When Al Gilbert left Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem in 2011, “love” was one of the reasons.
As executive director of Love Loud, the evangelism arm of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Gilbert said he and his team are working toward some simple steps to help Southern Baptist churches improve their ministry.
“We’re still in much of a learner mode,” Gilbert said, noting that they are collecting stories through May 1 of successful ministries across the nation.
Gilbert brought ideas from his church’s Love Winston-Salem ministry and is combining that with examples of other successful ministries. NAMB is looking at churches of all sizes and ethnicities, attempting to find a way to replicate successful ministries elsewhere.
Al Gilbert, executive director of Love Loud, the evangelism arm of the North American Mission Board.
“We recognize that mobilization is a process,” Gilbert said.
“I think there are three components – awakening, growing, and strategic alignment – when a church is meeting community needs while sharing Christ. The point is to meet needs and share Christ simultaneously” by offering a blanket to a homeless person or smoke detectors for an older or poor community.
Gilbert said ministry could come in different forms: English as a Second Language classes, tutoring, sports ministry, medical/dental clinics, food banks, job training, etc.
Love Loud was one of the emphases for the Week of Prayer for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
The Week of Prayer also highlighted the work of five missionaries, as well as Send North America and efforts to equip the next generation.
“There seems to be a movement … especially in the next generation reminding us the church has withdrawn from meeting human needs,” Gilbert said.
Even though NAMB will be encouraging churches to host events/ministries to reach their communities, the hope is that church members will see the event as just one step in the process.
“When you look at scripture, God is God of widow, orphan and poor,” Gilbert said.
“Where do we find people in the community that have those kind of needs?”
He encourages existing churches to look outside their walls to meet needs and challenges expanding churches to look at the Send North America cities:
• Northeast – New York, Washington, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
• Midwest – Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Indianapolis, Detroit
• West – Los Angeles, San Francisco/Palo Alto, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Denver
• South – Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans
• Canada – Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal
Churches can come alongside church planters in these cities to help them have a broader reach into their community.
Casting a vision is the first step for churches to see the potential they have to reach outside their walls. Gilbert believes this step is important for helping a church focus on its purpose, as well as seeing a deeper commitment when a church body is unified.
After that, mobilization is key. Gilbert said churches should contact congregations with successful ministry models and start preparations for beginning their own ministry.
For instance, a church could look at the Graffiti Church in New York and develop a plan for starting a similar church in Miami. Graffiti Church not only shares Jesus Christ but also meets human needs.
Gilbert compares his Love Loud team to air traffic control, actively guiding churches to connect with ministry models that they can replicate or start in another area.
“I think a lot of people back off of helping because they think they are wasting time or money,” Gilbert said.
What Love Loud is doing is trying to let churches know what other opportunities are out there and how to start those ministries locally as well as other places.
“It sure would be good so that you have an idea of who is doing what,” he said.
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans in June will likely hear more about this movement, and Gilbert highlighted July 22, a day to set aside as Love Loud Sunday. He encouraged churches to consider adjusting weekly schedules to take ministry into the surrounding neighborhoods.
Since leaving Calvary, Gilbert and his wife, Karen or “KK,” have made several transitions.
Not only did Gilbert change jobs, but he and his wife sold their home and moved in with her parents in Georgia. KK’s mother died in the latter part of 2011, and the couple continues to help her father.
They left nine of their 11 grandchildren in North Carolina. They have also been looking for a church home.
The couple has started going to Northside Church in Roswell, Ga., a congregation that is going through a restart.
It is an older church that has made a commitment to transition to growth, a move that Gilbert hopes other churches will imitate through Love Loud and help from a local association, state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
“I have said transition is a big word,” Gilbert said. “To leave pastoring and sell a house … make a move, has been challenging.”
His transition to NAMB “has been great,” Gilbert said, praising his new team. “Even though I’ve been here about five months, there’s still a lot I don’t know.”
To learn more about this new effort, visit namb.net or request more information at [email protected].