service Corps (MSC) missionaries in Montreal. The couple has been serving as church planting strategists with the SBCV for more than eight years, and have also served in France.
Jim and Susan Austin were commissioned as the SBCV Lithuania volunteer mission coordinators to administrate the work of planting a church in Panevedzys, Lithuania.
Messengers heard that 33 new church planting sponsorships were initiated this reporting year (October 2014-September 2015). A total of 62 churches have sponsored one or more SBCV church plants in Virginia, Washington, in various North American Mission Board Send cities, and in other states and countries.
Breakout sessions focused on topics including urban ministry, evangelism, crisis communications, church legal issues, church revitalization through small groups and Sunday School, missions, community partnerships and networking, overcoming barriers in men’s discipleship, motorcycle evangelism, and ministering to the deaf and hearing impaired.
Musical guests included Jeff Askew and the praise team from Liberty Baptist Church, and Southern gospel artist Jason Crabb.
First Baptist Church in Roanoke will host the 2016 annual homecoming Nov. 13-15.
Keynote speakers included SBC President Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church of Springdale, Ark., who addressed the crowd about living and serving in the power of God.
“He can do more in a moment than you can ever do in a lifetime,” Floyd said. “The number one need in America is a spiritual awakening, and it will not come without the power of God upon the land.”
During the Nov. 8 evening session, Dennis Swanberg, a self-proclaimed “minister of encouragement,” exhorted attendees to serve others, using an analogy of planting trees.
“They planted shade trees that they may never sit under because they wanted you to sit under them,” Swanberg said. “Revelation 14:13 says, ‘Blessed are they that die in the Lord for their works follow after them.’ May we plant shade trees, and may God be honored.”
Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice-president for convention advancement, spoke multiple times during the meeting. During a special lunch on Monday, he encouraged messengers and guests to proclaim the Gospel through evangelism and to avoid pitfalls.
K. Marshall Williams, pastor of historic Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., was also a guest speaker. “Let your light so shine before men that men might see your good works,” he said, evoking Matthew 5:16. “In other words, a godly life is a convincing testimony that number one, Jesus is alive, and that the Bible works.”
During the executive director’s report, Brian Autry referenced the ever-growing failures of ministry leaders due to sin. He challenged churches to pray and encourage pastors and other ministry leaders to remain strongly committed to the Great Commission.
“Make no mistake about it, we are in a spiritual battle,” Autry said. “What we are involved in requires the heartfelt prayers of our churches for our pastors, for their families, and for the ministries to which God has called them.”
Many worshippers came to the altar after a sermon from Vance Pitman, senior pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas.
“I want to see the power of God fall!” Pitman said. “I want to see God move like He said He was going to move. I want to see the Gospel advance in my city. I want to see nations touched. And we cannot do that with our books and our strategies, our creative meetings, and our whiteboards. We need the power of God to fall. And if we’re going to see the power of God fall our faith must be desperate.”
Grant Ethridge, SBCV president and host pastor, encouraged pastors to keep their churches alive and their worship spirit-filled.
“I believe that a lot of people are leaving mainline Protestant churches and going to other churches, not because they agree with them doctrinally, but because they want to go where there is life,” Ethridge said. “And our God is a God who brings dead things to life. And so have life in your church.”
Many messengers told Ethridge, he said, that the homecoming was “the best revival” they had ever witnessed, and was “more like a multi-day revival than an annual business meeting.”
Nov. 10 luncheon speaker Abraham Shepherd from Baptist Global Response challenged messengers about serving refugees who are fleeing persecution. Pastor Raye Bosi, a church planter from Guam, offered an emotional plea for prayer and partnership for missions in his mission field.