Conference“It’s the gospel, brothers,” John Greening said in his keynote message that began the 2014 GARBC Conference on June 23. Greening, national representative of the GARBC, gave focus to the week with that spiritual maxim. The apostle Paul, he said, understood that it’s the gospel that’s important and wrote to the church at Corinth, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Representatives from GARBC churches across the nation gathered in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the conference June 23–27. In his message Greening called the attendees to self-assessment in order to realign themselves with “the essential gospel,” the theme for the week.

“Folks, this is not a little gospel!” said Kevin Bauder, research professor of systematic theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary of Minneapolis, in his message June 24. “You don’t need to dress up the gospel; you just need to turn it loose.”

Nigel Black, pastor of Winslow Baptist Church, Sicklerville, N.J., pointed out in his message June 26 that “the Christian gospel is dynamic because it changes things.” The gospel, he said, is heart-changing, mind-changing, identity-changing, soul-changing, and life-changing.

Black, Bauder, and Greening were three of the speakers who led the nine general sessions and 14 workshops throughout the week.

Dr. Mike Stallard, dean and director of PhD studies at Baptist Bible Seminary, led a workshop June 24 on “Recent Theological Viruses Affecting the Church.” He addressed the cultural changes and decline of Christian values in North America. These “viruses,” as Stallard put it, are affecting Bible-believing churches. Such changes and decline leave room for nearly all doctrines and church practices to be up for grabs. “Innovation is okay,” he said, “but it must have doctrinal stability. Innovation with doctrinal change is wrong.”

Teens at the conference enjoyed a week of fellowship, service, and Bible study through Students Alive. Taking a slight twist on the conference theme, the students studied how the gospel is at the core of who they are and all they do—“Gospel to the Core.” Isaac Denton, youth pastor at Daniels Road Baptist Church, Fort Myers, Fla., started off the week by speaking to the teens on how the gospel affects their priorities. Later Scott Greening, pastor of Great Commission Baptist, Schaumburg, Ill., encouraged students to seek Jesus no matter what circumstances they may be facing, and Nate Osborne, pastor of Faith Baptist, Winter Haven, Fla., challenged them to be men and women of integrity.

The Talents For Christ national competition is held each year in conjunction with the GARBC Conference. TFC challenges students who are active in GARBC churches to develop their God-given talents for ministry within their churches and honors those who demonstrate exceptional preparation and skill.

Hannah Frederick, a senior, is a member of First Baptist Church, Niles, Ohio. She was competing in Public Speaking. “I wrote my speech in January, revising it until it sounded just right,” she said. “I must have said it 12 times today.”

Jennifer Brown, one of the judges for the Female Public Speaking category, was impressed with how well the students did. “It was clear they took the competition seriously. It is such an encouragement to see these young adults so committed to what they are doing.”

On Tuesday afternoon the association’s annual business meeting highlighted connections. Connections is a big word for the GARBC. In his report to fellowshipping churches, Greening spoke about making connections happen among the 1,250 churches in the national fellowship; 12,000 churches in the Regular Baptist Press customer base; and 10,000 churches in the International Partnership of Fundamental Baptist Ministries. “Connecting is the essence of the GARBC,” Greening said.

An important venue for making those connections is electronic media. Greening announced the arrival of a newly redesigned that gives all GARBC ministries a common front door, allowing for a greater compilation of news and church resources; expanded search capability; and commentary regarding doctrine, Biblical responses to societal issues, and theological trends. With the tool of electronic conferencing, consultation with pastors and church leadership teams across the U.S. has expanded to include more churches in more states in a more economical way. And GARBC connections make it possible for sister churches to encourage one another through pastoral mentoring, lending assistance in times of disaster, international partnering, and giving and receiving ministry instruction through the Regular Baptist Web Community.

During the business meeting, the GARBC welcomed into its fellowship eight new churches, three of which are church plants: Berean Baptist Church, Naples, Fla.; Cross Community Baptist Church, Queens Village, N.Y.; First Baptist Church, Marshall, Minn.; Good News Baptist Church, Sioux City, Iowa; Pillar of Faith Baptist Church, Naperville, Ill.; Mosaic Baptist Church, Trenton, N.J.; Resurrection Baptist Church, Woodbury, Minn.; and Solid Rock Baptist Fellowship, Wauwatosa, Wis.

Messengers also elected new members to the GARBC Council of Eighteen. Elected to lead the Council as officers are Chairman Ken Floyd, executive director of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches; Vice-chairman Ken Spink, pastor of Berea (Ohio) Baptist Church; and Secretary David Strope, pastor of Ankeny (Iowa) Baptist Church.

The Council is planning for a strong future that puts into motion a strategic ministry plan involving four key areas: communication, network, assistance, and structure.

The conference also honored a faithful church worker who serves the Lord wholeheartedly. On June 25 Greening presented a GARBC Service Award to Jack Dowden, associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, Flint, Mich. He has served in GARBC churches for more than 50 years. Pastor Dowden “has had a profound impact on so many people,” says Emmanuel Baptist. “He is one of the top gems of our association. . . . We have all come to believe that most people grow old, but not Pastor Dowden. He has influenced hundreds of people for the cause of Christ during his years of ministry, and he continues as strong as ever.”

The conference ended on Friday morning, June 27, just as it had begun—with Greening addressing the attendees in a general session. He spoke on “The Operational Gospel.” “The essential gospel is the essential message and the essential mission of the church with which we shine as lights in the world,” he said. “How brightly is the light shining in your church?”