A little over 13 months ago Christina and I unpacked our belongings and began settling into the northwest suburbs of Chicago. We also began a peculiar transition from pastoral ministry to an itinerant ministry and administrative leadership role for our great association of churches. After a year of serving as national rep of the GARBC, I find myself encouraged and excited about the future of our fellowship.
Several observations stick out in my mind as Christina and I consider the things we’ve learned in my first year serving as national rep.
- Our fellowship’s doctrinal commitment is our greatest strength. The doctrinal DNA of the GARBC is the cement that keeps our association focused on our Savior’s mission: to make disciples. It’s been refreshing to visit so many doctrinally sound churches over the past year.
- Pastoral shortages are a genuine crisis in our association. Fewer and fewer men are wanting or willing to go into pastoral ministry. As a result, an increasing number of churches in our fellowship are without pastors. Many congregations are discouraged and weary as they have gone, sometimes for years, without a pastor. Please ask God to raise up more faithful undershepherds.
- Church revitalization is key to our association’s future. Many of our churches are plateauing or declining. I’m encouraged to see a few of our larger churches assisting struggling churches. Look for GARBC leadership to continually emphasize the need for churches to investigate the association’s revitalization initiatives. Thankfully, our fellowship is well positioned to assist churches that are willing to request help.
- The GARBC is broader in scope than I had originally thought. It wasn’t until I spoke in numerous churches, served at the Regular Baptist Ministries Resource Center, and witnessed firsthand the daily operations of this ministry that I clearly understood how broad an impact this fellowship is having. I’m grateful for many who have mentioned to me how the GARBC and RBP have played an important role in pointing them to Christlikeness.
- RBP is a great discipleship tool for local churches. Regular Baptist Press is not first and foremost a publishing business. Rather, it is a discipling tool to provide Biblically sound resources to help local churches see God’s people become more like Christ for the glory of God. I’m encouraged to witness an increasing number of churches using RBP curriculum.
- Many pastors and wives are discouraged and hurting. I’m more convinced than ever that a pastoral soul-care ministry will provide a practical and encouraging way for the GARBC to come alongside hurting pastors and their families who are struggling through the peaks and valleys of ministry. By God’s grace, we want to do everything we can to help God’s choice servants finish strong.
- The GARBC’s best kept secret is our exceptional team. God has brought together a highly skilled and competent team that has a sincere heart to serve the Lord and the local church. The Resource Center team, along with those who work offsite, provide top-notch service and expertise that serve the association well. It’s a joy to serve with them!
- More churches need to collaborate. One of the GARBC’s greatest strengths is that our churches are independent yet interdependent. Disciple-making is more effective when churches work together on things such as revitalization and church planting. Great Commission work is too important for churches to be territorial.
- It’s vital that we understand America’s changing demographics. The nations have come to our cities and neighborhoods. This is especially true in urban settings. Many coming into our country are coming from post-Christian or Biblically illiterate cultures. This means we cannot assume even a tacit understanding of the gospel. We also must diligently do what we can to communicate the gospel to our neighbors. This might entail learning a foreign language or helping our neighbors learn English. Let’s not forget that God has sovereignly brought the nations to us; let’s be faithful in stewarding the gospel well.
- Our annual conference is second to none. Several at the 2019 GARBC Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, commented that the preaching was some of the best they’ve ever heard at any conference. Our annual conference is the highlight of the year for our fellowship. Plans are already underway for next year’s conference in Sacramento, Calif. Men and women who serve God’s people well are already lined up to speak in workshops and general sessions. I hope to see you there!
Mike Hess serves as national representative of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.