|HAMPTON, Va. (BP) -- When church planter Clint Clifton was asked if the SBC of Virginia could do a video spotlighting his story of church planting during its 2012 annual homecoming, he didn't think it would lead to a spontaneous offering.
"Our church is pretty small, and this is a God-sized dream," said Clifton, pastor of Pillar Church in Dumfries. "We know God can do it; we just had no idea how He would do it. As I began to see men all over that room respond to the film, I was reminded that where God guides us, He always provides for us. I can't wait to see what He does next."
Clifton and the SBC of Virginia plan to plant a church at every U.S. Marine Corps base around the world. After multiple videos documented Clifton's journey of planting seven churches in eight years in Virginia and beyond, SBCV Executive Director Brian Autry challenged messengers and guests to "stand up with those who stand up for us on the front lines." Many pastors came forward to support the Praetorian Project, and more than $30,000 was pledged.
"Standing with me were pastors of churches that number in the thousands, but I was stirred to talk with one pastor, Michael Raphael, church planter of Jubilee Baptist in Fredericksburg, Va.," Clifton recounted. "His church committed $1,775 to the project even though they only have a core group of eight members. It is so encouraging to see pastors and churches working together to bring the Gospel to Marines and their families."
Autry noted, "To see our pastors and churches respond spontaneously to give generously to support planting churches near Marine bases should be evidence to us all that the Holy Spirit desires to work in and through Southern Baptist churches in Virginia."
On that same Monday night, Autry was officially installed as the third executive director of the SBC of Virginia. He has been serving in the role since May 8 when he was unanimously elected by the Executive Board. Kelly Burris, pastor of Kempsville Baptist Church in Virginia Beach and chairman of the executive director search committee, opened the service.
Autry was touched by the event. "To be installed as executive director of the SBC of Virginia at a church less than five miles from where I was raised, baptized and called to ministry -- with my family and friends in attendance -- was a deeply meaningful experience."
The presidents of both SBC mission boards congratulated Autry by video as did the previous SBC of Virginia executive director, Jeff Ginn, now senior pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La.
At the end of the service, Autry washed the feet of five former presidents of the SBCV and then was lifted up in prayer by the original executive director, Doyle Chauncey.
"The installation service allowed three generations of my family, including my own three children, to see that the SBC of Virginia is a powerful partnership for the Gospel," Autry said. "My prayer is that the Lord will allow me to serve our pastors and churches and be a courageous steward of our missionary resources."
The theme of this year's Nov. 11-13 meeting at Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton was "Transforming the World." More than 800 people attended this year's homecoming, with 510 of those registering as either messengers or guests. Another 300 unregistered guests attended either the executive director installation service or sang in the mass choir on Monday evening, which was led by Jeff Askew, worship pastor at Liberty Baptist. Sounds of Liberty and Scott Bullman from Liberty University in Lynchburg led worship throughout the annual homecoming.
Keynote speakers included David Miller, evangelist and founder of Line Upon Line Ministries, who gave the Sunday night message from 1 Peter 1 about regeneration. Monday's messages came from Ellis Prince, lead and teaching pastor of The Gallery Church in Baltimore, who spoke from John 17 on "The Cost of Unity" and Michael Catt, senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., who closed out Veterans Day with a message from 1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13, "The Battle That Must Be Won." Tuesday afternoon's message came from Afshin Ziafat, lead pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas, who preached from 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10 on "The Transforming Power of the Gospel."
NASCAR driver Blake Koch also spoke on Sunday night after a special update from SBC of Virginia church strengthening team leader Steve Bradshaw about SBCV churches' evangelistic efforts at five Virginia racetracks during special "FinditHere.com" races. Bradshaw encouraged messengers and guests to use every opportunity to spread the Gospel.
Bradshaw gave The Pentecost Award for baptisms to two churches: total baptisms, Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton led by Grant Ethridge; per-capita baptisms, Geneva Park Baptist Church in Chesapeake led by Mike Ellis.
Randall T. Hahn, senior pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, was re-elected for a second term as president. His convention message from Romans 15-16 focused on how SBCV churches can continue to "Partner Big for the Gospel."
"All I can say is, 'Wow!' This year's annual homecoming was as much revival as it was business," Hahn said. "Good business was conducted, but in the midst we were inspired, challenged and equipped. We were given great opportunity to worship the God for whom we were conducting business. I can't wait 'til next year."
Other officers elected for 2013 include first vice president, Doug Echols, pastor of Bethel Baptist in Yorktown; second vice president, Robert Rowland, pastor of Smyrna Baptist Church in Dinwiddie; and secretary, Daryl Harbin, pastor of Zion Baptist Church in Orange.
Messengers had the opportunity to follow the story of IMB missionary Mike Smith throughout the day on Tuesday through several videos, some of which were shot on location in Zambia, Africa. At the end of the day, Brandon Pickett, SBCV director of communications, interviewed Smith live via Skype.
"It really meant a lot to me to be part of the annual homecoming," Smith said. "We are a long way from Virginia. Not only physically, but emotionally and experientially. I didn't know just how much it meant to my whole family until they all came in our bedroom and got on the bed while I was on the Skype call. We really felt like we were truly part of the meeting, despite being 10,000-plus miles away."
Smith, who has planted four churches on the field and leads a Bible translation project, originally went to Zambia through an SBCV-sponsored vision trip when he was pastoring outside of Staunton, Va. After that trip, his church, Deerfield Baptist, committed to adopt the Nkoya people group.
"Just when we were coming online with the meeting, I heard them recognize people from Deerfield Baptist, the church where I was the pastor until moving to Zambia," Smith said. "Even though I couldn't see them, it meant a lot to me. At the conclusion of the call, Jim Davis was called to the stage. Jim was the first person to ever mention the people group Nkoya to me in 2006. It was then that God began to birth in me a heart and deep passion for the self-proclaimed 'prodigal people.'"
Autry said he continues to be impressed with how churches aren't just content to reach Virginia for Christ but to stretch beyond. "SBC of Virginia annual homecoming messengers demonstrated in a powerful way that the Lord moved among us to stir us toward a bolder commitment to the Great Commission."
SBCV's new treasurer, Eddie Urbine, and Autry gave the treasurer's report. The 2013 ministry investment plan of $9 million was unanimously adopted. It includes a 0.25 percentage point increase in CP contributions going to Southern Baptist Convention causes, raising it to 51 percent. Urbine told messengers that, as of November 2012, SBCV churches had given more than $105 million to the Cooperative Program since the SBCV began.
Urbine presented The Macedonia Awards for Cooperative Program Giving: for per-capita CP giving, Matoaca Baptist Church in Matoaca led by Donald Joyner; total CP giving, Grove Avenue Baptist Church in Richmond led by was Mark Becton.
The approved 2013 ministry investment plan shows nearly 37 percent of the resources allocated for Virginian toward church planting with another 30 percent toward church strengthening and missions mobilization. Continued...