confart“O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”

Jesus spoke these words to His two disciples as they ventured along the road to Emmaus. And while they walked, He instructed them in the Messianic texts of the Old Testament. “And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).

Drawn from this passage, the theme for the GARBC 2016 Conference was “Proclaiming Christ from the Old Testament.” The conference, hosted by Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego, Illinois, June 28—July 1, emphasized the prophetic hope of the Old Testament Scriptures: Messiah is coming, and He will make all things right.

Keynote speakers were John Greening, national representative of the GARBC; Jim Lytle, president of Clarks Summit University; Daniel Davey, president of Virginia Beach Theological Seminary; and Scott Poling, pastor of Harvest New Beginnings.

“If only Israel could have a king that would exude all of David’s good traits and none of his bad ones,” Davey said, reflecting on the prophetic thrust of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecies. “What if he was always righteous and never unrighteous? What if he could rule with fidelity to truth? What if he was so powerful that Israel would no longer be a slave to any nation again? And what if he was so appealing that the nations would want to follow him?” That’s exactly what Israel needed. Indeed, it’s what the entire world needed. And, at the Incarnation, that’s exactly what God provided.

The ongoing cultural and social upheavals also featured prominently in many of the conference workshops and meetings. Several well-attended workshops dealt with themes such as homosexuality, gender identity, and the family structure. During his keynote address, Jim Lytle noted that the prevailing opinions of our day echo the attitudes of the kings and rulers depicted in Psalm 2:2 and 3: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’” But whatever may happen in the turbulent realm of domestic politics, the Messiah will ultimately have His way. “Even though Jesus’ opponents are united and powerful,” Lytle said, “His kingship is certain and He will rule absolutely. So let’s joyfully submit to Him!”

Additional workshops addressed other ministerial and theological topics, including preaching, ministering as a pastor’s wife, outreach, treating Sunday School teachers as VIPs, the Christian’s relationship to the Old Testament law, and understanding the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.

On Wednesday evening, outgoing Council of Eighteen chairman Ken Floyd honored John and Daria Greening for their 20 of years of leadership ministry to the association. “For two decades John Greening has been God’s faithful servant, the GARBC’s national representative, and the partner and friend to all of us who serve as a part of this network of churches and ministries,” Floyd said. “The impact of John’s longevity is obvious by the way in which the ministries of the GARBC have been enhanced and expanded. We give thanks to God for the Regular Baptist ministries, many of which have been developed or significantly enhanced under John’s direction.”

At the annual business meeting, attendees voted to receive six new churches into the association: Exodus Fundamental Baptist Church (Elmhurst, New York); First Baptist Church (Blanchester, Ohio); Lakewood Conservative Baptist Church (Lakewood, Washington); Liberty Baptist Church (Pueblo, Colorado); The Rock Baptist Church (Greenville, Texas); and Two Rivers Baptist Church (Rice, Minnesota). “In all our years of existence—ever since 1932—every GARBC church was a new, incoming church at one time,” said John Greening. “It is always a great delight to welcome new churches into the fellowship.”

Attendees also voted on two resolutions, “Proclaiming Christ from the Old Testament” and “Resolution Concerning Appreciation for Host Church.” “We express our hearts of gratitude [to Harvest New Beginnings],” the latter read in part, “concurring with the apostle Paul in Philemon 1:7, when he wrote, ‘For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you.’”

Special attention was paid to the association’s newly launched church planting program. National Church Planting Coordinator Clare Jewell enthusiastically introduced the Genesis Initiative to the conferees. The goal of the initiative is to plant 100 Regular Baptist churches by 2025. “God declares that He has a passion for multiplication,” Jewell said. “That’s why the GARBC is launching the Genesis Initiative to help multiply Baptist churches, committed to reaching lost people, committed to fulfilling the mission that Christ came to initiate.”

The initiative’s goal may seem ambitious, but Jewell believes it is altogether feasible with God’s help. “The book of Acts is really a story of ordinary men who had faith in an extraordinary God,” Jewell explained. “Let’s do that again.”

Tim Capon, state representative of the Iowa Association of Regular Baptist Churches and member of the Council of Eighteen, cited Jewell’s presentations as a major highlight of the conference. “Church planting is so important for the future of our association, so I’m very excited by the church planting initiative,” he said. “Meeting with Clare Jewell and hearing from him was a real blessing.”

On Thursday morning, attendees enjoyed a special presentation of ancient manuscripts of the Bible and related artifacts by Dr. Scott Carroll, founder and director of the National Bible Museum in Washington, D.C. Carroll is known for building the two largest privately held collections of Bibles and biblically related materials in the world. His presentation emphasized how God has providentially preserved His Word even through times of massive upheaval and destruction.

On Friday morning, John Greening brought the conference to a close by exhorting those in attendance to put into practice all that they had heard during the week. “We go to preach Christ, to love Christ, and to live Christ,” he said. “And in so doing, to bring Him glory.”

Plans are already well underway for next year’s conference, “Best Church Practices.” It will be held June 27–30 at Sandy Cove Ministries in North East, Maryland.