Frank S. Page opened the Friday morning session of the Multi-Ethnic Advisory Council’s final meeting with a biblical challenge for all Southern Baptists.
Guided by Chairman Timmy Chavis, pastor of Bear Swamp Baptist Church in Pembroke, North Carolina, the Council received six reports and engaged in conversation about common ministry needs among the ethnic and racial groups represented by council members at its March 10–11 meeting in Atlanta.
A Kingdom People
Reading from Revelation 2, Page noted that Southern Baptists seem to be following the same path as the historic church at Ephesus.
Using the outline within the letter—a word of commendation (I know your works), a word of condemnation (you have left your first love), and a word of command (remember, repent, do again the first works)—Page noted that the church’s central need was a “call back to the Lordship of Christ.”
When we forsake our first love, “our worship becomes mechanical, a drudgery,” he said. “It can happen in our lives, in our marriages, in our relationship with Christ.
“Do you remember when you thought you could touch God when you prayed?” he asked. “You could. And we can again when we cry out, ‘O God, I’m sorry.’”
Pointing to the description of the resurrected Christ in the opening chapter of the book, Page said, “Jesus is not here to make us better Baptists. He is here to make us Kingdom men.”
Page closed by calling Southern Baptists to return to the first works of “reading, studying, praying, worshiping, and witnessing of the life-changing Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Council members considered written reports from Ric Worshill with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship and Port Wilburn, multi-ethnic church pastor and current church planting catalyst and associational missionary at San Francisco Peninsula Baptist Association.
Each report precipitated questions and dialogue as council members considered how strategies to address needs in one set of congregations were transferable to their own areas of ministry.
Worshill gave testimony of his experience at the “Many Faces of the Southern Baptist Convention” booth in the exhibit hall at the 2015 SBC annual meeting.
“We were able to plant three new churches from contacts we received at the booth last year,” he said.
Three Southern Baptist ministers “wanting to plant Jewish outreach congregations” came by and had no idea Southern Baptists have an organized ministry to reach Jewish people, he said. “We were able to help resource them, with the result that three new churches have been planted.”
Acknowledging the value of the “Many Faces” booth, Wilburn urged that the “Many Faces” must move from a booth in the exhibit hall to the stage of the convention hall.
“The ‘Many Faces of the SBC’ should be at the forefront of what is communicated and what is seen” during each year’s SBC annual meeting, he said. “If this is truly our heart, who in their right mind, seeing something like, would not feel comfortable enough to want to be part of it?
“This is the manifold wisdom—the ‘multi-colored’ wisdom—of God,” he said. (The Greek adjective translated “manifold” in the New Testament literally means “many colored.”)
Ben Mishin and Anatoly Moskovsky addressed the “Discover, Develop, and Deploy” church planting strategy of Russian and Ukrainian-language churches to reach nine hundred thousand Ukrainian-speaking and two million Russian-speaking immigrants in the United States.
Charles Locklear and Timmy Chavis, representing relationships with more than thirty Native American tribes across the United States, gave a historical review of the changing demographics of indigenous peoples (from 100 percent to less than 1 percent) and the impact of Christianity on Native Americans.
Lennox Zamore spoke of opportunities for Christian ministry in the Caribbean islands, drawing special attention to the problems of human trafficking, gun-running, and drugs that have such a stranglehold on the region.
Joseph Gaston reviewed ministry efforts among the 610,000 Haitian immigrants, many of whom are likely undocumented following decades of political and economic oppression.
Haitian Pastor Wilner Maxy summed up the feelings of the entire group:
“We must go back to the book of Acts to see how the church grew,” he said. “My prayer every day is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We need an awakening in the United States and the world. We must go back to our people, pray, and fast, and then we will see the Holy Spirit.”
Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee.