“What does a disciple of Jesus look like?”
State missionary Steve Layton said that was the major question explored at this year’s Pinnacle Alabama, an annual conference for Sunday School and small group leaders hosted by the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
“We want Sunday School leaders throughout the state to be encouraged, to learn some new things and to reach their potential in Bible teaching and disciple making,” said Layton, lead strategist for groups in the SBOM office of Sunday School & discipleship. Layton coordinated Pinnacle, held at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center in Talladega on Aug. 5–6.
He said he was pleased that attendance was vigorous once again.
“Last year we had a COVID outbreak just weeks before our event, and we had a large number of cancelations,” Layton noted. “This year there was renewed interest in meeting and learning together.”
The weekend focused on four areas of discipleship: loving God and others well, investing in the community, focusing on God’s word and engaging our world.
“This year’s event featured the traditional age-group tracks for preschool, children, students and adults, but also three new specialty tracks,” Layton said. “These included new Sunday School leaders, churches with plus-or-minus 100 in attendance and a track for pastors.”
Another expanded feature was what Layton called “conversation outposts,” first offered in 2021.
“We scheduled several of our leaders to be in informal settings at designated times for personal conversation,” he explained. “Attendees had specific questions about their situations, and they took advantage of the time to seek counsel. The outposts offered more personalized and less formal discussion than we can do in the other sessions.”
Layton said another innovation this year was a prayer and counseling room.
“We know that many church leaders have been severely impacted by the pandemic,” he said, “so we offered a special room with a licensed counselor for personal prayer and counseling at no cost to them.”
A Friday night worship time featured an interview with discipleship specialist Claude King and a message from Craig Etheredge, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Colleyville, Texas.
King acknowledged it had been a difficult two years for ministry leaders.
“We need to care for our soul all the time, not just during COVID,” he encouraged. “David said the Good Shepherd restores our soul, and Jesus invited us to come to Him for rest. Bible study is important, but what we learn must be applied as we seek refreshment in the Lord.”
Etheredge noted two types of leaders.
“Some leaders relish the rewards of their accomplishment, while others realize the responsibility that comes with accomplishment,” he explained. “As church leaders, our motives are important. To lead people you must first love people.”
Preaching from John 15, Etheredge emphasized the words of Christ the night before the crucifixion.
“Jesus said, ‘I have loved you,’ and ‘you must love one another,’” Etheredge quoted. “We love others and invest our lives in them so that they can live out their purpose in God’s work.
“We must have a spiritual awakening of love in our churches, our families and in our hearts.”
SBOM introduced a new award in honor of Executive Director Rick Lance. The first Dr. Rick Lance Sunday School Leader Award was given to Lance. Other inaugural recipients were Lawrence Phipps, senior pastor of First Baptist Gulf Shores; Morgan Bailey, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church in Ranburne; John Thomas, associational mission strategist for Southeast Alabama Baptist Association; and Cindy Thomas, children’s minister at First Baptist Church Dothan.
Layton said a number of conference sessions were recorded and will be posted at makingdisciplesal.com.
“We plan to do more recordings like this in the future so we can offer more of a hybrid event for those who cannot physically attend,” he noted.