Pictured left to right: David Mitchell, Johnny Harp, Larry D. White, and J.D. “Sonny” Tucker
The 169th Annual Meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (ABSC) convened, Oct. 25-26 at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs. The annual Pastors’ and Ministers’ Wives Conferences took place Oct. 24.
Monday, Oct. 24
The theme for this year’s Pastor’s Conference was “The Heart of a Shepherd.” The conference kicked off at noon with a lunch for all attendees followed by an afternoon and evening session. The afternoon session included worship, panel discussions, and messages from Pastors John McCallum and Kim Bridges.
The evening session included more worship, a panel discussion and messages by Pastors Roderick Rogers and Ronnie Deal. To read more about the 2022 Pastor’s Conference, click here.
The ministers’ wives also met at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs. The theme for this year’s conference was “Stories of Hope.” The event kicked off with a lunch followed by an afternoon session. This session began with worship led by Tyler Lee, interim worship pastor at FBC, Hot Springs. The group heard a panel discussion from a group of Arkansas Baptist ministers’ wives. Featured speaker for the event was Tara Dew. The conference concluded with closing remarks and prayer by Andrea Lennon.
Church Planting Dinner
Church planters and their sending churches were treated to a dinner on Monday evening, Oct. 24 at First Baptist Church in Hot Springs. The dinner was hosted by the Church Planting Team of the ABSC.
Church Planting Team Leader Vince Blubaugh welcomed attendees and introduced George Ross from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) who talked about the new enhanced church planting partnership between the ABSC and NAMB called Send Network Arkansas.
Church planters heard an encouraging word from J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, ABSC executive director, and were introduced to resources available to them through the Arkansas Baptist Foundation (ABF) during a panel discussion made up of ABF team members. There was also a time of prayer as participants gathered around the church planters and prayed over them. The dinner concluded with prayer by Ross.
Tuesday morning/afternoon, Oct. 25
The Annual Meeting kicked off with a time of worship led by Greg Childress, Music and Administration Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway. John McCallum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Hot Springs, welcomed the messengers.
Don Moore, retired ABSC Executive Director, led a time of focused prayer as he encouraged messengers to cry out to God and claim His promises by praying specific passages of Scripture. These passages included Psalm 51:1-2, John 2:2 and Psalm 9:12.
J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, ABSC Executive Director, introduced the theme for the annual meeting, and talked about what it meant to have “The Heart of a Servant.” He reminded messengers that we are autonomous independent churches. Tucker said, “Arkansas Baptists and Southern Baptists don’t have churches. We don’t control you, supervise you or pick your staff. The peak of any hierarchy is the local church.” He encouraged those in attendance to “join with us as your servants.” Tucker stressed that we are in this together and we are a family of churches who have joined together today with a missions focus. He concluded his remarks by saying, “Arkansas Baptists are the greatest folks in the world.”
The meeting was called to order by Larry D. White, current Arkansas Baptist State Convention President and pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church. He reminded everyone that “we are here to pray together, do the Lord’s business and to celebrate what God has done in Arkansas Baptists’ individual lives, churches and agencies/institutions.”
After the adoption of the program, appointments of committees were read off by their respective representatives. Throughout the day, different agencies and institutions gave reports to the attending messengers on what’s been happening in their ministries.
The Arkansas Baptist Foundation announced a new scholarship. The Heart of a Servant Scholarship is named in memory of former ABSC Executive Team Member David Bond, who recently passed away after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Bobby Thomas, ABF President and CEO said this scholarship will benefit those students pursuing a music education or Christian studies degree at Ouachita Baptist University. “We hope this scholarship provides an opportunity to educate the next generation about the life and legacy of David Bond,” Thomas said. Anyone wishing to contribute to this scholarship can do so by visiting their website at www.abf.org.
Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF)
On Tuesday, October 25, 2022, the SATF released its report along with its recommendations. This follows last year’s vote at the 168th session of the Annual Meeting of the ABSC to form a sexual abuse task force.
The vote came after a motion was presented during the meeting to form a task force to “ensure the policies and procedures of the ABSC are above reproach in handling sexual abuse allegations.” It went on to “recognize [that] the ABSC does not have authority over the local church; however, this motion’s intent is to ensure that where the ABSC does have purview, it is above reproach.”
During the morning session, Secretary Matt Duran noted that the report was intended to protect minors and adults and to aid churches and ABSC entities to be above reproach. Chairman Brad Lewter made a motion that the report be approved. A second was obtained and the report was unanimously approved by messengers.
During the Executive Board report, messengers were informed about the new expanded church planting partnership between the NAMB and the ABSC. During their August 16 meeting, the Executive Board voted unanimously to expand the partnership by entering into an enhanced church planting partnership called Send Network Arkansas. Executive Board President Jeff Paxton, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dover reported that this enhanced partnership would “utilize Kingdom resources that will help plant churches in the state with more funding being available for churches planted and for church planters.” He emphasized that church planting in Arkansas will continue to be served through the Church Planting Team of the ABSC.
As part of miscellaneous business, Peter Cunningham, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Bryant, made a motion to dedicate the Arkansas Baptist State Convention 2022 Annual in honor of David Bond. This motion passed unanimously.
Amidst the Annual Meeting’s business, Arkansas Baptists had the chance to hear sermons from Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College and Larry D. White, ABSC Convention President and pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway.
Dew encouraged messengers to draw near to God as he spoke from Philippians 2:1-9. He asked the question, “What does it mean to be a servant?” He said the point of the passage was to “let the same mind that was in Jesus also be in us.” Dew shared four qualities of a servant from this passage. He said a servant: cares about the unity in the body of Christ, is humble and selfless, follows the example of Jesus Christ and finds his or her satisfaction in Christ Himself. Dew concluded his message with a challenge for messengers to embrace the life of a servant.
White shared from Mark 10. He began with the question, “What’s your status?” He said there is no place for special membership in the body of Christ or in the local church. White shared that unfortunately pride and arrogance are prevalent in many local churches. He pointed out that Jesus modeled servant leadership, and that we need a lesson on servanthood. He noted that many people in the church are trying to find their place and their role.
“Either you have the attitude of a servant or wanting to be served. The greatest privilege is we are called to be a servant of God,” White said. He concluded his message with a challenge to have the heart of a servant and said that “the highest calling in the kingdom of God is that of a servant.”
Various luncheons took place on campus during the mid-day break on Tuesday, including the Young Leaders lunch, seminary alumni luncheons, Chaplains Luncheon and AR Kids Ministry Network Luncheon.
Tuesday evening, Oct. 25
The Tuesday evening session began with a time of worship led by the Arkansas Master’Singers. There was also a time of focused prayer for our state and national conventions which was led by Manley Beasley, pastor of Hot Springs Baptist Church. Proverbs 3:5-6 served as the guide for the prayer time. Beasley called on messengers to pray a short but specific prayer for our state and national convention asking God to give us another chance, send revival and give us faith to believe. He then led the messengers to pray, “Lord save our convention, give us wisdom, direct our paths for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever amen.”
J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, Executive Director of the ABSC, spoke about the true pathway to greatness. Speaking from 1 Peter 5, Tucker said that it is humility that makes someone great. He said that humility is the biblical model, “You can’t beat it. You can’t fight it. You can’t overpower it. You can’t overcome it. You can’t undo it. This is the model that God honors. He resists the proud and gives favor to the humble.” He said this is the great example we should all follow and what we should look for in leaders.
Tucker described a “crescendo of unsolicited thanks and praise” that follows true humble servant leaders. This praise and thanksgiving comes from the people whose lives have been impacted by these selfless acts of service. This is not praise that was asked for or sought after. It’s praise that comes in response when these leaders esteem others as more important than themselves. He named key leaders in the SBC and pointed to the ABSC staff and leaders of the agencies and institutions as examples of humility who are here to serve others.
As we move forward, Tucker challenged us to go back to where we are supposed to be, to remember the passion and humility we had when we first started in ministry. He said the pathway to the next level is to learn how to be an incredible leader, lead by serving, and lead by putting others first. “As many folks as we can love, as many folks as we can serve, that’s how many folks we can lead,” Tucker said.
The night ended with presentations by the SBC Executive Committee and the Executive Board of the ABSC and a reception in honor of Tucker’s upcoming retirement on December 31.
Wednesday, Oct. 26
Tyler Lee, Interim Worship Pastor at First Baptist Church Hot Springs, led in worship to begin the morning session.
Brad Lewter, Pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Smith, brought the convention sermon. He challenged messengers to consider those things that are going to have an impact when it’s all said and done. He said the most underemphasized characteristic of Christian leadership is humility. He preached from Philippians 2:1-9 and said that “In order to talk about humility we need to talk about humility’s adversary, pride. Selfishness is the great Christian contradiction to all that God has saved us to and called us to.”
Lewter pointed out four things that Paul did in calling the church to humility. Paul appeals to their faith, addresses the great contradiction of selfishness, exalts Christ as the example and motivates them with eternity. Lewter reminded messengers that Jesus is God and that He did not cling to His position. He concluded his message by saying, “One day we will all bow before an almighty God. Never forget. Live our lives as if a hundred years from now all that’s going to matter is Jesus.”
The election of convention officers also took place. Larry D. White, pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Conway, was elected to a second term as President of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention for 2023. David Mitchell, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cabot, was elected to a second term as First Vice President and Johnny Harp, pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in Cave Springs, was elected to a second term as Second Vice President.
The Resolutions Committee presented five resolutions for consideration. Messengers approved resolutions one through four.
With prayer for the lost and with thanksgiving for all that God has done and will do in the coming days the meeting was adjourned. We appreciate those who attended in person and watched online and hope to see you at Nettleton Baptist Church in Jonesboro Oct. 23-25, 2023, for the 170th meeting of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.