Published November 3, 2011
DULUTH — The conversation ranged from Reformed theology to mentoring to paying for buildings as up to 120 younger pastors from around the state joined together at the Baptist Ministry and Missions Center Oct. 25.
The Georgia Baptist Convention Younger Pastors’ Forum, led by pastors Wayne Bray and Mike Stone, came about due to a desire for voices of a different generation getting their own place at the table. It was the second such event this year, with an earlier meeting taking place Jan. 27.
Bray serves as lead pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Douglasville while Stone is senior pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear. GBC executive director J. Robert White fielded questions from the group.
Responses among participants were upbeat, and communicated a strong desire for future events.
“I felt like the meeting was positive, but just scratched the surface,” First Baptist Buford pastor Matt Stacy said in an email to The Index. “My initial thought was that us young guys were getting thrown a bone, but I was pleasantly surprised to sense a genuine spirit of concern from our GBC leadership.”
Student minister Justin Carter blogged about his experience the next day at preacherjustin.com in a post titled “A Great Step in the Right Direction.”
“Being the youngest person in the room at age 22, it was somewhat intimidating at first. However, I was very grateful for the level to which leaders receptively listened to my ideas,” wrote Carter, who serves at Piedmont Avenue Baptist Church in Rockmart.
The subject of Calvinistic, or Reformed, theology was approached early on but could have used more time for discussion, blogged Cleveland Road Baptist Church, Athens pastor Daniel Randle at danielrandle.blogspot.com.
At one point, said Randle, Bray asked for the “4+ pointers” to gauge how many viewed themselves as Calvinists.
“To some people’s surprise (probably those facilitating and those who were employed by the GBC), easily a little more than half [those] gathered raised their hands,” he wrote of a topic that is gathering attention in Southern Baptist life (See related story).
Finances – and more to the point, the GBC building – also came up.
“I am not real happy about the building or the debt we have incurred,” admitted Stacy. “[However] I do not have much of a right to criticize it either since I did not make it a priority to attend the meetings when decisions about the [construction of] the building were being made.
“We cannot just quit paying the mortgage. It is what it is. Let’s pay it off and quit bickering about something we cannot change,” adding that First Baptist Buford is increasing Cooperative Program giving by 3 percent this year to help pay off the building.
Though lasting three hours, Randle commented on the need for future discussions.
“It was obvious when the meeting was over that we could’ve gone another couple of hours,” he wrote.
Participants posted questions and comments on Twitter. For a synopsis on those tweets and to read what else was discussed, go to http://sfy.co/L9F.
“The conference was an energetic exchange of ideas regarding the work and mission of Georgia Baptists in the years ahead,” said White. “I had a great time with the participants and was very encouraged about our future as a convention. We have an outstanding generation of leaders for the years ahead who have a passion for the Gospel and penetrating the darkness in Georgia and across the world.”
“The idea [for the meeting] came out of a discussion in the September Administration Committee meeting,” said Bray. “We were discussing the philosophies of younger pastors and I spoke up as a 38-year-old, trying to offer insight into the discussion. I suggested we host a meeting where young pastors could share their hearts, philosophies, and convictions, allowing Dr. White to listen. He was receptive to the idea.
“I personally invited Mike to co-host the meeting in order to dispel any concerns of political motive. He’s a great guy and extremely sincere in his desire to participate. We share many common convictions about the future of out convention.”
“My desire in helping to host this event was to demonstrate that the true things that unite us are far greater than the things that divide us,” commented Stone, 41. This is true generationally, methodologically, geographically, and even theologically.”
In his opening statements Stone said, “The conservative, Bible-believing Georgia Baptist that is least like me still has more in common with me than 99.99 percent of the world,” pointing to how though people can have differences, that doesn’t equal divisiveness.
“I was hoping for an opportunity to begin showing my peers that cooperation through the GBC is an effective way to do cooperative Kingdom-building ministry,” he added.
Pastors made up most of the crowd, though other ministerial staff from churches participated. Surveys filled out online beforehand determined the topics for six discussion groups.
“I asked six men to help me in defining the terms for the groups and directing the discussions for each one,” said Bray.
Those men – all pastors – were Barry Snapp, Victory Baptist Church, Rockmart; Kevin Maples, Dorsett Shoals Baptist Church, Douglasville; Keith Arp, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Temple; Michael Stovall, Ewing Road Baptist Church, Austell; Patrick Latham, Second Baptist Church, Cedartown; and Kevin McCoy, First Baptist Church, Lithia Springs.
“These were very capable leaders who, to my knowledge, have never served on any committee in convention life,” Bray added. “This is a clear example of the many people who must be pulled into the future leadership.”
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