Typically I use the real estate of this column for a “fireside chat” in which I address an issue or provide a perspective over matters affecting our churches. This month I break with that routine to mention a number of relevant news items.

Item #1 My valued colleague Jim Vogel is leaving his position as associate national representative. In April Jim will assume the role of state representative of the Empire State Fellowship. He will fill the size-16EEE shoes of Craig Golden, who has capably served in that role for many years. Craig is retiring from his duties, though I doubt that means hammock time! During Jim’s ministry to churches in the GARBC, he brought pastoral experience, wisdom, and a deep love of pastors. He has served our association with distinction. He made it possible for the GARBC to expand its ministry to the churches. My regret in seeing Jim go is exceeded only by my anticipation of his terrific ministry to the churches of New York.

Item #2 Did you know that pastors from across the country get together online every week? The purpose is to encourage pastors in their work, make new friends among peers, think critically about ministry, and grow in professional competencies. We meet for eight consecutive weeks in 75-minute sessions. Typically the groups are composed of eight to 12 pastors. We have so thoroughly enjoyed the relationships that we schedule monthly revisits to connect with previous groups. I invite you to join us. You can access the meeting by clicking a link on your computer. There is no cost to participate, but much to gain. If you are feeling a bit lonely in ministry, if you have a sincere desire to sharpen your skills in the Lord’s work, if you like good-natured kidding among pastoral peers, let me know at jgreening@garbc.org, and I will include you in a group. Lest you ladies feel disenfranchised, Daria and I are laying plans for a pastors’ and wives’ group to encourage ministry couples.

Item #3 Monthly I collaborate online with a “Gang of Seven,” composed of current and former Council of Eighteen members. We are working on a stimulating project, assigned in November 2010 by the council. With the Lord’s enabling, our task is to think and plan strategically for the GARBC’s next 10 years. This project, “20/20 Master Planning,” is not just one of brainstorming or idea sharing. We are taking a deliberate methodical approach—analyzing such factors as competitors, constituency segments, our capabilities and competencies, and possible external developments. We are processing this research to identify components that could form the infrastructure of a comprehensive strategic plan. Action plans will follow—outlining procedures, costs, key persons, and timelines. A high level of honesty, ingenuity, wisdom, and passion is represented in this gang. The innovative proposal that is emerging will be set before our GARBC constituency to encourage discussion, refinement, and buy-in.

Item #4 Occasionally I hear reports of individuals who have the impression that our publishing ministry, Regular Baptist Press, has limitless financial resources to subsidize the GARBC general fund, Gospel Literature Services, the International Partnership, and the Chaplaincy Commission. These reports are erroneous. Our ministries are dependent on the financial support of our churches. Due to increasing competition in the publishing market, Regular Baptist Press’s pockets are not deep. RBP is using its limited reserves to develop relevant, accurate Bible curriculum and resources for discipling people toward maturity in Christ. Won’t you consider lending financial support to the GARBC?

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Item #5 The GARBC Conference promises to be a quality week of Bible instruction, sharpening ministry, and reconnecting friends. We will be gathering on the campus of Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit, Pa., June 25–29. The conference theme, “Authentic Church,” centers on the book of 1 Timothy. Plan now to come. If you are a first-time attendee as a pastor, a U.S.A. church planter in the GARBC, or a pastor of a church coming into the GARBC, you and your family will receive free conference registration. That’s an offer too good to pass up!

Tune in next issue. We’ll return to chatting by the fireside.

John Greening is national representative for the GARBC.