NAAF inaugurates 'Friend of Pastors' award
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–-The National African American Fellowship presented a new award during its annual meeting and banquet June 22 to recognize individuals who "really deliver" in facilitating relationships between the denomination and African American pastors.
The fellowship also elected officers and heard reports from Southern Baptists' mission boards and LifeWay Christian Resources at First Gethsemane Baptist Church where over 300 met June 22 prior to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at the Kentucky Exposition Center.
Ken Weathersby, senior director of evangelism at the North American Mission Board, was presented the "Best Friend of Pastors" award by NAAF President Michael Pigg.
"We have made great strides as a group mainly because of what God had done through him," Pigg said of Weathersby, before announcing him as the award recipient.
Visibly moved by a standing ovation, Weathersby told the fellowship, "The reason I am what I am today is because of the investment of many men in this room." Later he told Baptist Press, "I appreciate the leaders recognizing my desire to be a servant, to assist churches."
Pigg, pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga., in explaining the rationale behind the award, said many relationships are forged as a result of the fellowship's effort to assist pastors in Kingdom work.
"Our objective as an organization is to facilitate the process of African American pastors engaging in God's work through the Southern Baptist Convention," Pigg told Baptist Press. "Our executive council determined we needed to recognize when people really deliver, and Ken Weathersby delivers -– every time, time after time."
North American Mission Board President Geoff Hammond talked about the GPS initiative -– "God's Plan for Sharing" -– for reaching North America.
African Americans are baptizing more people and planting more churches than Anglos, Hammond said, later clarifying his projections were based on a percentage basis of the population.
"There are a lot of people still to reach," Hammond said. "I believe God has positioned us to share our faith every single day.... We can't expect people to go to church if we don't evangelize them."
David Cornelius, an IMB missions mobilization strategist, reported on IMB's response to NAMB's African American task force. Bottom line: IMB will make a greater effort to add "people of color" -– all ethnicities -– to its staff, Cornelius said.
He also spoke of the nearly $9 million shortfall in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering from the previous year. Of an estimated dozen African Americans "in the pipeline" awaiting appointment as IMB missionaries, Cornelius said none is being held up because of the shortfall because of plans for them to serve in "strategic" positions. Some 50 African Americans currently serve as IMB missionaries, Cornelius added.
Elgia (Jay) Wells, director of ministry to black churches at LifeWay Christian Resources, reported about research findings related to men and women in the church.
Sixty percent of church leaders are women; 70 percent of members are women, Wells said, referencing statistics cited by the organization Church for Men (www.churchformen.com).
In order to affirm men, gather them in churches and equip them to effectively serve God, Wells said LifeWay hosted a "Be the Man" conference this spring at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center, with about 460 participants.
"Men are called to lead, protect, serve and mentor," Wells said.
NAAF officers for 2009-10 were elected as a slate by acclamation: Pigg; James Dixon, El-Bethel Baptist Church, Fort Washington, Md., vice president; Mark Croston, East End Baptist Church, Suffolk, Va., treasurer; Byron Day, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Laurel, Md., secretary; K. Marshall Williams Sr., Nazarene Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa., parliamentarian; Robert Wilson, Sandtown Baptist Church, Atlanta, historian; Wayne Chaney Jr., Antioch Baptist Church, Long Beach, Calif., symposium coordinator; Brian King Sr., Ezekiel Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Pa., eastern regional director; Roscoe Belton, Middlebelt Baptist Church, Inkster, Mich., central regional director; and A.B. Vines, New Seasons Baptist Church, Spring Valley, Calif., western regional director.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message newsjournal.