All ages reached at LifeWay black church conf.

by Diana Chandler, posted Tuesday, July 30, 2019 (3 months ago)

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP) -- William "Duce" Branch rapped about eschatology at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, incorporating rhyme, rhythm and bounce.

William "Duce" Branch had the audience's attention as he rapped about eschatology at the 2019 Black Church Leadership and Family Conference at Ridgecrest, N.C.
Photo by Diana Chandler
"Today feels beautiful. I wanted you to know, about a rescuer who can stop the funeral. He's beautiful.... Controls this life, and the next. He can take a life falling apart, tighten it up like a hex key."

Branch, an assistant professor of preaching and Bible at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls himself "the ambassador" and admits to being a preacher using rap as a disguise. He ministered to adults of all ages during the Tuesday evening worship at the conference held July 22-26 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in Ridgecrest, N.C.

"In other words," Branch said, "eschatology ... is to motivate present faithfulness and hope when we think about the end. Eschatologically we say this is just a preview, but I'm glad there's more to come."

Rapping was among many techniques including expository and topical preaching, biblical exposition, educational seminars, cerebral and recreational games, Centrifuge, arts and crafts, and other events that ministered to adults, youth and children. "To All Generations: Faithfulness, forgiveness, favor, forever," was the theme of the event with daily activities beginning at 6:15 a.m. and ending as late as 11 p.m.

In a game of Mafia, a group of young adults at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference tries to identify members of the Mafia to save an entire town from calamity.
Photo by Diana Chandler
The mix of technique and form effectively shared the Gospel with all ages, conference convener Mark Croston told Baptist Press Tuesday (July 30.

"The conference this year was awesome," said Croston, national director of black church partnerships with LifeWay Christian Resources. "None of my preaching professors could rap like 'the Ambassador,' William 'Duce' Branch.

"Our millennial outreach is growing," Croston said. Young adults "had a fantastic time with some of our new program additions: game night, Karaoke & Crucial Conversations and Christian Yoga."

Nearing its 30th year, the conference consistently draws about 1,000 attendees. This year Croston counted 945 attendees including 644 adults, 218 Centrifuge enrollees and 83 children. Attendees came from 26 states, Croston said.

"Black Church Leadership and Family Conference is a one-stop shop," Croston said. "It is one of the few places churches can send their members to receive training from all our SBC entities -- NAMB (the North American Mission Board), IMB (the International Mission Board), Guidestone, LifeWay, WMU (Woman's Missionary Union) and more. With churches trying to stretch their budgets to save more money for missions, this conference is a must."

Croston thanked pastors and parents for bringing youth and adults to the event.

Renee Williams Hope was among many who recorded William "Duce" Branch's performance at the Black Church Leadership and Family Conference.
Photo by Diana Chandler
"Our fuge camps are already [underway]," he said on the conference's opening night. "This is such an exciting time and we've got a dynamic team that is working with them this week. And we're thankful for your children who are also with us."

Forty decisions for Christ were noted among Centrifuge attendees, Croston said at the conference's final evening.

The event is not only for black churches, Croston said, but is an urban and multiethnic ministry training event beneficial for ethnically mixed couples and couples who have adopted children of a different race. It also serves churches and leaders who want to learn to be more effective in urban and multi-ethnic environments, he said.

Churches recognized for having the most attendees were, among congregations with as many as 250 members, Wake Eden Community Baptist Church, Bronx, N.Y., with 33 conference attendees; among churches with as many as 600 members, Metropolitan Baptist Church of Suffolk, Va., with 42 in attendance; and among churches with more than 600 members, Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn., with 54 present. Senior pastors of the congregations are, respectively, Frank Williams, Robert Hobbs and Breonus Mitchell Sr.

Registration is open for the 2020 conference, scheduled July 20–24 at Ridgecrest. Information is available at 800-588-7222, or ridgecrestconferencecenter.org.

Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' general assignment writer/editor. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally.
SIGNED UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER? Get Baptist Press in your email by subscribing to our daily newsletter at bpnews.net/SubscribeBP.
Download Story