As the Alabama Baptist Convention begins to celebrate 200 years of ministry, Rick Lance took time in his annual meeting report to touch on “significant points of focus” worth celebrating.
His report highlighted evangelism, ministry training and mentoring for young people who are determining God’s call on their lives, serving people in times of need, race relations and helping churches better protect their ministries.
Gospel to everyone
Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, kicked off his report spotlighting The Gospel to Everyone, a statewide effort to reach every home in Alabama with the gospel and help churches better connect with their communities.
“Evangelism is important — we know that,” he said. “We want to do as much as we can to reach as many and teach as many in order that the Kingdom might advance.”
Through partnering with associations and churches, Lance noted that during the Easter season there are plans underway to celebrate successes of the effort.
“This is an effort to remind us of the simple but profound need that lost people have [for the gospel],” he said.
“Every so often,” he noted, “we need to do a ministry audit of ourselves and remind ourselves that evangelism is a very big priority in what we do, in our lives and our families and our churches.”
Calling out the Called
Lance reflected on when he was younger and how he would have loved to have had access to some of the training and resources available today.
In an effort to help more young people understand their calling to ministry, Lance shared about “Calling out the Called,” an Alabama Baptist initiative the convention approved before the COVID-19 pandemic. He referenced two efforts currently in the works — the Called conference and the Timothy Initiative, which focuses on raising the next generation of ministry leaders.
Lance described the first inaugural class is made up of about 70 young people — highschoolers, mainly college people — “who are taking the journey of what it means to discover God’s call and claim on their lives. All of us at one time was a Timothy.”
Two Baptist leaders who have helped provide training and mentoring are Jeff Iorg, Gateway Seminary president, and Jim Shaddix, professor of preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Lance encouraged Alabama Baptists to sign up for Send Relief’s Serve Tour scheduled for March 10–11. This spring, he noted, there will be opportunities to serve communities in the Montgomery area through partnerships between SBOM, directors of missions and the North American Mission Board.
“Clearly we want to meet the needs of the underserved and those who are of the greatest need,” he said. “We know that in Alabama we are not a wealthy state. … There are places where the people are food insecure. … It will help us identify those needs.”
MinistrySafe is another key area of focus that Lance emphasized in his report. He encouraged more churches to be trained on how to better protect the vulnerable from sexual abuse.
For the first 1,000 churches that sign up for MinistrySafe training, Lance said, the SBOM will cover $200 out of the $250 annual fee during the first year.
“We’ve had this offer a good while and continue to see at least 1,000 churches be involved in it,” he said. “Your State Board of Missions and everyone on staff, state missionaries and every single one of them has been trained through Ministry Safe. … We hope that is a good example.”
Lance said if someone was to ask him what his “greatest concern” is, beyond evangelism and the mission of the church, it would be religious liberty.
The Alliance for Defending Freedom, Lance said, is an organization which has helped provide counsel to individuals and ministries with religious liberty cases. Lance urged churches to consider contacting the group to review their church documents. He noted that by going throSBOM, ministries can get a 20% discount.
“The day is coming when we will have to defend ourselves, and one way to get ready for it is [through] preparation of our documents,” said Lance, noting that religious liberty is “far more than what you do on Sunday morning.”
Lance also referenced meeting with the Alabama African American Fellowship for a Monday dinner event (read more here). Among those who gathered for the event were Fred Luter, the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Ken Weathersby, former vice president for convention advancement with the SBC Executive Committee.
“They were deeply encouraged by the fellowship with each other,” said Lance, who noted this was the first event of this kind held during Alabama’s annual meeting. “They want to know more about Alabama Baptist life and Southern Baptist life.
“Our diversity is reflecting the population around us, and we want to continue to make sure that our brothers and sisters who are of ethnic backgrounds of all kinds are part of the family of faith we call Baptists — Southern Baptists and Alabama Baptists.”
This fall, Disaster Relief volunteers from Alabama have been serving in Arcadia, Florida, following the devastating Hurricane Ian, which has claimed the lives of more than 100 people in the state, according to the latest media reports. Since then, Lance noted, Alabama Baptists have been among Southern Baptist teams throughout the country who have responded to the disaster.
“These yellow shirts … they’ve been really hard at work,” said Lance, noting how the state of Florida has taken notice of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts and contributed 400,000 to their work.
Lance noted the importance of this ministry and how we all could find ourselves in need of the “Yellow Shirt Army.”
“We’re only one tragedy away of needing the Yellow Shirt Army and they’re ready when the time comes.”
Reflecting on serving Alabama Baptists
Lance, who is celebrating his 25th annual meeting in his role as executive director, closed his report with a word of gratitude for Alabama Baptists.
“This is my 25th convention and I want you to know that I’ve become more grateful to the Lord and also to Alabama Baptists,” he said.
“You continue to be a pacesetter in the SBC by giving through the Cooperative Program, the No. 1 state convention in that effort — Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, the Myers-Mallory Offering, all of that you’ve been so special even in the worst of times and Covid and economic uncertainty,” he said.
“I want to thank you personally for allowing me to serve with you as one of your state missionaries.”