LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – At the special session of the 167th Arkansas Baptist State Convention annual meeting, the President of the ABSC and the Executive Director of the ABSC, spoke to encourage and challenge both those in attendance and those watching the live stream.
Manley Beasley, Jr.
Manley Beasley, Jr., senior pastor, Hot Springs Baptist Church, and President of the ABSC delivered the president’s message.
He preached from Philippians 3:12-16 and focused on the need to “press on” as Christ followers in the midst of the difficult circumstances brought on by the pandemic and the unrest in our country. “We are living in strange days. Would you ever have believed a year ago that we would be where we are today?”
Beasley reminded us that Paul understood what we are going through. “There is nothing we experience in ministry that Paul did not have to deal with.” Through it all, Paul was able to “press on towards the goal” as he writes in Philippians 3:14
Beasley said that the Word of God tells us there are opportunities created in circumstances like what we are experiencing today that we will never experience again. Because of this, he says we must learn and focus on those things we must do in the context of the circumstances we are in.
“Now is the time for us to reevaluate,” Beasley said. This is true individually, in the church, the ABSC, and in the national convention. He says there are unknown circumstances and we must make the necessary adjustments as they are needed. “God doesn’t want us to just go back to the way that it was.”
Beasley said there are two questions we must ask that we learn from Paul as he is writing from prison: “What must we accomplish in this moment?” and “What must we abandon now?”
Beasley said it is important to seek God’s will and direction before this opportunity is lost. There are a lot of things we haven’t been able to do during the pandemic and some of these “we should never do again.” He said we must seek God diligently concerning what we are about. “We need to forget about what lies behind and look forward to what lies ahead.”
Beasley also said that now is the time to rededicate and reaccelerate. He said we must get back to the cross and consecrate ourselves, putting ourselves on the altar daily like Paul did. Beasley pointed out that we can’t quit even though we may want to. “I can’t quit because I didn’t start this thing, God did,” Beasley said. “Instead we must remember our calling and remember our number one priority. “
“Now is the time we must ask God for the divine wisdom that we need,” Beasley said. There is a need to know how we are going to reach others and minister in the context we are in. He said that we need God to do “greater things now than He’s ever done before. We are called to go harder than ever before. We are called to press on, to go harder and higher towards the goal…keep seeking the things above.”
Beasley ended his message by saying, “What’s the word for us today? I’ll tell you what the word is Arkansas Baptists, when the going gets tough, we press on!”
Dr. J.D. “Sonny” Tucker, ABSC executive director, delivered the executive director’s message. He used Proverbs 3:5 and Galatians 6:2,5 to give direction on how to live and do ministry during the pandemic.
Tucker used the example of remodeling his kitchen to illustrate how the pandemic is offering a chance to refocus and fix up what has been neglected and in need of repair. He said the process of remodeling a kitchen is messy, tiring, and seems to be never ending. However, the finished product is great and worth all of the trouble.
Tucker said that we need to remodel our attitude and our hearts during this pandemic. He said we have to be willing to go through the process but in the middle of it all, we need to be very positive and ask God to “send an awakening, help us break out of old molds and traditions, to get out of programs, to help us not base Christianity off of just showing up on Sunday and to help our people be engaged.”
“I believe that we asked for this and God responded,” Tucker said. We’ve all asked for God to help us make changes and give us the opportunity to refocus and now He has. Tucker shared that, “We all believe in God’s sovereignty, that His timing is perfect, His love is never ending, and He really cares and wants to do a great work.”
Tucker stated that there are two actions he believes we must take in the middle of this remodel. The first is to be positive. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Even though these days are challenging, not much fun, and seemingly never ending, we know that God is still at work. Tucker says we must “Embrace this moment, being very strategic. There are some things we really need to change.” He went on to say that there are things that must be done before we get to the end product.
Tucker challenged pastors and other church leaders to understand that each of them has been called and gifted to lead their church during this time. He said there are many others around the world that have it much worse than us on a daily basis. He said we should look at this as a time where we have the privilege to help others going through a hard time. He said that we need to pray and ask God in this moment to help us “look at this moment and not look ahead.”
The second action we must take is to bear one another’s burdens. Tucker said, “We must understand that even though God is at work this is still a difficult time.” In Galatians 6:5 we are told to bear our own burdens. Tucker used the example of a backpack and said we all have our own backpack to carry. Each one’s load is different, but no one can carry your backpack for you.
In Galatians 6:2 we are commanded to bear one another’s burdens. Tucker says this is like a ship’s cargo that needs to be unloaded. He said this is a load that no one person can unload and carry by themselves. “I am commanded by the love of Christ and the word of God to help you carry that load,” Tucker said. Tucker challenged everyone to ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind faces of people who need help carrying their load. He said, “Let the still small voice of the Holy Spirit show you someone you can help.”
Tucker said he is proud of what we have in this state. He reminded everyone that the Cooperative Program’s (CP) mission invests heavily in the next generation and in reaching the underserved and unreached. He reported that CP giving is up – running about 101% of budget. He thanked the churches for their faithfulness. Although giving to the Dixie Jackson state missions offering and other special offerings appear to be down, Tucker said, “We will adjust and serve God gladly with great thankfulness.”
Tucker concluded his message by challenging everyone to stay together and think about others who are “battle fatigued” and feel at the end of their rope. He said people are exhausted and drained which can lead to poor decisions and a lack of wisdom and caution. Tucker ended by challenging everyone to “love on the folks around you today.” “The Holy Spirit will show you their face, you pray for them, carry them.”