Editor’s note: This issue’s “Open Mike” is taken from the GARBC’s annual report for 2020. Read the entire report in Bb Plus.

It became popular in the ninth century under Roman Emperor Charlemagne to divide history into two time intervals: BC (“Before Christ”) and AD (Anno Domini, “the year of our Lord”). I believe the best way to report on this past year of serving our fellowship of churches is to break the year down as pre–COVID-19 and post–COVID-19. These words from Proverbs 19:21 have reminded me of how comforting it is to know that God’s purpose will stand no matter how chaotic our circumstances might be: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand” (ESV).

We continue to pray for pastors and local churches finding ways to carry out disciple-making ministry despite the extraordinary measures being taken to stop the spread of this highly contagious disease. We also continue to pray for those grieving the loss of loved ones and those working on the front lines, helping the sick and working to find a way to stop the spread of COVID-19. God is still drawing sinners to faith in His Son and growing individuals into the image of Christ. I commend you and your churches for being flexible, ministering in contexts that were unimaginable at this time last year.

Despite the outbreak of COVID-19 here in North America—which has limited the normal life of local churches—the GARBC is experiencing the excitement of having unaffiliated churches reach out to inquire about associating with the GARBC. Meanwhile Regular Baptist Press was having another solid year, with increasing sales and the completion of a curriculum revision, prior to the nationwide lockdown. Our international partnerships continued to enjoy exponential growth, especially in Latin America. Several US churches received generous grants from Regular Baptist Builders Club, helping with disaster relief, revitalization, and church planting. GARBC-endorsed chaplains continue to serve in a multitude of contexts, sharing the gospel and helping individuals and families hurting and in need of comfort and counsel.

I’ve come to appreciate the Resource Center staff in even more profound ways during this crisis. The staff has shown incredible flexibility and resilience, putting much work into making sure we maintain our ministry’s financial feasibility. The annual conference staff and conference committee of the Council of Eighteen have also shown tremendous flexibility and have worked hard at transitioning the 2020 GARBC Conference to a virtual online format.

Further, we have worked hard at producing Biblically faithful and relevant articles through our web and social media platforms that address cultural, theological, and ecclesiastical issues from our doctrinal position. I’m also excited about the release of my first book, No Contest: Overcoming a Competitive Spirit. The book’s premise emphasizes that when we compete and compare ourselves with other individuals and ministries, we fail to love and serve them. I hope you find the book a blessing and encouragement.

For the future, I will be investing a lot of resources and energy in reproducing leaders in both local churches and our association. I want to intentionally and attentively live out the mandate given in 2 Timothy 2:2 to see new leaders raised up—leaders who share our passion and commitment to the Word, the Great Commission, expositional preaching, faithful hermeneutics, and our doctrinal position. The future vitality and relevancy of our fellowship depend on us training a new generation of leaders.

My wife, Christina, and I continue to count it a high privilege and blessing to serve this fellowship. I’m passionate about what we stand for, and I sense solid forward momentum in the GARBC. On a more personal note, by God’s grace, my walk with the Lord and His Word has remained fruitful and growing. Christina is the love of my life, and I’m grateful to have her as my life partner. We rejoice to see God at work in our children’s lives as they are in their college years. God is so good to us. We are humbled and grateful to be in His service.

Moving forward as a fellowship, I encourage you to continue to pray and consider how you and your church can be involved in the GARBC.

Consider having Manning Brown, Clare Jewell, Chris Hindal, or David Gunn minister in your church / present his ministry.

Look into investing in a group subscription to the Baptist Bulletin.

Disciple your people with materials from Regular Baptist Press.

Your investment in this association will help us more effectively “Make Disciples through Healthy Local Churches.”

Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.