SCHAUMBURG, Ill.—On a blustery Chicago day filled with winter storm advisories, Baptist leaders from 20 states gathered together without leaving the comforts of their own offices. Wearing headphones and speaking into computer microphones, more than 75 pastors participated in the first ever GARBC webinar, “Voices to Be Heard.”

The webinar—an online Web seminar—was planned in the aftermath of memorable Council of Eighteen meetings in November, which included the participation of a group of young pastors in the Association.

Eric Puff, associate pastor of discipleship and training at Northfield Baptist Church, Northfield, Ohio, had characterized the November meetings as very productive. “The council desired to hear as much as they could from people who would not normally attend these meetings,” Eric said. “To me, that appears to build mutual trust.”

As a result of the positive Council meetings, John Greening, national representative of the GARBC, planned the webinar to give a wider audience to the themes that had been raised.

During the webinar, Greening was pleased to see how the technology was being embraced by well-respected retired pastors in the Association in addition to the younger leaders who attended. “Young Baptist leaders within the GARBC have incredible ideas on ministering. Older leaders have a depth of knowledge and ministry savvy,” Greening said.

Josh Gelatt, pastor of Indian River Baptist Church, Indian River, Mich., said he was grateful to participate in a meeting he would not normally be able to attend. “In my own context, ministering in the northern regions of Michigan, I am far too remote for much face-to-face fellowship,” Josh said. “This webinar was a true blessing—not only because it allowed us to begin discussing some important issues, but also because the webinar itself was a very big step towards the very revitalization we were discussing (at least for me). I would love to see more of these.”

While the webinar was in progress, many of the participants logged onto Facebook, where a parallel discussion addressed topics raised by various speakers. A good deal of the discussion centered on the core values that motivate the GARBC.

“If we don’t agree on, focus on, and emphasize the core issues, then we will begin to separate on nonessentials (such as music, etc.),” said Greg Long, associate pastor of Grandview Park Baptist Church, Des Moines. “And that seems to be what is happening in some ways in the GARBC.”

Bob Kadlecik, pastor of Bridgewater Baptist Church, Montrose, Penn., said, “Focusing on ‘non-essentials’ can be toxic. Adding to the Bible is just as dangerous as taking away from it. The core issues we face are ones of obedience.”

Several of the young leaders participating in the discussion admitted that they were more influenced by leaders outside our movement of churches, but expressed a keen desire in identifying leaders who were capable of articulating the core ideas of the GARBC.

“Our movement needs to become an intellectual leader for our young men,” Josh Gelatt said.

As the discussion drew to a close, John Greening thanked the participants. “Keep up the great discussion. I want you to be heard,” John Greening said as he thanked the participants. “I am jazzed!”

Then, like a true member of the older generation, Greening added, “Is that an okay GARBC expression?”