SBC DIGEST: SBC travel help available to small church pastors; SEBTS conf. focuses on diversity in the church; Barbara Gage dies at 82
SBC travel scholarships available to small church pastors
NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- Pastors of smaller membership churches are eligible for help with expenses for attending the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting by applying through the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Scholarships in the amount of $1,000 each will be awarded to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds must be used for flight, hotel, mileage, rental car, meals, books and resources or other convention-related expenses. If awarded, the $1,000 check will be mailed directly to the church with a letter designating the funds for the pastor's convention expenses.
Pastors of congregations with less than 150 in average attendance and whose churches are unable or unwilling to fund convention expenses may apply.
Applicants will be asked a series of questions to determine eligibility. Personal contact information as well as church contact information will be required. By applying, applicants agree to use the funds to attend all four SBC Pastors' Conference sessions June 10-11 as well as all of the SBC annual meeting sessions June 12-13.
Last year, 61 scholarships of $1,000 were provided from funding generated by the Pastors' Conference, with $24,000 from its budget overage set aside for scholarships this year.
"The Southern Baptist Convention has always been comprised primarily of smaller membership churches," said Jeffrey C. Farmer, associate director of the Caskey Center. "These faithful Christ-followers serve at the crossroads of America, proclaiming the Gospel and loving their neighbors. We are honored to be able to provide this resource so that many who have never attended the Pastors' Conference and convention can participate in our denomination's annual meeting."
To apply or for information, go to www.nobts.news/ConferenceScholarship.
SEBTS conference focuses on diversity in the church
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's Kingdom Diversity Initiative hosted a conference April 13 aimed at putting multicultural passion into informed practice. In light of racism's damaging effects, speakers at the seminary's Link Conference gave multiple perspectives on breaking down barriers within churches.
"What we're trying to do today is have this moment as being a catalyst towards change," Strickland said.
It is important for churches to have structures that support a diverse community, allowing for multiple perspectives in establishing and examining new and existing programs and procedures, said Strickland, who also is first vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The conference featured two panel discussions, the first focusing on how church leaders can strive toward organizational structures that support diversity. Panelists were Andy Davis, senior pastor of First Baptist Durham in Durham, N.C.; Jerome Gay, lead pastor of preaching and vision at Vision Church in Raleigh, N.C.; and Danny Akin, president of SEBTS.
In speaking to the question of how each church or organization has supported minorities while pursuing diversity, Davis noted his conviction from Strickland's opening session of his church's need to make changes toward diversity.
"My passion and my desire for that has been necessary, but insufficient," Davis said.
Gay discussed the importance of pursuing diversity at Vision Church by seeking to create a culture of "eclecticity" where there is no "monolithic" race, but instead there is a recognition that even within race, cultures vary.
Gay also emphasized that feedback from other minorities is key. "That feedback is sometimes painful," he said, "but it's necessary."
Akin said intentionality has been essential at Southeastern as he has built trust with a variety of people who can speak honestly to blind spots he may not see in the institution.
"It's one thing to say we want to be an ethnically diverse community; it's another thing to actively work to make it happen," said Akin, who has led the seminary for 14 years.
The second panel focused on the relational outworking of unifying the church in the midst of cultural differences. Panelists were Jesse Parker, an elder at Vision Church; Aaron Anderson, pastor of Vintage Church Durham; and Matthew Hodges, a lay leader at Christ Our King Community Church in Raleigh.
As a white elder at a predominantly black church, Parker addressed how he navigates conversations with others when it comes to racial and cultural differences.
"I have to have the awareness of how I've been shaped by my own experience, to actually engage and interact with that," Parker said.
In how he teaches at Vision Church, Parker said he must think critically about how he has looked at certain issues in light of his background and the questions that could be raised in light of the backgrounds of people in the congregation. He gave the example of how he addresses pro-life issues, noting that he advocates for life on multiple levels, whether that involves such barriers as abortion, police brutality or systematic racism.
"I'm dealing with pro-life issues, but I'm dealing with it in a lot of ways that my traditional white environment hasn't forced me to think about," Parker said.
Anderson emphasized the importance of humility in relationships and not allowing a spirit of entitlement even when the lack of understanding from brothers and sisters in Christ is painful.
"If your identity is tied to some type of entitlement you'll always be shaky. There will always be some type of discontentment," Anderson said.
Ultimately, he said, God brings reconciliation and healing, noting, "I can still love you and walk with you through this and trust God to do the healing that only He can do through His Spirit."
For Hodges, overcoming multicultural barriers is non-negotiable.
"If you're in leadership, this has to be a Gospel conviction," he said. "This cannot be a Gospel elective."
Leaders need to do what Hodges called a "spiritual audit" by making sure the leadership team is ready for bringing diversity and bridging cultural divides.
Hodges told conference attendees to think of the acronym "L.I.S.T.E.N" when it comes to pursuing reconciliation in the church, which involves leadership, intentionality, sacrifice, time, energy and never giving up.
Southeastern's Kingdom Diversity Initiative started in 2013 to promote diversity through campus events and discussions regarding underrepresented populations and how the Gospel intersects with these issues in culture. For more information, visit kingdomdiversity.sebts.edu.
Barbara Gage, dead at 82, was 'the glue to our household'
HOUSTON (BP) -– Barbara Gage, wife and mother in a family of evangelists and ordained ministers, died April 10 in Houston at age 82.
Her four sons are all ordained ministers. Rick Gage, an evangelist based in the greater Atlanta area, is founder and president of GO TELL Ministries, which conducts citywide crusades, summer camps and school assemblies. Rodney Gage is lead pastor and founder of ReThink Life Church in Orlando, Fla., and author of seven books. Paul Gage is the founder and president of The Gage Group, a church stewardship consulting company based in Colleyville, Texas. Daniel Gage is a Christian business owner who operates a Houston-area salon and day spa.
"In every respect, Barbara Gage was a Proverbs 31 woman," said Jimmy Draper, president emeritus of LifeWay Christian Resources who officiated at Barbara Gage's funeral April 20.
"Faithful to her Lord and preacher husband, she was used of God to provide a home whose culture was saturated with the presence of the Lord. Today four sons and their families praise her and her Lord for a remarkable life," said Draper, who currently is serving as the SBC Executive Committee's presidential ambassador.
Daniel Gage, her oldest son, underscored her family commitment, saying, "Mom was the glue to our household. She kept it all together. In our dad's early years as an evangelist, he was gone about 40 weeks out of the year. Mom would take us to all of our practices and sporting events, including horse shows and motor cross racing."
After their marriage in 1950, the family recounted in an obituary, "Freddie's dad and stepmother persuaded Freddie and Barbara to attend a church revival at [Houston's] Melrose Baptist Church to hear evangelist Dan Vestal Sr. They were both gloriously saved."
The family reported that Barbara Gage "departed for heaven while surrounded by her family, including her four sons." She "passed away in peace, following a decline in her health."
In addition to her sons, Barbara Gage is survived by 10 grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.