Posted: 11/15/18 at 11:42am
Glen Allen, VA – During their 195th Annual Meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 13-14, 2018, Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) attendees were challenged by several inspiring speakers.
Tod Bolsinger, vice president for vocation and formation and assistant professor of practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, was the keynote speaker for the event. He spoke during the Wednesday morning sessions, drawing upon much of the content of his renowned book on leadership, Canoeing the Mountains.
Bolsinger used the analogy of historical explorers, Lewis and Clark, to describe the leadership challenges that Christians and churches are faced with in a post-Christendom world.
When Lewis and Clark traveled west toward the Continental Divide, they were seeking a water route that would allow them passage to the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they found the Rocky Mountains.
Bolsinger said that same type of challenge is what church leaders face today. Things are so unexpected and so new that the old solutions don’t apply.
“It’s not going to do you any good to paddle harder,” he said. “You have to make an adaptation, and the key to adaptation begins with going back to your deepest core value.”
Bolsinger observed that church leaders often say that seminary didn’t prepare them for what they are doing now. He said that in making necessary adaptations, church leaders should remember that people don’t fear change—they fear loss.
To allay that fear, Bolsinger suggests that it’s key to learn what your core value is. “We must be clear about what we must hold onto no matter what, and in every congregation that’s slightly different.”
“When we are on mission, the church is at its best,” Bolsinger stated. “If we want to go back to the glory days, we will be less than God wants us to be. God is taking you into uncharted territory to transform you,” he concluded.
The previous morning, two BGAV pastors were featured speakers. Allen Jessee, lead pastor of Highlands Fellowship, a multi-site congregation in southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee, encouraged attendees to “Take a Risk” as he preached on the parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10.
“Someone doesn’t have to think like you in order to help you,” he challenged. “Maybe the Lord is trying to get our attention; maybe he’s going to use people very different from us to help us.” He concluded, “Let’s work together. I’m convinced the best is yet to come.”
Kristin Adkins Whitesides, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Winchester, VA, preached about “When the Bible Sets Us Free,” focusing on the story of Philip and the eunuch from Acts 8. “As a eunuch, he was forbidden to enter the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, finding himself outside, excluded, different, alone,” she explained. “The eunuch grappled with scripture much like we do. Is he welcomed inside the house of God, or is he not?”
“Philip assures the eunuch that Jesus not only knows his suffering—he took it on,” she continued. “Christ walks beside us; he is resurrected, and he rewrites our endings.” She told of how Philip baptized the eunuch. “But the story never truly ends with baptism. We’re swept up in a story larger than our own. The story includes characters who surprise us: strangers on wilderness roads. God incorporates us all into his story of grace. Our story’s beginning and end will be written by God’s love, and that is the Good News.”
Two more BGAV preachers were featured at Tuesday evening’s worship. Valerie Carter, executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia, delivered a message titled, “For Real?” in which she drew upon Luke 7, exploring the different ways people responded to Jesus—those who’d been waiting for his arrival. They were asking, “Is Jesus for real? Is he the real Messiah, or should we wait for someone else?” She likened that to the question people are asking now, “Is church for real? Is it a sham, or is it something else?”
Carter challenged, “We need to aim in everything we do to minister to the whole person, for salvation is deliverance from harm—from a dire situation,” and she said further, “We need to work as disciples of Christ to deconstruct the norm.”
The final featured preacher of that day was Chuck Warnock, pastor of Chatham Baptist Church, Chatham, VA, who spoke about “The Rewards of Remaining,” focusing on John 15:5. Warnock encouraged attendees to remain in Jesus by remembering the roots of their beginnings with Jesus. “We need to stay connected to the community to which God has called us—to the church and to the community,” he charged.
The Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) is a cooperative missions and ministry organization that consists of over 1,400 autonomous churches in the Commonwealth of Virginia, as well as churches from Seoul, South Korea, Toronto, Ontario, the District of Columbia, and the states of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.