Hampton, VA, Tuesday, November 11, 2014 – At the 191st Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), Dr. John V. Upton, Jr., Executive Director, offered an encouraging yet challenging word to hundreds of Virginia Baptists.
Upton sought help from friends and partners in defining the BGAV’s identity, asking,“Who are we as the Baptist General Association of Virginia? What is it that is unique about us? What is our contribution?”
He walked through the four parts of “Baptist General Association of Virginia”, especially highlighting the words of Virginia.
“Isn’t it interesting that when we were named 191 years ago it was of Virginia, not just in Virginia. [Afilliation with Virginia Baptists] is as much a temperament as it is geography.”
Upton went on to describe that identity of the BGAV means that Virginia Baptists are
gospel-centric, are relationally rich, are reasonable and gracious, have a heart for the “not yet,” and believe in investing generously in shared mission.
“I am getting calls weekly from churches wanting to partner with the BGAV”, Upton shared. “Others are attracted to us because they are trying to find a community to be free to be what God has called them to be. Association is a free choice. We ask no one to be conventional. We ask you to be unique in your congregation’s calling. We choose to freely associate together, believing we can reach the world for Christ better than by ourselves. Be that free expression of Christ wherever you are.”
He then unveiled that the BGAV is in even more states and international, including a church in Seoul, South Korea. Upton introduced two videos about BGAV churches in Hawaii and New York. “They’re coming to us,” he noted. “Five years ago I would have never dreamed of this; there was not a designed strategy. Now we’re putting structure to it.”
Emmanuel “Muss” Mustapha joined Upton on stage, bringing greetings from Ghana. To loud applause, he shared that 186 churches have been planted, and there has been a 42% decrease in malaria in several districts. “Thank you for your support of the More Than Nets project.”
Upton then shared that because Virginia Baptists are relationally rich, disaster relief staff was able to call the Stop Hunger Now warehouse to send meals to Ebola-stricken Liberia. He smiled and said “Folks, that ship arrived there this week.We’ve got to sail fast in our world of need. We can’t linger.”
After showing a Fresh Expressions video, Upton commented, “You are an innovative people–a pioneering people. We were birthed by pioneers; we will move forward with pioneers.”
He concluded with gratitude,“You’re civil, gracious, and reasonable. You have a heart for the “not yet.” May that heart only grow bigger. You always give sacrificially for the mission set before us. I am proud to be part of the BGAV.”
The 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, the District of Columbia, and the states of California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.