Guests and messengers to the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSC) shared a meal with people of different cultures and ethnicities at the Heavenly Banquet Nov. 7. Attendees heard testimonies of God’s work.
Luis Tejeras, Latino campus pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte, shared the three pillars that establish Hickory Grove’s vision: exalt Christ, make disciples and pass the torch.
Tejeras recalled the moment he knew the church needed a transformation from attraction-centrality to gospel-centrality. He was about to baptize a man when the man confessed that he was agreeing to baptism only to appease his wife and alleviate troubles in their marriage, not in obedience to God.
“We were really fast to baptize people that were not Christians, and that changed my life forever,” Tejeras said.
Around the same time, Hickory Grove called Clint Pressley as senior pastor. Tejeras said they shared the same burden for the state of the church, and God began to change the church’s vision for the community and response to the gospel.
Elaborating on the mentorship aspect of disciple-making, Tejeras said, “I believe that the Great Commission is not optional for Christians. … We should pour our lives into every member of Christ’s church.
“We don’t count attendance every Sunday service or every Wednesday. What we count is the people that have been investing in the lives of others and people that are getting that investment.”
For the banquet’s mission focus, Zac Lyons, BSC senior consultant for Great Commission Partnerships, introduced Kambiz Saghaey, coordinator for Persian Leadership Development at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Saghaey told his story of planting churches in Iran.
After seven years pastoring in Iran, he was arrested and charged with two crimes against Islam and the government. The judge overseeing his case wanted to change his charges to apostasy and hang him. Before he could have Saghaey killed, however, the judge fell ill and died. A different judge sentenced the pastor with one-year probation and closed the case.
“God is sovereign,” Saghaey said. “God says, ‘go and make disciples.’ God will take care of us.”
Suresh Jonnalagadda, a sitar player and pastor at Indian Upstate Fellowship in Greenville, S.C., provided music, while Neal Eller, BSC team leader for church strengthening, led in singing hymns and invited participants to sing in their native languages.