Bright yellow shirts, hats and vests dotted the sprawling campus of Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Charlotte as North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) staff and volunteers readied for their annual event. The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s auxiliary organization, which is also called Baptists on Mission, hosted the 2016 N.C. Missions Conference on Friday and Saturday, April 15-16, to encourage and equip Christians to live on mission.
More than 1,300 North Carolina Baptists heard speakers from across the world in a full schedule of events that focused on the theme, “Rescued and Redeemed.”
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Richard Brunson, right, president of Baptists on Mission (also known as North Carolina Baptist Men) presents Bob Stewart, center, with the 2016 Volunteer of the Year award. See photo gallery here.
Headlining plenary sessions were Bob Goff, author and speaker; Bryan Loritts, lead pastor of Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, Calif.; and Gary Chapman, author and senior associate pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.
The conference featured TED-style “theme testimonies” from speaker and author Rebekah Lyons; Meredith Brunson, missionary and daughter of NCBM director Richard Brunson; and Cheryl Allen, founder and director of Door of Hope ministry in South Africa; and others.
Grammy award winning artist Laura Story led musical worship for the event.
A volunteer dinner kicked off the two-day meeting, featuring reports from more than 20 NCBM mission project leaders. The updates highlighted global disaster relief incidents, North American church planting efforts, mobile medical clinics, Southeast Asian orphan ministries, U.S. college ministries and many more.
Main session speakers emphasized the need for Christians to remember their dependence on God for rescue and redemption, even as they pour out their lives for others.
“God does not just use people to accomplish tasks, but God uses tasks to accomplish people,” said Loritts.
He spoke from the book of James about the necessity for patience in ministry, referring to the process by which a pearl is formed through an oyster’s attempt to resolve the annoyance of a sand grain.
“You don’t get pearls unless you first go through life’s irritating, exacerbating and frustrating grains of sand,” Loritts said. “God is relentlessly trying to turn your life into a pearl.”
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Author Rebekah Lyons shares about her “crippling” panic attacks and how finding her identity in God helped her through difficult times. Visit photo gallery.
Lyons recounted a period in her life when she battled debilitating anxiety. Shortly after her family moved to Manhattan, she began to experience panic attacks, something she’d never encountered before.
“It was crippling,” she said. “The thing about despair is that you start to believe it will never change. I took on that identity, and I embraced it. I martyred-up for it.”
She found momentary relief from the anxiety in productivity, friends and family – all good things – until one night she came to a breaking point. Her head shot off the pillow during the pre-dawn hours of the night. In an all-too-familiar experience, she struggled for breath as her heart raced uncontrollably. Broken prayers escaped through gasps for air.
“The living God came upon me and I found my voice and I said ‘Rescue me. Deliver me. I cannot do that without you,’” Lyons remembered. “In that split second, my body broke and mid-panic attack, my body fell upon the bed.”
God had answered her persistent prayers. She asked the crowd, “How many in this room need a rescuer?”
Goff offered similar encouragement in his talk, “Just receive forgiveness. Be forgiven.”
His presentation, laced with humor, centered on a line from Phillipians 2:3, “consider others as more important than yourselves.” Repeating on numerous occasions the guiding principle of his life, “Love everybody always,” Goff expanded on the idea.
He pressed attendees to love others in practical but unnatural ways.
“Find people that you just don’t feel right about, you just don’t understand them,” he said. “And then start by getting to know their name. Even in your church there’s one that’s just a little odd.
“Love them and it’ll change everything. They’ll feel like they just met heaven.”
Goff continued, “If following Jesus doesn’t lead you to the poor, the hurting and the creepy people, you’re not following Jesus! You’re being popular. Stop it!”
Chapman’s talk resembled his most popular book, The Five Love Languages, but he said the two were unrelated. He outlined five “languages of apology,” based on another book he co-authored.
He explained different elements of remorse people expect to hear in order to accept an apology as genuine and meaningful. The essentials were expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuine repenting and requesting forgiveness.
Hands-on service opportunities were offered during the conference, along with many breakout sessions that highlighted and expanded on specific aspects of ministry.
NCBM honored Robert (Bob) Stewart, member of First Baptist Church in Durham, as the 2016 Volunteer of the Year. Richard Brunson said Stewart was “instrumental in beginning our new Health Screening Ministry and getting the new Health Screening Bus.”
In addition, he helped implement the International Indigenous Community Development (IICD) program in Guatemala, including the Good Shepherd Children’s Home and medical center. Stewart has also worked in many other places around the world.