More than 1,200 people gathered at the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia’s Annual Homecoming to celebrate 25 years of ministry. Messengers came together November 7-9, 2021 at Libertylive.Church in Hampton, Va.
“We always look forward to the SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming because we are family,” shared Dr. Grant Ethridge, senior pastor of Libertylive.Church in Hampton, Va. “This year, we celebrated 25 years, remembering all that God has done, those who came before us, and our unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture. We recommitted our lives believing our greatest days of Gospel opportunities are ahead.”
Attendees enjoyed highlights and interviews about the 1996 founding of the SBC of Virginia. One of the special presentations included looking back at God’s faithfulness among the last 25 years of church planting. Those in attendance also got to hear from Brian Autry, SBCV executive director, and Kevin Ezell, North American Mission Board president, about the new partnership between NAMB and SBCV called Send Network Virginia, which will increase support and resources for existing and new church plants.
“Our 25th anniversary theme was Keep Pressing on Together,” said Autry. “And Ephesians 3:20-21 became a Scripture quoted over and over, so as the Lord tarries in His return, may we keep pressing on together with the Gospel because God is able!”
During Autry’s sermon and report on Monday evening, he called for a heightened focus on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening. Chuck Lawless, vice president for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, also helped lead a “concert of prayer.”
Lawless shared, “Jesus shows us that in the midst of our busyness it is not only right, it is necessary for us to push away from the crowds to be with the Father.”
Autry announced that in conjunction with the focus on prayer during this next year, he will work with the SBCV Executive Board chairman and president to create a special task force and care well team for the survivors of sexual abuse.
Jon Couch, lead pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Chester, Va., also challenged messengers to seek revival. This led pastors throughout the worship center to lift the arms of pastors and leaders nearby and pray with one another.
Other challenges were provided by Zack Randles, pastor of Waterfront Church in Washington D.C., and K.J. Washington, pastor of New Valley Church in Waynesboro.
Compelling keynote messages were shared by Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Bryan Carter, senior pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, Steven Rummage, senior pastor of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, and Allen McFarland, president of the SBCV and senior pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth, Va.
“I look forward to Homecoming each year because there is always great preaching and worship,” said Melanie Kesler, wife of Chris Kesler, senior pastor of Midway Baptist Church in Phenix, Va. “My husband and all pastors get to be poured into and filled up because we don’t always get that opportunity. I really love coming, and I’m thankful for all of the effort that goes into making it happen every year. It’s also a great time for fellowship.”
Christian Music Artists Charles Billingsley and Jason Crabb joined LU Praise from Liberty University to lead worship and a special concert on Monday evening. Worship throughout the other sessions was led by the Libertylive.Church Worship Team.
More than 20 breakouts were provided for messengers on Monday morning. Topics included church planting, missions, children, students, men, women, worship, communication, Hispanic ministry, and more.
“This has been the best homecoming I have attended,” shared Giovanni Ortiz, church planting pastor of Iglesia Biblica Bautista Emanuel in Leesburg, Va. “The emphasis on Hispanic ministry on stage, the investment on translation equipment so Spanish speakers can attend every meeting, and the quality of the speakers that were brought for the Spanish breakouts show care for our Hispanic congregations. We feel part of this convention more than ever!”
During a special Monday lunch called, “The Next 25: On Mission Together,” SBCV and International Mission Board mission leaders shared how churches can continue to mobilize church members of all ages over the next 25 years.
Donnie Owen, pastor of Broadway Baptist in Broadway, Va., shared that his church was inspired last year when the SBCV gave $175,000 to the International Mission Board for their 175th anniversary. This year, Pastor Owen presented the SBCV with a $25,000 check in honor of the 25th anniversary. Broadway Baptist received approval by messengers during this meeting for partnership with the SBCV. They were one of 19 churches unanimously approved for partnership, which brought the total affiliations of the SBCV to 808 churches.
Gifts given in 2020 by SBCV churches through the Cooperative Program broke the all-time record at $9,621,846. The record was also broken for the most given through the 2020 Vision Virginia missions offering to equal $387,955.
Upon recommendation, messengers approved the proposed Ministry Investment Plan of $10.1 million for the 2022 fiscal year. Of the total adopted Ministry Investment Plan amount, $9.8 million comes from SBC of Virginia churches giving related to Cooperative Program contributions. The adopted plan will be distributed with 51 percent going to national Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program Ministries and 49 percent distributed to state level SBC of Virginia Cooperative Program Ministries. This is the same percentage of allocation as last year.
Newly elected SBCV officers received unanimous approval by messengers. Stan Parris, pastor of Franklin Heights BC in Rocky Mount, Va., was named president. Joey Anthony, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va., was named first vice-president. Felix Sermon, pastor of Grace International Christian Church in Springfield, Va., was named second vice-president. Jason Taylor, pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Kents Store, Va., was named secretary.
“My prayer for the SBC of Virginia for the coming year,” shared Parris, “is for God’s Spirit and power to fall on our churches so that the state, nation, and world would experience renewal and revival. Dr. Autry reminded us that we live in a world of hurt that needs the God of hope. I know that the churches of the SBC of Virginia will rise to the challenge and trust the God of hope, share the God of hope, and care for the hurting and broken with the love of Jesus. I pray this year as we preach and live the Gospel in our SBC of Virginia churches that many will come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.”
Outgoing president, McFarland, gave the closing message on Tuesday. “Truly it has been humbling and an honor to serve as president of the SBCV these last two years. Ministering to the messengers has been my privilege as we glean wisdom from each other.”
As part of an annual mission outreach project, SBCV churches collected more than 1,600 Christmas Backpacks. These backpacks were filled with school supplies and the Gospel message. They will be distributed to 25 churches and ethnic church plants throughout the state.
The Friday and Saturday before the meeting started, the SBCV Women’s Ministry and the Ministerio de Mujeres (Hispanic Women’s Ministry) partnered with London Bridge Baptist Church in Virginia Beach to host the first bilingual women’s conference. Professor and Author Kristi McLelland taught a three-part lesson on Jesus and His unique and radical way of teaching and reaching women in the first century. All worship was bilingual, and the Hispanic women were supplied with headphones to listen to the speaker in their own language.
“I always have some concern in this meeting,” Autry said, “as we share these stories, hear fantastic singing, have great speakers, present budgets, and share great opportunities, that we will somehow think this is about us, but we must always remember that the Lord is the One who transforms lives and empowers His church!”
SBCV messengers will meet at First Baptist Church in Roanoke on November 13-15 for the 2022 Annual Homecoming. Guest speakers invited include H.B. Charles, Clint Pressley, and Bruce Frank.