RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) -- Gospel preaching, teaching and worship from urban and African American cultural perspectives prevail at the annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, a LifeWay Christian Resources event nearing its 30th year.
Among the preaching lineup, pastor Adron Robinson appreciates the conference held July 22-26 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C.
"Worship at the Black Church Family Leadership Conference is always a blessing," he told Baptist Press. "It is encouraging to see so many different preachers rightly dividing the Word of God while faithfully engaging their culture with the Gospel.
"The Gospel speaks to every area of our lives and the preaching I hear at this conference reflects that truth," said Robinson, lead pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills, Ill.
Nightly worship included praise led by the Whosoever Will Choir, composed of volunteers recruited on the event's opening night. The choir, which rehearsed daily, sang with frequently raised hands and at times danced. A handful of the 700 or so worshippers in Spilman Auditorium extemporaneously played tambourines. Worshipers frequently proclaimed hallelujah and amen, raising hands and singing songs of praise.
Robinson, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, preached the event's opening night sermon. In "An Unexpected Witness" based on Genesis 50:10-20, Robinson highlighted the forgiveness that followed the 2015 shooting that claimed the lives of nine Bible study attendees at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
"Forgiveness is a family value," Robinson told worshipers. "If you're part of the Kingdom of God, forgiveness is what we do."
Several family members of the slain publicly forgave Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist convicted of the killings.
"The world couldn't understand how these family members could forgive the man who killed their loved ones," Robinson said. "Some said they were weak for forgiving him, but one family member responded it actually takes great courage to forgive, because forgiving means I trust God.... And while the gunman intended to use this evil act to start a race war, God used it as an unexpected witness."
In the scriptural text, Joseph's brothers did not expect forgiveness after having sold him into slavery.
"But through the years Joseph had come to trust God," Robinson said. "And he had come to an understanding that it was God who put him in his position in the first place.... His brothers' hatred was rooted in their jealousy, but Joseph's life was rooted in God."
To be an unexpected witness, Robinson encouraged worshipers to refuse to play God, to rest in God's providence, and to remember that redemption and salvation are God's purpose.
Joining Robinson on the preaching lineup were on July 22 Marshal Ausberry, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church and president of the National African American Fellowship (NAAF) of the SBC; on July 24 Kerwin Lee, lead pastor of Berean Christian Church in Stone Mountain, Ga., and on July 25 Lance Watson, lead pastor of Saint Paul's Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.
SBC President J.D Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area, greeted attendees at opening night worship, and also spoke at NAAF's reception for pastors, ministers and spouses.
Other senior pastors led daily Bible study July 23-26 from LifeWay's YOU curriculum designed for urban audiences. Bible expositors were Jerome Coleman, First Baptist Church of Crestmont, Willow Grove, Pa.; Darron Edwards, United Believers Community Church, Kansas City, Mo., and a LifeWay Christian Resources trustee; Gregory Perkins, The View Church, Menifee, Calif., and Nathaniel Brooks, Greater Saint John Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.
Nearly 1,000 adults, youth and children attended the conference from churches spanning 26 states, according to conference host LifeWay.
A staff of 92 instructors including pastors, entrepreneurs and laity offered adults about 150 classes categorized in 19 educational categories, including the Bible, church administration, church growth and evangelism, church law and security, discipleship process and transformation, finance, children and youth ministry, marriage and family, men's and women's ministries, Sunday school and small groups, wellness, worship arts and young adult ministry.
In a reception after the opening night worship, <b>NAAF</b> welcomed ministers and wives for fellowship, a buffet meal and an overview of NAAF's ministry to about 4,000 black Southern Baptist pastors. NAAF partner World Vision sponsored the event.
The Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network (BSBDSN), in its annual business meeting July 23, elected as secretary Jessica Henderson. She is IMB associate general counsel and replaces as BSBDSN secretary April Franklin, who resigned.
Other BSBDSN officers remain the same. They are president Jeffery Singletary, regional catalyst - Central, Florida Baptist Convention; vice president Tamiko Jones, executive director and treasurer, Texas Woman's Missionary Union; and treasurer Roy Cotton Sr., director of African American Ministries of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
BSBDSN membership is open to African American Southern Baptists employed at SBC entities, state conventions and associations, and the Woman's Missionary Union. Join by contacting Singletary at email@example.com.
Lisa Harper, a LifeWay author and speaker, addressed women at the Women's Fellowship Dinner July 23. At a July 24 Missional Leadership Dinner, pastors, ministers, mission leaders and others heard an overview of Southern Baptist mission outreaches and the evangelistic "Who's Your One?" initiative.
Lisa Fields, founder and president of the Jude 3 Project apologetics ministry in Jacksonville, Fla., spoke at the "Woman2Woman" Bible study July 23. Veronica Robinson, wife of Adron Robinson, spoke at the July 24 Woman2Woman study.
Herbert Ponder, senior pastor of Mount Tabor Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., and Treyvon Sinclair, young adult pastor of Mount Gilead Baptist Church, spoke July 23 and 24, respectively, at "Man2Man" studies.
Other key speakers and leaders included early morning praise and worship leader Russell M. Andrews, minister of music at East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va.; evening worship leader Roy Cotton II, director of music and creative arts at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas; Centrifuge pastor Colin Pugh, youth pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md.; Centrifuge director Terrick Banks, pastor of discipleship at Mount Gilead Baptist Church, and Centrifuge worship leader Gene Hoskins, praise and worship leader at The River Church, Durham, N.C.
In addition to LifeWay, event sponsors are the SBC Executive Committee, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, WMU and NAAF.
The 2020 black church conference is scheduled July 20-24 at Ridgecrest. Information is available at 800-588-7222, or ridgecrestconferencecenter.org.