South Carolina Baptist Convention pastors, staff and lay leaders met for a time of worship, encouragement, networking and learning at Impact 2020 on Feb. 20 at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia. Speakers Dhati Lewis and Vance Pitman, dozens of breakout sessions and lunch & learn opportunities each covered different perspectives on the theme, One, and the urgency for unity as believers work together to share the hope of the Gospel. The needs and issues important to church leadership were in every detail of the day-long event.
“I hope you remember when you first said ‘yes’ to God. Today we want to inspire you with life. We hope that Impact brings you life today, that it helps you remember the need we have and to refocus on what’s important that God has told us He wants us to do,” says Lee Clamp, SCBC Evangelism Team leader.
Attendees could mingle through resource exhibits, a coffee bar and themed interactives. An inflatable pool held plastic balls attendees could write prayer requests on – and then they were invited to jump in for fun. The relaxed atmosphere, designed to foster new and existing relationships, also set a tone for leaders to refocus and reset their ministries.
“Impact is about encouragement and inspiration for leadership. Our staff has been praying for this day to be a catalytic day in your ministry, and spark something new in leadership and ministry through the leading voices in our state and nation for God. I hope you leave here more hopeful for what God is doing in your life and ministry,” SCBC Associative Executive Director/Chief Strategist Jay Hardwick told leaders.
The Impact schedule included ADVANCE sessions modeled after “TEDtalk”-style presentations as well as classic style breakout discussions. ADVANCE sessions hosted three to four speakers from across the state, each active in different facets of ministry within that strategy, and a Q&A panel discussion at the conclusion. The sessions were designed to equip individuals to fulfill the Great Commission in the ADVANCE areas of SERVE, SHARE, STRENGTHEN, START and SEND. Attendees could also choose topical breakouts of interest to their specific ministry and centered around the One theme spanning from Investing in Pastors a Generation Behind You to a highlight of SCBC’s history with a look toward the future.
In his session about a church partnership idea for loving neighbors Dave Runyon, a Colorado Pastor and author of The Art of Neighboring, shared the journey to meet his literal neighbors and how God taught him to love them well. Within his community it became a story of churches working together to live out the Great Commandment.
“When you have proximity-based relationships you’re guaranteed to meet people different from you. I have friends now who have filled in a lot of the gaps in my life and I’ve filled in gaps in theirs. What happens when Kingdom people start living in their own spaces is that the Kingdom starts breaking down. All of the things I was dreaming about when I was on staff at church was happening right outside my front door,” Runyon says of the experience, which has spread to about 2,500 churches around the country.
Attendees gathered for two larger sessions that included worship, led by Mack Brock. In the morning session Lewis challenged leaders to confront personal convictions on race and issues affecting inner city communities. Lewis is the lead Pastor of Blueprint Church in Atlanta and serves as vice president of the North American Mission Board’s Send Network, and believes God is forcing today’s believers out of their comfort zones on these issues.
“Often as believers we define God’s will by the path of least resistance. We are addicted to our comfort, and Jesus forces us out of our comfort zone. [Churches will say] ‘We don’t want multicultural just multi-colored,’ meaning ‘I want you but on my terms.’ That reality has caused a division called racism and discrimination. If we’re going to make disciples in our day, we have to address the issues of race and racism,” Lewis explains.
He went on to say that discrimination and racism isn’t a “pet sin,” it’s a hinderance to God accomplishing what He’s doing. When we become more defined by our ethnicity than by the blood of Christ, Lewis says we miss what God is doing.
“God’s vision is for us to love our community. The goal of a Christian is reconciliation. God has called us to reach all people. If our country is divided it’s a tremendous opportunity for us to be a tangible expression of the Bible. We must call racism sin, embrace the ministry of reconciliation, run to the tension of cultural and racial landmines and embrace holistic disciple-making,” Lewis advises.
Vance Pitman, Pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, challenged leaders to lead with devotion and prayer in order to experience one-ness. Admitting church can become a collision of cultures, Pitman says the early church rose above distraction and division by devoting themselves to the Word of God and today believers can seek God in prayer in order to experience Him in power.
“God in his sovereignty has designed that He will move and respond to His people praying. To prioritize the Word in prayer invites the manifest presence of God among us and it allows us to experience the power of God in and through us. There’s something that happens when the people of God come together and pray corporately that does not happen through other areas of ministry,” says the Pastor, whose church is planted out of First Baptist Woodstock, Georgia.
Prayer was also a foundational element of Impact. During the morning worship SCBC Executive Director Treasurer Dr. Gary Hollingsworth led distinct sections of small group prayer in response to messages received during the event, over senior pastors and for spiritual awakening in our country. To church leaders facing a difficult season Hollingsworth answers with prayer saying, “There may be something happening in your life and ministry you’ve been called to, that if God doesn’t show up in mighty power you know absolutely there is no way to face and meet and see this challenge overcome.”
Impact attendees were challenged to take what they learned, apply it to reaching their One and the lost in their greater communities, and to actively look for ways to partner with others to share the hope of the gospel.
“Where are we in terms of serving our community well, sharing the hope of the Gospel with an impact and effectiveness, sending workers to the nations and starting new work in the place where we are? The need is great and has never been greater, the time is urgent and never been more urgent for ONE Church to be joined in ONE mission proclaiming ONE Gospel to millions in our state and billions across the world. Goal of impact is that we leave here and do something,” Hardwick says.
For additional Impact highlights and session downloads to go www.scbaptist.org/impact. Any church, any size, anywhere can advance in fulfilling the Great Commission. Visit www.scbaptist.org/advance to explore how you can make your next move to see that every life is saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel.