By Mike Hess
By God’s grace and for His glory alone, I aim to encourage the pastors and churches of our association to make disciples through healthy local churches. It is my strong belief that we can do this by being faithful to our existing doctrinal statement and principles and by leveraging the strength of our existing networks. Our state associations and representatives, chaplains, and associated mission agencies and educational institutions are ideally situated to assist in this endeavor. The following strategies provide some specifics as to how we can accomplish this.
Personal mission statement: To encourage pastors and local churches to make disciples through healthy local churches.
By Championing Expository Preaching
The GARBC has always placed a high priority on expository preaching. I intend to build on that priority by emphasizing excellence in expositional and heart-targeted messages rooted in the text, faithful to authorial intent, centered on the gospel, and focused on applications and implications derived from the passage being preached.
It should be no secret that our association is known for a strong stand on Biblical authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency. God has ordained the preaching of His Word as the means by which He sanctifies and builds His people into the image of His Son.
By Emphasizing Making Disciples
A common thread that our churches should have is the mandate our Savior has given to the church (Matt. 28:18–20). It would be my goal for our association to come alongside our churches and pastors to assist them in any way possible to make more disciples of Christ for God’s glory.
Our age is a distracted one. Local churches can fall into the same trap. Let’s remain focused on the mandate for each local church—making disciples of Christ for God’s glory.
By Intentionally Increasing Our Ethnic and Racial Diversity
The changing demographics of our country and communities should be reflected in our local churches and in our association. Just as the churches in the first century were marked by ethnic diversity, the same should be true of churches in our association. True gospel disciple-making will transcend racial, ethnic, and cultural lines.
In recent decades God has ordained that the nations of the world come to us. Our deeply held conviction is that we must make disciples of all nations, intentionally crossing cultural lines to make disciples. It is my prayer that our churches and the various ministries of our association will celebrate and reflect racial and ethnic diversity within the Body of Christ. Annual conferences will likewise reflect this racial and ethnic diversity.
By Boosting Church Planting and Revitalization Efforts
The GARBC must continue to build on the momentum of the strong and visionary leadership already in place. If the Great Commission is a primary priority to us as an association of churches, church planting is therefore an imperative.
We must also encourage churches in our fellowship that are plateaued or declining. Healthy local churches must reproduce themselves not only in church planting efforts but also by ministry to plateaued and declining churches. The increasing number of declining and dying local churches in our association needs to be honestly assessed so we can deploy the many resources and tools we have available to help those churches.
By Highlighting Thriving Local Churches
We can encourage churches and pastors by highlighting how God is blessing and working in healthy and thriving assemblies. We must provide exposure and interaction with growing, thriving churches through faithful exposition of the Word and through intentional, responsible evangelism.
We are first and foremost a fellowship of local churches. It should be a great joy and encouragement to hear how God is choosing to bless both the depth and breadth of many of these churches. Highlight can be given to these churches at our annual conferences, in the Baptist Bulletin, at regional conferences, and by networking these pastors and church leaders in various capacities.
By Expanding Global Initiatives
From our inception as an association of churches, we have placed a strong emphasis on international missions and ministries. Through modern technology God has granted us more accessibility to the nations of the world than ever before. My aim is to expand the GARBC from being a North American association to an international association.
Literally thousands of solid local churches around the world would love to be a part of an association like ours. The gospel is a global gospel. We are blessed with the resources of gifted pastors, an excellent publishing ministry (Regular Baptist Press), and financial contributors who could help expand the GARBC to other churches of our persuasion in other nations.
By Honoring and Building on Our Heritage
Our heritage as Regular Baptists is one that is marked by doctrinal fidelity and integrity. Though we have had a number of philosophical and methodological disagreements over the years, our doctrine has remained strong and faithful. One would be hard-pressed to find tenured denominations or associations that have maintained a strong doctrinal stand through the changing theological landscape over the years.
We as an association stand on the shoulders of the faithfulness and greatness of our founding fathers. Our rallying cry as an association has always been our doctrinal statement. It is my prayer that we would be ardently faithful to our doctrinal statement while honoring and respecting the autonomy of the local churches in our association.
Mike Hess is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and has been nominated to be the next national representative of the GARBC.