Posted: 9/5/19 at 2:00pm. Post by Tony Brooks.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19 NIV)
On Saturday, August 24, at Heritage Baptist Church in Farmville, we saw God at work at the Revitalize! Conference.
I should have known with our theme and verse that God was doing a new thing! I had prayed for months about what Southside churches needed. I had chosen advice from our Mission Council representatives months ago. I had met with associational leaders from all seven associations months ago. I met with Karl Heilman, Field Strategist for the Capital region, for guidance months before. I met with Dr. Adam Tyler, our First Vice-President for advice. I did a study leave to focus on Church Revitalization over a year ago, but I had no idea what God was about to do.
My goal was for 140 people to attend this conference and be re-energized with fresh ideas about what God is doing. When we closed reservations ten days before the conference, we had 199 who were hungry to see what God was doing! Many wanted to add after the deadline, but we couldn’t safely handle any more.
Why is this significant? In Southside, Virginia, we have seen the census report: we are getting older with very little growth expected. Young adults are moving away. Many churches have turned inward in maintenance mode (which is one of the worst things you can do!). What did we focus on? Turn outward!
We sought to improve programs like Children’s Ministry and Youth Ministry for what God may be doing. We sought to find new ways to promote the church through technology. We sought to find alternative revenue streams (Virginia Baptist Foundation), Fresh Expressions of church, ways to partner in the community, how to reach out to guests, how to assimilate new members towards discipleship, how to use sports camps to reach new people, how to reach outside the church walls with evangelism, and how to deal with communication/health/conflict that stunts growth possibilities.
We gave out Energizer batteries to every person who came. They were asking, “Why?” I wanted them to know that God is in the energizing business! Every person got all the handouts to take back from every breakout session. Dr. John Upton inspired attendees in our opening session to understand we can do much more together than apart—which of course is the heart of BGAV! We can make the greatest difference for the Kingdom when we work together.
Associational leaders, Mission Council members, and more gave their input. The Virginia Baptist Foundation, Providence Baptist Church in Red House, and Grace Hills Baptist in Appomattox helped subsidize this event with donations. Heritage Baptist Church (and their pastor, Rev. Scott Curtis) in Farmville showed Christ to us through much work with lunch and setting up rooms. The BCM at Longwood, with the help of Rev. Janice Kiehm, provided chairs when the numbers grew.
Perhaps the song at the beginning of our time should have been the clue…close to 200 people sang “Revive Us Again.” It sounded like angels singing. God is doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it?