Impact 2023 Recap
More than 700 leaders from South Carolina Baptist churches and ministries met Wednesday, February 23, at Church at the Mill in Moore for Impact 2023. Each session, speaker’s message, and worship song of the one-day event addressed the reality that many of today’s ministry leaders face hurt or are searching for answers to mounting problems and trials. The answer to every issue leaders face today may be found in Jesus, the only true source of hope, endurance, and “Grit.”
“Grit, for us it has a Name. Grit is only found when you’re flat on your back with nothing left. It’s a movement of the Holy Spirit that says, ‘I’ve got a new work for you to do today,’” SCBaptist Chief Strategic Officer Lee Clamp said of the conference theme. “We want to encourage, challenge, and help you as you see the Great Commission advanced in your context, whether in your personal life and leadership or through the thousands that you lead.”
Southeastern Seminary Professor and Chaplain Jeff Struecker, whose story was also the source of the movie “Black Hawk Down,” told Impact participants that he, too, needed the conference because his church plant is currently experiencing difficult days. He challenged “South Carolina Baptist leaders to show that radical commitment and grit can cause people to stand up and take notice” of a faith that can impact future generations.
Michael Catt, former pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church and executive producer of Sherwood Picture Films, shared from his experiences leading a church staff and film company to create gospel-centered films and his observations of the student-led revivals happening across the country. “God is priming the pump and filling the streams for what I believe will be the next great revival in America,” he said. “But we don’t need to go to Asbury [University in Kentucky] to experience revival. That same Spirit is right here, right now.”
There were several powerful moments during the morning session, including when the original song “We Look to Jesus” was debuted. It was written by Singer/Songwriter Aaron Williams of The Worship Initiative, who performed the song with the conference worship choir and musicians. Clamp also announced the worship center would be open for prayer and worship during the conference when large group sessions were not being held there.
To engage further during the conference, participants selected from more than 30 breakout session topics that included neighboring, women’s ministries, and church planting. Stephen Cutchins, pastor of First Baptist North Augusta, encouraged a room full of pastors, church staff members, and lay leaders who gathered to learn why “Self Care is Not Selfish.” He spoke to sources of ministry stress and burnout, and affirmed the truth that “you are all you have to offer. It’s not selfish to rest.”
In another breakout session, Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Charleston and chair of the SBC Sexual Abuse Task Force, led discussions around appropriate sexual abuse prevention and response measures for the local church. Citing children’s and youth ministries as key areas to focus on, he said churches should create safety teams and carefully evaluate the spaces where these groups meet on the campus. He asked churches to consider best practices for reporting sexual abuse, including providing a safe environment for victims to share, listen and believe the survivor, and assist them in getting help.
NAMB Send Network Vice President Matt Carter concluded the conference by affirming that being a pastor or church leader is not easy, but he warns against becoming numb to maintaining an intimate relationship with God. Carter’s personal story of “grit” includes a cancer diagnosis, the death of a close friend, learning someone was actively plotting to take Carter’s life, and a terrifying accident his son had, all happening within a few weeks’ time. Carter said the experiences caused him to renew his call to ministry, and he encouraged pastors to “be thankful and content on your current calling, and keep your eyes fixed on the end of your calling.”