RIDGECREST, NC (BP) – As the annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference opened to perhaps 1,000 attendees at Ridgecrest, N.C., Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear was in the number.
"I want you to hear from me, who has the privilege of serving in this capacity as president, I want you to hear, 'Thank you,' and I want you to know that your sacrifices, and your prayers and your faith, have not been in vain, that God is using them," Greear told the predominantly African American audience on the event's opening night July 22.
"And with our humility, and with our continued posture of repentance, we believe that even greater days are ahead," Greear said, "because God doesn't move in His church unless He intends to impact the world in the future."
Greear, who has demonstrated diversity in his appointments to SBC committees, attended the urban ministry event with his wife Veronica and about 10 other members and staff from The Summit Church he leads in the Raleigh-Durham area.
"By God's grace, He is moving in His church, and He is showing us that ... to be a reflection of His glory, we need to reflect the diversity of our communities, but we also need to proclaim the diversity of the coming Kingdom, and that is what gives glory to Jesus," Greear said. "You, brothers and sisters," he told conference attendees, "you have believed that, and you have prayed for that, for a long, long time. I think in recent days we have seen a new movement of God's Spirit in continuing to move us toward that."
Intentional diversity, Greear said, is not about charity, but about truth.
"It is really a recognition that we need the wisdom that God has put into your community to go into the days ahead," Greear said. "God has written a very unique story in your churches, in your lives. That is a wisdom that He intends to use sovereignly as we continue to proclaim the Gospel to our nation. It is something you are doing not as a service to the Lord Jesus, not only to Him, but also as a service to your brothers and sisters of the Southern Baptist Convention."
Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement, introduced Greear as a friend who has led The Summit Church to be used by God in a "tremendous way."
"The church is drawing through sending out folks. That sounds strange," Weathersby said. "But God has called Dr. Greear to raise up leaders and send them out. And yet as he sends leaders out all over the country and around the world, God continues to multiply The Summit Church. The Lord grows the ministry by giving away."
The Southern Baptist Cooperative Program of funding missions empowers all churches to be involved in sending missionaries and planting churches, Weathersby said, introducing an informational video on the Southern Baptist "Who's Your One?" evangelistic emphasis.
Who's Your One? and keeping the Gospel paramount have been among Greear's top concerns during his presidency, now in its second year. The Gospel holds together the diversity of God's Kingdom, Greear told the gathering that also included Southern Baptist entity representatives.
"God has given us a privilege to serve, to stand together, to come together around the Gospel being above all, for the purposes of the Great Commission," Greear said. "As I look around this room I see not only a very important part of the present of the Southern Baptist Convention, but even more so I'm overwhelmed by this being the picture of our future.
"We know brothers and sisters what God's Word says about the church, that it's a group of people that come together not around skin color, or not around past cultural heritage, certainly not around political affiliation," he said. "We come together united in the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
More than 60 percent of all Southern Baptist churches planted last year were planted with leaders of color. Nearly 20 percent of Southern Baptists are people of color, Greear said.
Greear asked conference attendees to pray that Southern Baptists remain focused on the Gospel as the United States enters a national election season, which presents challenges based on political differences.
"Southern Baptist churches are not always or ever at their best during seasons like this one. I want you to pray with me that God would allow this to be a season where we really do keep the Gospel above all," Greear said. "What I do know is this, salvation did not come riding in on the wings of Air Force One. That great Savior sitting on the throne of God one day is not going to be an elephant, and He's not going to be a donkey. He's going to be a lamb that was slain since the foundation of the world. Him we preach, Him we proclaim."
Separating the church from the Gospel separates us from the power of God, Greear said, referencing 1 Corinthians 15, where the apostle Paul describes the Gospel as most important.
The leadership conference, nearing its 30th year, is not exclusively for blacks, conference convener Mark Croston has said. The gathering is designed also for parents of black children, church leaders who want to reach black communities around them, and leaders of churches desiring to become more multicultural, said Croston, national director of black church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources.
"To All Generations! Faithfulness, Forgiveness, Favor Forever" is the conference theme, with nightly worship, daily group Bible exposition, expanded breakout sessions, gender-specific events and recreational activities. LifeWay's Centrifuge Camp for grades 7-12 runs concurrently for conference families.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.