NAAF prepares for Kingdom growth

ATLANTA (BP) -- A challenge to holy living and "getting back to basics" highlighted the National African American Fellowship's (NAAF) Kingdom Symposium March 4 in Atlanta.

"We've got to get back to the basics, living holy and clean, seeking first the Kingdom of God," NAAF President K. Marshall Williams challenged symposium attendees from Matthew 22:36-40 "That is the catalyst and prerequisite that will usher in revival in the church and spiritual awakening in the land. Without strict adherence and obedience to the Greatest Commandment, we do not have a mission."

Williams, longtime pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, expanded on a theme he preached at the Southern Baptist Convention's 2014 annual meeting in Baltimore, when he called the convention to the "Greatest Commandment Revival" and encouraged them to love God and their neighbors.

About 100 NAAF members, all African American pastors of Southern Baptist congregations across the U.S., attended the symposium at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church.

Following the Greatest Commandment will speed racial reconciliation, Williams told the group.

"The issue is not about skin, it's sin," Williams said. "My ability to be right with you is inextricably linked with if I'm right with God."

The NAAF board typically meets three times a year but had not coupled a symposium with a board meeting for the past several years.

"The Lord laid it on my heart to resurrect the idea of a Kingdom symposium," said Williams, who has called for national repentance. "There has been greater intentionality [by NAAF] to speak the biblical mandate as it pertains to the issues of the day and to stand as African American Southern Baptists to call a nation to repentance and personal holiness and brokenness that the world desperately needs to see."

Among other symposium speakers, Urban Fusion Network founder Chris McNairy addressed the issue of "The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation," signaling the 21st century as a baseline from which to grow intercultural understanding.

"Reconciliation in a biblical perspective is neither liberal nor conservative," McNairy said. "Reconciliation is radical as it represents the transformational work of the Godhead [Trinity]."

An inclusive Christian history that recognizes the contributions of all population segments would facilitate understanding and reconciliation, said McNairy, who advocates for better understanding among all ethnic and racial population segments, particularly those living in urban settings. When reconciliation happens, communities emerge within the Kingdom family, he said.

McNairy pointed out key steps to racial reconciliation, namely: accepting biblical teachings on love; highlighting the presence in Scripture of peoples of various races; accepting and emphasizing what the Bible has to say about racial reconciliation; and accepting and teaching the Christian historical realities of North America and the realities of current race relations.

"We came over on different ships," McNairy said, "but we are in the same boat now."

Frank Williams, pastor of Bronx Baptist Church and Wake Eden Baptist Church in New York City, addressed the symposium on the changing cultural climate in North America. A crisis of belief in the scientific community is spilling over into neighborhoods, he said.

"Microbiological evidence and complex biological features are all pointing to intelligent design,” Frank Williams said. Intelligent design, however, has not been embraced in the scientific community and has fueled a “rise of neo-atheism." The pastor defined neo-atheism as an attempt to "evangelize populations into godlessness," often using techniques of the church, including outreach, advertising and a "church planting" movement. Atheists are hosting "Godless Sunday" gatherings first documented in London, he said.

Likewise, Williams addressed a socio-spiritual crisis which he said began with a perversion of love. America is seeing an all-inclusive definition of love without a working definition or conviction of sin.

"Wrong is defined only through the legal system, not an objective moral standard," he said. "Repentance is no longer taught as necessary."

Consequently, he said the concept of sin is becoming obsolete.

"An obsolete concept of sin means there is no need for a redemptive process from the impact of sin," Williams he said. "If there is no need for redemption, then Jesus as Savior becomes an obsolete concept."

The SBC has multiple fellowships similar to NAAF, each representing a minority population segment. NAAF has existed longer than most.

"NAAF is as strong now as it ever has been in terms of its role and influence," said Ken Weathersby, SBC Executive Committee vice president for convention advancement. "It's really the voice of black churches to the convention."

The NAAF board conducted its business meeting, received reports from advisory committees and developed diverse strategies, said Elgia "Jay" Wells, NAAF's executive director.

NAAF also considered a report received by SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page last June from the African American Advisory Council he commissioned to advise him and other SBC entity leaders about the perspectives of African American Southern Baptists. The report contained a comprehensive plan with multiple goals and recommendations, starting with evangelizing African Americans.

During the Atlanta board meeting, NAAF leaders voted to begin training churches in personal and event evangelism via webinars, Wells said.

Church planting continues to be a strength of African American Southern Baptists. In Georgia alone, African American church plants represent about 30 percent of the state's new churches.

NAAF will meet during the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, and plans to host another symposium in September.

Jim Burton is a writer based in Atlanta.
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