By John Greening
Editor’s note: This issue’s “Front Row” is taken from the GARBC’s annual report for 2017. Read the entire report on pages 55–64 of Bb Plus.
“Best practices” is a term describing an ideal toward which a business or organization desires to strive. A “best practices” approach encourages functional thinking beyond the abstract of business theory to the implementation of sound and sustainable procedures. Best practices address efficiencies, costs, communications, output, quality, assessment, workflow, and the like.
The church has an obligation to think about best practices. Business matters are important to churches and should be considered. Of greater importance are the operational aspects of ministry: preaching, teaching, the ordinances, discipline, governance, officers, evangelism, community engagement, etc. The standard we must always use to determine best practices is God’s Word.
Historically as an association, Regular Baptist Churches has placed a high priority on orthodoxy (“best doctrine”). Ultimately, orthodoxy requires that we think beyond doctrinal abstracts to the implementation of that doctrine in orthopraxy (best practices). Our task is not simply to know what we believe, but also to realize the impact of those beliefs on how we choose to live and to carry out ministry in the church.
This year’s conference theme nudges us to give serious attention to a representative sampling of best practices. Our great desire is not only to have the right belief in the faith, but to have the right practice of the faith.
The following details provide a summary of the work to which I have given myself this past year.
I have been surprised at the larger than normal number of inquiries we have processed regarding pastoral search and transition. A significant number of churches need referrals and assistance. Attracting new seminary graduates into our placement database is a worthy endeavor. Also, we have received an increased number of consulting inquiries related to revitalization, business matters, capital campaigns, church mergers, and church closings.
It was a privilege to minister in many churches and state associations. A highlight was a trip to the Pacific Northwest and California with Daria, Darrell Goemaat, and Clare Jewell. We spent time with Baptist Network Northwest pastors and wives at the Cannon Beach, Oregon, retreat. During this trip, we visited several church plants in both Oregon and California. We were amazed at the multiethnic needs and opportunities that exist. It was good to recruit three new churches for the association during this trip.
Three regional conferences are on the calendar for 2017. The conferences will be held in Ohio, Nebraska, and California. We are referring to them as Stronger Church Conferences. Each conference will include three separate tracks: Discipleship, Revitalization, and Church Planting. The conferences are designed to target church leaders, both pastors and church members. Already, we have had inquiries from regions that would like to sponsor a conference in 2018.
We hosted five well-attended online training seminars in February and March. These included “Updating Your Church’s Articles of Faith,” “Equipping Your Teaching Staff,” “Basic Church Web Design,” “Sharpening Your Church Photography,” and “High Definition Preaching.” The sessions were recorded and are available to you. In addition, many state associations and ministries take advantage of using our online meeting venue, saving time and expenses by not having to travel for on-site meetings.
Regular Baptist Ministries
There are positive indications of health in all Regular Baptist ministries. Manning Brown is gaining good recognition in his role as chaplaincy director. Many individuals have indicated a growing interest in possibly serving as a chaplain. The Regular Baptist Church Planting Genesis Initiative is getting traction. Clare Jewell has done an excellent job of introducing this new initiative to our fellowship. I am optimistic about a new interface of Regular Baptist Builders Club with the church planting initiative to achieve a funding model for the expansion of church planting and church revitalization projects. Regular Baptist Press is running well. New curriculum revisions for children and students are in development, as well as a New Testament commentary series. The international arena continues to be a remarkable venue for growth. Chris Hindal is seeing a productive period that is the result of his years of foundational work. This ministry needs to be a vital component of our association’s strategy moving forward.
It is encouraging to see our network of friends expanding. We welcomed two new schools, Cedarville University and Bob Jones University, to a coterie of ministries that share common doctrine, values, and vision for impacting the world through the gospel. As theological fundamentalists and premillennialists, we must find ways to collectively use our individual organizational competencies to raise a distinctive voice for truth.
One such illustration of organizational collaboration is the New Testament Exposition Commentary project, in the early stages of development. In his role of general editor, Dr. Daniel Davey is working with our RBP team to launch this venture. Four initial volumes are planned, written by capable scholars from Virginia Beach Theological Seminary, Faith Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary, Cedarville University, and Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. It is our goal that eventually the series will include 20 volumes. We are working to gain a base of donors who recognize the importance of this project and are willing to invest in bringing this vision to full implementation.
I continue to find many independent Baptist pastors who share our convictions and need friends to encourage and assist. Our association has a large welcome mat that extends a cordial invitation to get acquainted.
This year marks 21 years since I accepted the invitation of the association to serve as national representative. Daria and I are deeply grateful for this extraordinary privilege. I have concluded and communicated to the council that the time has come to turn the reins of leadership over to a successor. The council selected a search committee at the November 2016 meeting. It is anticipated that a new national representative will be presented to the association at the 2018 conference. I plan to keep my nose to the grindstone until reaching the finish line. I will remain committed to involvement in Regular Baptist Ministries beyond that date as needed.
In addition to my routine duties, I plan to focus on the following goals:
- work with Clare Jewell on the implementation and expansion of the Genesis church planting initiative;
- develop and implement regional Stronger Church Conferences, targeting church leaders, offering three tracks—Discipleship, Revitalization, and Church Planting;
- launch with Daria a social media platform designed to encourage pastors and wives to strive for excellence and stay happy in ministry;
- prepare and promote the 2018 Conference with its theme “Love That Church,” to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana;
- develop with my staff colleagues a capital campaign to further Regular Baptist Ministries’ initiative;
- collaborate on the launch of the New Testament Exposition Commentary;
- expand with Clare Jewell our church consulting services for revitalization;
- host the next series of Regular Baptist Web Community learning labs;
- write procedures for the office and duties of the national representative to orient the new rep; and
- work with the search committee to implement the search process for a new national representative, considering administrative alignment, job description, communication, budgeting, and transition.
Daria and I count it an extraordinary privilege to serve the churches of our association. We plan to make the most of our remaining time in our roles. Thank you.
John Greening is national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.