Nearly 1,500 people drove from across the Commonwealth to The Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Virginia, on November 12-14 for the 2017 SBC of Virginia (SBCV) Annual Homecoming. The three-day event centered around the theme, “We Are Not Alone” and had 701 messengers and 738 guests in attendance.
Before the business meeting began, 418 volunteers from 24 churches and two colleges hit the streets of Petersburg for the SBC of Virginia crossover event, “Bless Petersburg.” This was a collaborative effort between SBCV churches and city and school officials for A.P. Hill Elementary and Robert E. Lee Elementary to meet tangible needs with the goal of having Gospel Conversations. Mission projects included painting, landscaping, a soccer clinic, and working with the local fire department and Red Cross to install 100 smoke detectors that created more than 60 Gospel Conversations.
“We are ecstatic!” exclaimed Dr. Marcus Newsome, superintendent for Petersburg City Schools. “This has been an answer to prayer. It has been my hope since I arrived here just a little over a year ago to get the community involved in making a difference.”
“The power of churches not alone is seen as churches are strengthened and mobilized, planted, and revitalized,” shared Dr. Brian Autry, SBC of Virginia Executive Director. Autry continued, “This results in more disciples made, more locations and nations reached.”
Keynote speakers reminded messengers and guests that they are not alone in the work of the Great Commission. Guest speakers included Dr. Kevin Ezell, President of the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Dr. Alex Himaya, Senior Pastor of theChurch.at in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Dr. Don Wilton, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Spartanburg, South Carolina, Dr. Bryan Carter, Senior Pastor of Concord Church in Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Bryan Smith, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Roanoke, Virginia.
Smith, who is the outgoing President of the SBCV, shared, “The emphasis on biblical, gospel preaching and teaching brought by those who spoke in each session was yet another reminder why we’re truly thankful to be a part of the SBCV Family!”
Ezell shared in his message Sunday night that through the Cooperative Program, SBCV churches are a part of helping to give assistance to First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas after the shooting that killed 26 people on November 5, 2017. NAMB is providing funds that will take care of all of the funeral expenses for families impacted, a new church building, and the pastor’s salary for the next year. Ezell also thanked SBCV for its partnership in disaster relief.
A special lunch reception was held in honor of the thousands of SBCV volunteers from nearly 200 churches who have served in disaster relief for the last 15 years. SBCV DR has provided well over one million meals to the hungry, worked in thousands of homes, and helped lead hundreds to surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. David Melber, Vice-President for Send Relief at the NAMB, was the guest speaker. Autry, along with Mark Gauthier, SBCV Disaster Relief Director, presented NAMB with a check for $100,000 for disaster relief in Puerto Rico.
Disaster Relief 15th Anniversary Video
“Words simply are not adequate to express our thankfulness for the SBCV as key partners with NAMB and Send Relief,” Melber shared. “SBCV is a powerful leader for the SBC in challenging us to be on mission and to demonstrate that as Southern Baptists we are not alone, but we are a part of a large family.”
“One of the most encouraging moments of our Homecoming was the celebration of SBC of Virginia churches giving more than $500,000 for disaster relief to those devastated by hurricanes [in 2017],” shared Dr. Eric Thomas, pastor of First Norfolk Baptist Church in Norfolk. “We are truly known as belonging to Jesus by our love.”
Gauthier shared, “The dedication and passion with which these volunteers serve is incredible! They give up time and comfort to sleep on air mattresses, work in extremely difficult conditions; heat, cold, wind and rain – all for the opportunity to share the Love that Christ has for each one of us. These men and women are my heros as they go and serve!”
During the Annual Homecoming, SBC of Virginia churches dropped off donations for the Christmas Backpacks for Children in Appalachia project. More than 3,100 backpacks were loaded into a Send Relief NAMB tractor-trailer. These gifts will be distributed to impoverished children just in time for Christmas.
The total Ministry Investment Plan (MIP) or budget for the SBC of Virginia was approved at $9.704 million, an increase from the 2017 MIP of $9.675 million. Planned Cooperative Program (CP) gifts for 2018 are $9.3 million (an increase from the 2017 CP of $9.2 million), while the remaining $404,000 gifts are coming from SBC of Virginia partners. The SBC of Virginia continues to provide 51% of its total budget for Southern Baptist Convention Cooperative Program ministries and 49% of its total budget for Virginia Cooperative Program ministries. Additionally, a budget provision of 3.26% for shared expenses was made for Cooperative Program Resourcing.
In 2017, the SBC of Virginia received its largest Cooperative Program, Annie Armstrong, and Vision Virginia (SBC of Virginia missions) gifts in the 21-year history of the convention. To date, the SBC of Virginia’s Vision Virginia offering stands at more than $333,000, the highest total in its history.
Seven resolutions were unanimously approved during the business meeting. A standing ovation from messengers took place after Resolution #7 was read. The resolution focused “On Charlottesville and the Sin of Racism” to decry every form of racism and the need to share God’s love.
“As the Senior Pastor at First Baptist Church in Charlottesville, I thought it was absolutely essential that our state convention denounce the deadly violence of white supremacists in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017,” said Dr. Rob Pochek, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Charlottesville and Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. “It is something quite different for 718 churches to speak with a unified voice, not only to condemn what happened over the summer in Charlottesville, but to speak clearly and unequivocally about the sinful nature of racism and our repudiation of it. Because these events happened in Virginia, it was particularly important that we speak to them, as a convention, at our first opportunity. And, that is what we did.”
“The unanimous support of the resolution on the evil of racism was a highlight of the meeting,” shared Dr. Doug Echols, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Yorktown and SBCV executive board chairman. Echols continued, “[This] affirms our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ being shared with every man and woman regardless of their race, nationality, or ethnicity.”
“The living of God’s Word is displayed preeminently through our unanimous adoption of a resolution decrying racism, replied Thomas. “I am proud to serve in such a network of churches as this.”
Monday evening, Autry shared his executive report which highlighted that through biblical truth and SBCV resources, churches are not alone.
“This is not cooperation for cooperation sake,” Autry shared. “This is cooperation because souls depend on it.”
Autry said, “Messengers and guests were able to witness multiple stories of God at work and the Gospel being proclaimed through the Great Commission coalition of churches known as the SBC of Virginia. The one true God, empowering His people to proclaim the only name by which one can be saved – the name of Jesus.”
Messengers approved 18 new affiliations that brought the total to 718 SBC of Virginia churches. One of those new affiliations is Winfall Baptist Church in Gladys. Pastor Phil Stevens, shared, “Today we were officially voted in as the newest member of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia. This is a big win for all of us. As we now give money to our association we now give money to organizations, groups, missionaries around the world that believe as we do. Every single dollar that we send out now reflects the values of our congregation.”
The SBCV elected convention officers for 2018: Eric Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church in Norfolk as President, Allen McFarland, pastor of Calvary Evangelical Baptist Church in Portsmouth as First Vice-President, Emery Minton, pastor of Christian Life Fellowship in Jonesville as Second Vice-President, and Tim Ma, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Manassas as Secretary.
“I am honored to serve alongside such Christ-exalting, gospel-advancing, church-multiplying leaders such as Brian Autry and his team along with the family of churches in SBC of Virginia,” Thomas said.
“It’s been one of the true highlights and privileges to have served as convention president,” Smith shared. “I wish every SBCV pastor had the joy of getting to know so many of our fellow SBCV pastors and convention staff as have I during my time of service. We are indeed truly blessed to belong to a very special ministry and mission family of faith as the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia!”
The three-time Grammy-Nominated, American Music Award and Dove Award winning Christian group, Avalon, performed Sunday night in a special concert. Their well-known song “Testify to Love” brought a standing ovation at the end of their performance.
Other opportunities at the 2017 Annual Homecoming included 11 breakouts, special meal and dessert fellowships for women’s ministry, church planting, and Great Commission emphasis (with Dr. Chuck Lawless), and an opportunity to celebrate what God is doing through SBCV churches.
Pastor Mark Reon, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Suffolk, shared, “I was moved many times by the generosity and efforts of the SBCV. I could spend an evening telling you all about the great people in the SBCV and all the awesome things getting done right now. Thank you Brian and staff for all you do.”
“The SBCV Annual Homecoming was a refreshing time of encouragement, challenge, and commitment to the mission of God in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the world”, Echols said. “The theme of ‘Not Alone’ is a great reminder that in our partnership of churches, we can do more together than we can ever do alone. I am thankful for the unity and passion of the SBCV leadership, pastors, and churches to impact the state of Virginia and the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a time when our country seems to be more divided than ever, it was refreshing to be in a meeting with such unity and common purpose.”
“The SBC of Virginia churches experience the power of not alone because Jesus does not leave us or forsake us,” Autry said. “He has empowered His church with His Spirit to proclaim the Gospel of Christ.”
Resources from the 2017 SBC of Virginia Annual Homecoming can be found at sbcv.org/homecoming.
Join SBC of Virginia for the 2018 Annual Homecoming as we focus on the theme “They Are Not Alone” at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton November 11-13, 2018.
Written by: Ishmael LaBiosa, Director of Communications, and Brandon Pickett, Associate Executive Director at the SBC of Virginia.