Radical obedience Williams' call in NAAF address
Williams, pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church in Philadelphia, employed the rhythmic and exhortative preaching style traditionally heard in African American pulpits across the country when he called preachers to be prophets of God instead of "pimps and puppets."
"Beloved, the manifestation of sin is running rampant. From satanic terroristic acts, to the propagation through the pipeline from school to prison -- where one out of every three black men in America are tied to the criminal justice system -- systemic racism to a culture of immorality," Williams preached, "it's time for every blood-bought, born-again believer that has been birthed into the body of Christ to stand up and be an ocular demonstration and a pictorial illustration of salt and light, pushing back the darkness in this sin-sick secular society."
Many were on their feet as he preached during NAAF's annual banquet June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the America's Center. His message, "I got a Word from the Lord," was taken from Ephesians 4:11-13, and augmented with Matthew 6:24, Matthew 24:12, 2 Peter 3:16, Acts 20:28 and other Scripture.
He called on pastors to preach the Word of God in season and out of season, realizing that God has "a special stick" to punish preachers who refuse to proclaim His Scripture, referencing 1 Corinthians 9:16 and Jeremiah 3:21.
"Prophets are those who forth tell. In other words we ought to be proclaiming, not with a Holy hush. Am I right about it? You've got to sound the trumpet," he said, urging pastors to keep the Word pure. "You're just a waiter, a glorified waiter. Just take it to the table, serve it and don't mess it up.
"We preach to provoke change of behavior," he said. "because biblical information without practical application leads to spiritual constipation."
The church has strayed from its first love who is Jesus, he said, and lacks prophetic utterance.
"Not only is there a lack of moral courage and convictional kindness not only in the public square," Williams said, referencing the words of Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore, "but it's in the pulpit."
He urged preachers to speak the truth with love.
"You ought to speak and don't offend," Williams said, "and listen and don't defend. You see, beloved, when your political ideologies overrule your bibliology, your soteriology, your hamartiology, your Christology, your ecclesiology, your eschatology, it snatches your prophetic voice right out of your mouth. That's why this nation is filled with pimps and puppets."
He called leaders to achieve inexplicable unity through prayer, practicing unconditional love and radical obedience, and not looking to political leaders for spiritual revival.
Wells retires as executive director
NAAF honored Elgia "Jay" Wells upon his retirement as the group's executive director, a post he had held three years.
Dennis Mitchell, senior pastor of Greenforest Community Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., was elected to the post. Mitchell has more than 20 years of church and denominational leadership experience, having served as Christian education director of Singing Hills Baptist Church in Dallas, Sunday School growth consultant with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, and pastor of the Central Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.
Reading Luke 22:24-27, NAAF treasurer Frank Williams recognized Wells as a successful servant of God.
"Success is accomplished in that which God has purposed for you to do," Frank Williams said, "and greatness is the eventual achievement of a life lived successfully in service to others. This man who we honor tonight has worked tirelessly to ensure a better future for churches, leaders and pastors of color within the context of the Southern Baptist Convention."
He called Wells a faithful pioneer and a trustworthy and humble leader who has served in denominational life with excellence. Wells retired in 2012 as LifeWay Christian Resources' director of black church relations, and is pastor emeritus of Simeon Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn.
New officers elected
NAAF officers elected for two-year terms are president Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md.; vice president Marshall Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.; secretary Bucas Sterling III, pastor of Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md.; parliamentarian Erik Cummings, pastor of New Light Baptist Church in Miami.
Elected as returning officers are treasurer Frank Williams, pastor of Wake-Eden Community Baptist Church and Bronx Baptist Church in the Bronx, N.Y.; historian Robert Wilson, pastor of Light of the World Baptist Church in Atlanta; eastern regional director Brian King Sr., pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia; central regional director Jeffery Friend, pastor of Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans; mountain regional director Garland Moore, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, N.M., and western regional director A.B. Vines, pastor of New Seasons Baptist Church in Spring Valley, Calif.
Annual worship service
During the annual NAAF worship service June 12 at 6:30 p.m. at Beth-El Baptist Church in Spanish Lake, Mo., Ausberry used Revelation 2:8-11 to paint the picture of a successful church that was suffering, exhorting pastors to endure circumstances for the Lord's glory.
The church at Smyrna referenced in Revelation 2 was materially poor, a result of being persecuted for their faith, but was "rich in faith and trust in God," Ausberry said.
"Be faithful to the Lord," Ausberry urged the nearly 150 gathered at the service, "no matter what life brings."
Preceding the sermon, Mitchell described NAAF as a group of nearly 4,000 African American pastors who lead congregations varying in size, worship styles and strengths.
"We need each other to be able to fulfill God's purposes for placing us in the Southern Baptist Convention," Mitchell said. "All of us [together] are better than any of us [individually]."
Emmett Baker Jr. was host pastor and also delivered the devotional address at the June 13 NAAF business meeting.