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Va. Baptists celebrate 20 new churches

ROANOKE, Va. (BP) — Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia celebrated new church plants, stories of baptisms and a near record-breaking attendance of 990 registered messengers and guests during their annual meeting. The theme of this year’s gathering was “Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission.”

First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va., hosted the meeting Nov. 10-12.

Brian Autry, the convention’s executive director, welcomed church messengers to the “Annual Homecoming” with a call for ministries to effectively work and pray together. Autry emphasized the importance of strengthening, mobilizing and planting churches across the state and around the world.

“Biblical conviction and missions cooperation forge the foundation of our Gospel partnership as SBCV churches,” Autry said. “We serve and send together because the Lord Jesus gave us a Great Commission, not a small commission. The world is too big and people are dying too fast for us not to work together.”

Messengers approved a $9 million budget for 2014. The convention’s treasurer, Eddie Urbine, said the budget continues the Cooperative Program distribution of 51 percent being sent to the SBC and 49 percent retained for mission efforts in Virginia. Since its inception, the convention has sent $107,715,872 to the Cooperative Program. Also in 2013, churches and individual partners increased financial support for church planting by $40,704 to total $982,518.

One church that has committed to church planting is Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown. Doug Echols, Bethel’s senior pastor, led the church to plant Catalyst Church a year ago. The pastor hopes to plant five churches in the next 10 years.

During the meeting, Catalyst Church was highlighted through videos and interviews. The church plant is located in a strip mall near Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Jeff Mingee said he felt called to leave his youth pastor position at Bethel Baptist to lead the church plant.

“Much of that was done in the context of the local church,” Mingee said. “The body coming together and affirming gifts, and leaders leading and correcting me as necessary.”

Catalyst has ministered to college students and families for more than a year and has two worship services filled to capacity.

“The support from Bethel and SBCV is helpful on a personal level of being encouraged and on a corporate level of knowing we have partners in the Gospel,” Mingee said.

In the past year, the convention reported 6,696 baptisms. Virginia Baptists honored Waters Edge Church in Yorktown for 698 baptisms. They also honored the 45-member Church of the Crossroads in Glade Spring for 30 baptisms.

Mark Custalow, SBCV church planting team leader, presented the annual Eagle Awards to those congregations that have sponsored new church plants within the last year. Virginia Baptists recognized 14 churches for sponsoring 10 church plants. Right now a total of 47 SBCV churches are sponsoring church plants, Custalow said.

Messengers unanimously approved 20 churches into the convention. There are now 618 total SBCV-affiliated churches.

A total of 35 pastors who have served 25 years or more were recognized during a special reception.

Keynote speakers included Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research; Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C.; and Randy Hahn outgoing president and senior pastor of The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va.

SBCV messengers unanimously elected Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, as the next president.

“It is always a humbling feeling to be asked,” Ethridge said. “And I am eternally grateful for every opportunity God gives me to serve in His Kingdom work.”

“We are praying that God will use our testimony to encourage pastors who serve in every size church,” Ethridge said. “Our personal journey has been watching God breathe new life into old churches.”

Ethridge shared about his and his wife Tammy’s book called, “Marriage: Up Close & Personal.” They are also working on the book “Parenting: Up Close & Personal.”

“Our desire is to minister to pastors and staff members who serve local churches by strengthening their own marriages and homes,” he said. “Our nation and the SBC need a fresh move of God. We want to be a catalyst for revival in our generation.”

Other elected officers include: Billy Ross, senior pastor of Centreville Baptist Church in Centreville, first vice president; Jim Booth, senior pastor of Staples Mill Road Baptist Church in Glen Allen, second vice president; and Matthew Kirkland, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Christiansburg, secretary.

Messengers approved six resolutions that included prayer for those impacted by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Billy Graham’s My Hope for America campaign, and religious liberty in the military.

The resolution related to religious liberty noted “there has been much publicity and tumult over reported abuses of the religious liberties of those in military service.” Messengers committed “to pray for our service men and women as they attempt to live out their faith in a difficult context … we commit to pray for our military chaplains as they seek to remain faithful to the Bible in a sometimes difficult environment.”

Next year’s meeting will be held Nov. 9-11 at The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va.
Ishmael LaBiosa is the media director for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. Brandon Pickett, SBCV’s director of communications, contributed to this story.

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