The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s (BSC) annual meeting Nov. 5-6 featured more than 40 breakout sessions and a number of auxiliary events that covered a wide range of topics. Below are descriptions of a limited selection of breakouts and other events.
A Conversation with Russell Moore
BR photo by Steve Cooke
Ronnie Parrott, from left, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville, moderates a panel with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Clay Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews; Brian Upshaw, team leader for the Baptist State Convention of N.C. disciple-making team; and Amy Whitfield, director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. The panel was hosted during the Young Pastors Network lunch Nov. 5.
Matt Capps, pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, hosted a breakout session with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The two leaders discussed how Christians can most faithfully live in the current American social and political environment.
Moore warned attendees about “the most dangerous heresy that ever came through American evangelicalism.” He said it was the teaching that a person can embrace Jesus Christ as a savior, but not as Lord. Moore related that warning to the theme of the 2018 BSC annual meeting – “Who is my neighbor?” – explaining that a Christian’s love for God, or faith in Christ, is inseparable from a Christian’s love for neighbor, or obedience to Christ.
Moore also pointed out ways in which Americans are losing their sense of identity and community in religion, and instead finding it in other interests such as sports or politics. He called it “a kind of idolatry.”
“If you belong to a political party that you never disagree with,” Moore said, “then you either have an inerrant political party, which is more of a religion, or you are accommodating yourself to everything in that political party.”
Young Pastors Network Luncheon
The Young Pastors Network hosted a lunch on Nov. 5 that included a panel discussion moderated by Ronnie Parrott, pastor of Christ Community Church in Huntersville.
The panelists were Moore; Clay Smith, pastor of First Baptist Church in Matthews; Brian Upshaw, team leader for the BSC disciple-making team; and Amy Whitfield, director of marketing and communications at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS).
The conversation touched on how and why local churches partner with the state convention, in addition to broader topics such as women’s involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention and how pastors should navigate the current U.S. political environment.
When asked why he decided to become involved in Baptist life at the state and national levels, Smith said he wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem.
“It is really easy to stand on the side and throw rocks,” he said. “It is really easy to get on your Twitter feed and prove just how incredible you are. The reality is, none of that matters. The only thing that matters are the people who have chosen to be in the room when decisions are made and are willing to put skin in the game.
“What I’ve found here in North Carolina is this is a very receptive, positive, healthy convention of churches. It’s not perfect – no convention is – but at the same time it’s a convention that values young leaders. They want you here. They want to hear your voice.”
Contextual Awareness in Discipleship
Walter Strickland, SEBTS assistant professor of theology and associate vice president for diversity, led a breakout session on “Contextual Awareness in Discipleship.”
Strickland noted how Christians should always be recognizable as Christians by their character, but they are significantly influenced by the cultures in which they live.
“Godliness is not captive to culture,” he said, “but it is expressed through cultural realities.”
Strickland said evangelicals often perceive discipleship and Bible interpretation as practices that occur outside the influence of culture, but that misunderstanding can lead believers to unwittingly normalize the culture in which they live.
“There is no single culture that has a corner on faithfulness to Christ,” Strickland said.
He encouraged attendees to ask simple questions to determine if they unknowingly establish a specific culture as normative: Who occupies the most celebrated pulpits? What is the cultural background of people in denominational offices? Who publishes the books you read? Who are seminary professors?
“If they have a similar background,” Strickland explained, “that’s probably the culture you see as normal for the Christian faith.”
Attendees at this year’s Heavenly Banquet experienced a fresh take on the sold-out event. While recent years featured guest speakers, the Nov. 6 luncheon, which is organized by the BSC Church Strengthening Team and celebrates international diversity, allowed for a more interactive hour of fellowship.
A facilitator at every table welcomed attendees as they sat down and introduced them to others at the table.
During the meal, facilitators presented three questions for groups to discuss regarding their different backgrounds, culture and how they invite others to share in it.
The banquet concluded with several participants throughout the hall voicing what they learned about those they met and the similarities they shared. All attendees received a folder of resources on welcoming neighbors and practicing hospitality.
How can we be Great Commission neighbors?
A breakout session titled “How can we be Great Commission neighbors?” featured speakers Andrew Ivester, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Durham, N.C., and Melissa Childers, International Mission Board (IMB) emeritus missionary and lay leader from Durham, N.C.
Ivester and Childers encouraged attendees to live out what it means to be Great Commission neighbors through practical examples and application.
With experience in multihousing ministry, Ivester and Childers shared their experiences. They talked about how to engage neighbors as a church body and how to create urgency in the congregation to reach the community.
Childers noted that it is not enough to pray for our neighbors. We must pray with intentionality while also making plans to go to them. We must draw our neighbors to Christ with the end goal of being sent out together for Christ.
Ivester said people do not attend church for three reasons – they feel unwelcome, they feel like they do not belong and they feel like they do not have anything to offer. He said that people are looking for warm, friendly encounters and that what people need most are relationships. “It will cost you something relationally,” Ivester said. “Financially, it’s free to be good neighbors.”
He urged others to make the ministry as simple as possible so that it can be reproducible. Ivester and Childers encouraged others that the lost can be reached with perseverance, faithfulness and unity in the body of Christ.
Loving Our Unchurched Neighbors in Rural N.C.
Jonathan Blaylock, pastor of West Canton Baptist Church, reminded participants at a breakout session titled “Loving Our Unchurched Neighbors in Rural North Carolina” of three significant factors to being a good neighbor, particularly in rural areas: sacrifice, quality and relationship.
He pointed back to the annual meeting theme based on the story of the Good Samaritan and emphasized the quality of service and generosity to neighbors. Blaylock also referred to Matthew 22:39, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and gave the example of spending as much money to meet someone else’s needs as you would your own.
If you’re having steak for dinner, he said, why give your neighbor a can of beans? Practical settings in which to serve neighbors in rural towns include fire and police departments, jails, local schools and the foster care system.