Get outside the walls, Virginia leader tells churches

The church Jesus loves needs to be closer to the people Jesus loves, says Travis Collins.

By Paige Peak

Congregations affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia must move beyond their walls to be a fresh expression of church in their communities, members of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board were told April 8-9.

Collins Travis“Millions upon millions of people feel the same about your church and mine,” VBMB staffer Travis Collins said at the board’s spring meeting. “They aren’t mad at us. They might even be glad our building is in the neighborhood and may even attend a fall festival on the lawn. But they aren’t going to join us or come to our meetings. They just don’t see that our church has any value for them.”

Collins, who until March was pastor of Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., is the VBMB’s director of mission advancement and regional coordinator for Fresh Expressions US. Fresh Expressions is an international movement which helps churches engage postmodern culture by establishing new creative communities of faith. The VBMB coordinates Fresh Expressions in the United States.

“I’m investing my life in this movement because I’ve seen up close how effective it is when you put the church Jesus loves closer to where the people Jesus loves actually are,” Collins said.

BGAV president Tommy McDearis echoed the need for a new expression of church. “The old story is still a new story. We need to be about doing the same thing that Jesus did. He didn’t worry about doing things the way they had been done before.”

VBMB executive director John Upton told board members that Christians in North America are experiencing a “period of testing.”

“In times of testing, God leads us. Tough times will help us clarify ourselves.”

That clarification is being expressed by Virginia Baptists in a variety of ways, Upton said:

• Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia has hired Valerie Carter, its first African-American executive director.

• The V3 church planting movement is gaining momentum under new director JR Woodward.

• The More than Nets partnership with the Ghana Baptist Convention to reduce malaria and plant churches has seen 30,000 mosquito nets distributed, 80 churches planted and 2,215 people baptized.

• On the 10th anniversary of the church multisite movement in Virginia, 15 churches now have multiple campuses, located in four different states, with 39 distinct physical campuses. Together they conduct 98 worship services each weekend.

In other action, the board allocated $6,000 for the next three years to fund a church plant project in Haiti.

It also provided:

• $11,000 to Lebanese Baptists who are providing assistance to Syrian refugees in camps in Lebanon. An additional $5,000 was approved to feed the refugees.

• $10,500 for the Lott Carey Baptist School in Liberia to purchase computers and software for its administrative offices.

• $15,000 to fund music and sports activities at the Source of Light Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

VBMB treasurer David Washburn reported the BGAV’s 2013 budget reached 94.7 percent of its goal with a total of $11,455,256.00. For the first quarter of 2014, receipts were 3.4 percent higher than the same period last year but are only about 79 percent of requirements for the quarter.