By Adam Tyler
My introduction to Virginia Baptist life came at Eagle Eyrie, where my family attended Family Missions Week each summer. The lasting impression I had was that Virginia Baptists are Gospel people. We learn about the Gospel. We try to live out the Gospel. We share the Gospel with others. That impression was reinforced each year as I gathered with Virginia Baptists to learn about missions and discipleship in the hills outside Lynchburg.
It was also reinforced in the lives of people I knew and saw often, starting in my own family. My mother was very involved in every ministry of the church, and started a Bible study after school for the teachers in her building. My father served as a deacon and Sunday School teacher in the church, and used his hard-earned vacation time to travel on mission trips through Virginia Baptist Partnership Missions.
Others in my church and local association likewise embodied and shared the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ, and I have tried to faithfully carry the Gospel torch that my family and churches have passed on to me. This has been especially true over the past nine and a half years as I have served as a pastor in two Virginia Baptist churches.
I understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be the good news that God loves us, wants to be connected to us no matter what we’ve done, and wants to make every part of this world into what he intended it to be from the beginning. This relationship with God begins now, but lasts for eternity, if we commit ourselves to following Jesus. This is the message I heard as a child, and it is the message I proclaim now as a minister of that Gospel. Why? Because I have seen it transform lives and make a difference in the world, giving hope to the hopeless and freedom to the oppressed.[ctt title=”I have seen the gospel transform lives and make a difference in the world.” tweet=”I have seen the gospel transform lives and make a difference in the world.” coverup=”cP_m4″]
My church, Grace Hills Baptist, has been and continues to be a Gospel-centric church. For the past ten and a half years, the people of Grace Hills have studied Jesus’ teachings and tried to incorporate them into their lives. They have looked at the community around them and tried to be a blessing to that community through ministry and relationships. They have looked out on a world that desperately needs God and worked hard to share the good news of Jesus in places like India, Indonesia, Ghana, Panama, Standing Rock Reservation, and Bland County, VA.
Two of many examples highlight how the Gospel is central to everything Grace Hills is about. In 2012, a small group of Grace Hills members began to consider unmet needs in the community. As they did so, they realized that one of the overlooked community ministries was the lack of a place to find help. There were lots of places, including both governmental agencies and churches, that could provide assistance for needs, but nowhere that could help people find what assistance was available.
This group started the Good Neighbor Information and Help Center, a ministry of the church that seeks to connect people in need with places of assistance. Over the past 3 years, this committed group of people has not only helped people find aid, but also formed relationships with families that allowed them to share the love of Jesus Christ.
Last summer, Grace Hills had the opportunity to make a kingdom difference on an international level. Through the Virginia Baptist partnership with Panama, a team of ten gave of their time and resources to go with the Gospel message. We travelled to El Valle and La Chorrera in July 2014. While there, team members had the opportunity to share the love of Jesus in several schools, worship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and form relationships that we hope will lead to further ministry cooperation.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to change lives and change the world. Virginia Baptists, like us at Grace Hills, have experienced that transformation and we want to continue sharing it with others. The Gospel will continue to be at the center. What will that look like for Virginia Baptists in 2015?