Kevin Bauder

CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa.—The picnic on Wednesday night was no surprise, being part of a long tradition at the GARBC Conference. Guests were served from a large tent on the lawn in front of BBC’s Phelps Student Center. There was plenty to eat, but the real purpose was to foster connections between pastors and church members who have traveled from all over the country to attend the event.

Back in the day, the GARBC Conference was held at conference grounds in places like Winona Lake and Ocean Grove. Part of the idea was to encourage informal relationships in between the services and workshops. The same idea is alive today, though the setting is different.

Back in the day, guests could usually count on going home with one or two new songs, introduced from paperback books sold in the back of the auditorium. Today the song lyrics appear on an overhead screen, but the idea is the same. In the morning sessions, Nathan Pierpont (worship pastor at Northeastern Baptist Church, Kalamazoo, Mich.) led the worship from the piano, singing old hymns mixed with newer songs such as “You’re Worthy of My Praise” and “O Church Arise.” In the evening service, Ken Pyne (worship pastor at Evangel Baptist Church, Taylor, Mich.) has introduced “We Are God’s People,” perhaps new to many who attend, as well as songs like “Before the Throne of God” and “Let It Be Said of Us.”

One Accord, a new group from Baptist Bible College, also ministered during the evening session. They sang the words of an old southern hymn, set to a new tune and accompanied by piano, bass, soprano sax, and congas. “Come, all Christians, be committed, To the service of the Lord; Make your lives for him more fitted, Tune your hearts with one accord.”

Throughout the week, John Greening, GARBC national representative, had been announcing GARBC Service Awards to honor faithful servants who have served with distinction in their GARBC churches. On Wednesday night, he had the opportunity to honor his own mother, Iva Greening, who at 99 actively attends Great Commission Baptist Church, Schaumburg, Ill. As she stood on the platform with her extended family, John Greening told how she continued to minister even after her husband’s death in 1994.

“Each Sunday she can be seen in the aisle greeting visitors and checking on regular attendees,” John Greening read in the tribute. “If you miss a Sunday, you can be sure Iva will give you a call or follow up next week.”

Her grandson, Scott, is the church-planting pastor of Great Commission Baptist. “Our church will owe a debt of gratitude to Iva for her pivotal role in creating a culture that welcomes, loves, cares for, and prays with guests, attendees, and members,” he says. “I know that when Iva is at church, . . . everyone who walks through the door will feel the love of God.”

The morning workshop sessions featured diverse topics such as Kevin Bauder’s “Alcohol and the Church,” Joy Angela’s “Adjusting to a New Everything,” and Ken Davis’s “Reaching Our Cities for Christ.” Other speakers addressed church conflict, the Lord’s Supper, and the changing church.

Earlier in the day, John Murdoch introduced several men and women who minister with the Regular Baptist Chaplaincy Ministry. Chaplain Murdoch, director, explained how the chaplaincy has expanded beyond the military to include institutional and community service chaplaincy. As a result, the GARBC now has chaplains in police departments, fire departments, hospitals, nursing homes, jails, and athletic teams.

The GARBC endorses female chaplains—not so surprising, as long as you understand the nature of their ministry. While the GARBC is in the process of changing its doctrinal statement to clarify how churches are led only by male pastors and deacons, the group also affirms a wide variety of ministries for women. For instance, Chaplain Pam Russell is endorsed by the GARBC to minister to female inmates in the Howard County Criminal Justice Center, Kokomo, Ind. Her endorsement allows her to carry on an effective ministry in a place where men would never have access. (Read about the ministry of Pam Russell.)

Murdoch also used the occasion to honor military veterans attending the conference, saying, “Never forget the price of freedom. It is always purchased with the price of blood. Your physical freedom was purchased by men and women like those who have just stood, and those standing behind me. Your spiritual freedom is purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.”

The chaplains and veterans were invited to a reception held after the Wednesday evening service.

 Other Wednesday News from the GARBC Conference