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Upton Celebrates and Challenges Churches in BGAV Executive Director’s Report

Posted: 11/15/18 at 11:45am

Glen Allen, VA — A highlight of the 195th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV) was John Upton’s Executive Director report, during which he shared many of the ways the BGAV is “Living the Story,” which was the theme of this year’s meeting. He told of the history of the BGAV, which began in 1823 for two main reasons: to focus on the local church, and to be “movemental”—to engage the local church in a movement of some kind—in order to help each local church accomplish more than what that church could do by itself.

“These two things always have to be held in tension and balance in BGAV life,” Upton commented.

Aaron Lee gives messengers and guests the latest Disaster Response updates during John Upton’s report.

Upton then proceeded to describe what he sees as four types of churches experiencing certain kinds of challenges, and he identified four BGAV churches within those categories who are rising to meet those challenges effectively in their communities. He used specific examples of BGAV resources and initiatives that are currently available to help churches meet the changing needs of their congregants and communities.

Upton reported several new opportunities that BGAV is making possible for churches who want to try new things or focus on certain areas of ministry. Churches who are willing to try to start a Fresh Expression of church—a non-traditional way of bringing church to people where they are—have access to a $500 microgrant to help get them going. Fifty of these microgrants are being made available through Fresh Expressions. 

Churches who would like to hire interns in pastoral or age-level ministries will now be able to apply for funds to assist them through BGAV Scholarships and Ministerial Education Funds, a program that for 10 years has provided scholarships for college and ministerial students affiliated with BGAV-member churches.

Upton reported on how Virginia Baptists respond immediately in times of need, focusing on Disaster Response ministries. He introduced Aaron Lee, Disaster Response coordinator, who brought the news that, as of the time of the meeting, the value of services provided by Virginia Baptist Disaster Response in 2018 totaled $1 million. Lee gave a recap of recent efforts in North Carolina following Hurricanes Florence and Michael. He then said that in 2019, we are celebrating 50 years of Disaster Response.

“Going back to Camille, we have responded to 72 disasters, and 37 of those have happened in the last four years,” Lee explained. “It is an incredible opportunity that we have together as the BGAV on mission to be that movement—a missionary movement sending folks from your local churches to the local churches affected in these communities.”

Upton then spoke of the importance of the local church’s role in race relations and addressing racial tension. “How does the church reach our polarized and diverse society,” he asked, “when we’re not equipped for this?” He stated that our leaders of Uptick, a BGAV initiative focused on leadership development of young ministers, submitted a grant proposal to the Lilly Foundation to establish a training piece to address this issue—and they were recently awarded a $1 million grant to carry out their plans.

Upton concluded his report by announcing another recent partnership with Missio Alliance, a centrist group whose mission is to resource churches and individuals who share the belief that diversity of thought within denominations is a strength. Jim Baucom, one of Missio Alliance’s founders and senior pastor of Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, VA, described this new relationship as “finding the family you didn’t know you had.” 

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.