Race is not the issue of Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, leaders told Baptist Press upon the 25th anniversary of the event described as the largest gathering of African Americans in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“It’s the culture,” said Jay Wells, a retired LifeWay Christian Resources executive who helped found the event during his tenure in 1993. “Each generation and each people group have culture and God created us with differences and uniquenesses. It’s not to say one is better than the other. It simply says this is just who we are.”
Wells spoke to Baptist Press after receiving the 25th anniversary plaque on the opening night of the motivational, educational, recreational and worship event hosted by LifeWay July 16-20 at Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina.
“When you look at people, you have to accept people for who they are and appreciate that and celebrate that, rather than devaluing it,” Wells told BP. The conference focuses on ways “to penetrate that culture with the gospel and having people mobilize themselves to advance the kingdom of God, which transcends all cultures.”
Mark Croston, LifeWay’s national director of Black Church Partnerships, said the conference’s survival in attracting a thousand or more attendees annually is a testimony of its relevance.
“It offers training that is geared toward the nuances of African American church culture. It offers worship that is in the African American church experience and it offers fellowship with other African Americans from across the country,” Croston told BP. “In some of our areas, to be black and Southern Baptist can be kind of lonely. And so one of the places you come just to get some fellowship with other people who are of your same experience is a place like this.”
Roy Cotton Sr., director of African American Ministries of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told BP he has attended the event 24 of its 25 years, annually since 1994.
“More than getting your plate filled, you get your cup running over at black church week,” Cotton said. “When people go, they want to come back because of all that is offered. … It’s just a plethora of resources to feed the quest in us to provide the very best for our churches.
“If anybody goes to Black Church Leadership and Family Conference week, they shouldn’t come back the same,” Cotton said. “If you open your mind and your heart to receiving, and having it really impact your life, it will.”
More than 100 faculty members, pastors, speakers and coordinators led just as many breakout sessions and classes in various aspects of ministry, capped nightly with worship and preaching from noted Southern Baptist pastors. Classes spanned 29 educational tracks embracing church growth, law and security; evangelism; youth and children; gender specific ministries and missions; discipleship, worship arts and other concentrations. Attendance spans various ethnicities.
SOURCE: Diana Chandler