The Pillar Network, an affinity-based Baptist association focused on church planting and revitalization, hosted its annual “Unite” conference on the campus of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) Oct. 5-6.
The event gathered more than 500 of the network’s members and prospective members for a time of fellowship, worship and the opportunity to hear from some of the network’s key leaders and speakers.
Nate Akin, Pillar’s associate director, said the annual conference is an opportunity for the group to connect and encourage one another in gospel work.
“The main purpose of the conference is just to provide encouragement to our current pastors and leaders, and then also to provide a little bit of a window into who we are to those who may be interested in joining,” Akin said.
“We kind of describe it as a family reunion where we all get together, encourage one another, have a time of fellowship, but also give a peek in for those who are checking out what Pillar is.”
After last year’s conference was limited in capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Akin said he was grateful for the opportunity to unite once again with Pillar’s members during the most-attended conference the network has ever hosted.
“The word I would use is sweet,” Akin said. “It was just really encouraging and even something as simple as just hearing other voices singing loudly together. … the fact that we could be around each other and hang out was just a really sweet time, and Southeastern was extremely gracious to us.”
Akin said every year a variety of different speakers will examine one of the six aspects of the network’s “theological DNA,” or convictions. This year’s theme was elder leadership in churches.
The conference featured plenary session messages from Juan Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas; Jimmy Steele, lead pastor of the Hill Church in San Diego; and Jeff Hay, pastor of Ballycullen Community Church in Dublin, Ireland.
The other components of the “theological DNA” of Pillar include gospel proclaiming, Bible-based, expository, kingdom-minded and confessionally Baptist (all churches involved with Pillar must be cooperating Southern Baptist churches).
Other activities at the conference included breakout sessions, panel discussions and live worship led by Eric McAllister, director of liturgy and music at High Pointe Baptist Church.
Akin said he has been working with Pillar for just over three years and is grateful to see the growth of the network since its launch 10 years ago by a few churches and pastors near Raleigh, N.C.
As the network grows, Akin hopes the temptation of pride does not get in the way of a gospel focus.
“I think the biggest challenge today to what we’re trying to do as believers who are meaningfully connected to a local church is still sin and pride,” Akin said.
“I would still say some of the biggest challenges we’re facing are as old as the garden itself. Even we (Pillar Network) need to look at ourselves in the mirror as we grow and say those things are always a temptation, and I pray that we still hold a spirit of humility and hold our convictions in a way that’s distinctly Christian. …
“We’re thankful to be cooperating with brothers and sisters underneath that tent (Southern Baptist Convention) as we try to do church work together.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.)