Strong churches with a bold commitment to the Great Commission

A new president, rise in baptisms, strong churches

by Ishmael LaBiosa

ROANOKE, Va. (BP) – It took strength and determination for one established SBC of Virginia (SBCV) church to take a leap of faith to plant a new church. That was one of the many stories highlighted at this year’s Annual Homecoming. Strong Churches with a Bold Commitment to the Great Commission was the theme implemented throughout the time of fellowship hosted at First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia, November 10-12.

This year’s homecoming included a near record-breaking attendance with 990 registered messengers and guests. Dr. Brian Autry, SBCV’s executive director, welcomed church messengers to the Annual Homecoming with a call for ministries to effectively work and pray together. Autry emphasized the importance of strengthening, mobilizing, and planting churches across Virginia and around the world.


"Biblical conviction and missions cooperation forge the foundation of our Gospel partnership as SBCV churches," said Autry. "We serve and send together because the Lord Jesus gave us a Great Commission, not a small commission. The world is too big and people are dying too fast for us not to work together."

Messengers approved a 2014 Ministry Investment Plan in the amount of $9,000,000. SBCV’s treasurer, Eddie Urbine, shared that this budget continues the Cooperative Program distribution of 51% being sent to the SBC and 49% retained for mission efforts in Virginia. Since the inception of the SBCV, $107,715,872 has been provided to the Cooperative Program. Also in 2013, churches and individual partners increased financial support just for church planting by $40,704 to total $982,518.

One of those churches committed to church planting is Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown. God led Bethel’s senior pastor, Dr. Doug Echols, to lead the church to plant Catalyst Church just one year ago. Now, his vision is not to just plant one but five churches in the next 10 years.

Catalyst Church was highlighted through videos and interviews. This church plant is located in a strip mall just outside the property of Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Jeff Mingee was called out of his youth pastor position at Bethel Baptist to lead this new church.

"Much of that was done in the context of the local church," said Pastor Mingee. "The body coming together and affirming gifts and leaders leading and correcting me as necessary."

Catalyst has been ministering to college students and families for more than one year now and has two worship services filled to capacity.

"The support from Bethel and SBCV is helpful on a personal level of being encouraged and on a corporate level of knowing we have partners in the Gospel," said Mingee.

In the past year, SBCV reported that churches baptized 6,696 born-again believers. Waters Edge Church in Yorktown was honored for baptizing 698, and the 45-member Church of the Crossroads in Glade Spring for baptizing 30.

Mark Custalow, SBCV Church Planting Team leader, presented the annual Eagle Awards to those churches sponsoring new church plants in the last year. Fourteen churches were recognized and appreciated for sponsoring 10 church plants. Custalow also mentioned that a total of 47 SBCV churches are currently sponsoring church plants.

Messengers unanimously voted in 20 churches that requested to join the SBCV. There are now 618 total SBCV-affiliated churches.

Pastors who have served 25 years or more were also recognized. These 35 ministers were honored with a special reception for all messengers and guests.

Keynote speakers included Dr. Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research; Dr. Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Dr. Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Dr. Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Dr. Randy Hahn, senior pastor of The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia.

Dr. Hahn has served as president for SBCV for the last two years. His final sermon as president focused on the absolute need for us to worship the Lord.

SBCV messengers unanimously elected Dr. Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, as the next president of the SBC of Virginia.

"It is always a humbling feeling to be asked," said Dr. Ethridge. "And I am eternally grateful for every opportunity God gives me to serve in His Kingdom work."

"We are praying that God will use our testimony to encourage pastors who serve in every size church," Ethridge continued. "Our personal journey has been watching God breathe new life into old churches. In fact, I have been asked to write a book on this subject that can be put into the hands of pastors and leaders. My wife, Tammy, and I have completed a project called Marriage: Up Close & Personal, and we are working on a new one called Parenting: Up Close & Personal. Our desire is to minister to pastors and staff members who serve local churches by strengthening their own marriages and homes. Our nation and the SBC need a fresh move of God. We want to be a catalyst for revival in our generation."

Other SBCV officers were also unanimously elected. They include: 1st Vice President Dr. Billy Ross, senior pastor of Centreville Baptist Church in Centreville; 2nd Vice President Dr. Jim Booth, senior pastor of Staples Mill Road Baptist Church in Glen Allen; and Secretary Rev. Matthew Kirkland, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Baptist Church in Christiansburg.

SBC of Virginia messengers unanimously approved six resolutions during Annual Homecoming. They are: resolution recognizing First Baptist Church, Roanoke; resolution of prayer for the president and other political leaders; resolution recognizing the Billy Graham Evangelistic Team; resolution on tithing, stewardship, and the Cooperative Program; resolution on religious liberty and military service; and resolution on the Typhoon Haiyan disaster in the Philippines. (download full resolutions below)

The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia, will host the 2014 SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming November 9-11. Keynote speakers include Dr. Alistair Begg, senior pastor of Cleveland’s Parkside Church in Ohio; Dr. John Marshall, lead pastor of Second Baptist Church in Springfield, Missouri; and Eric Geiger, vice-president of the Church Resources Division at LifeWay.