By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
PINEVILLE – Louisiana has been selected as the host state for next year’s Bivocational Small Church Leadership Network National Celebration.
Scheduled for June 26-27 at Louisiana College, the theme for the annual conference is “God Has A Plan For You And Your Church.”
“I am really excited for the BSCLN National Celebration to be hosted at LC,” said Philip Caples, Vice President of Integration for Faith and Learning at LC and active member of the national organization for bivocational and smaller church pastors. “I have been working with these ladies and gentlemen for over two years, and they love to invest into the lives of ministers. Additionally, having the celebration at LC provides an opportunity for our pastors to learn from other pastors across the United States, which is an absolute blessing as well.”
Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, will be the keynote speaker. The Blackwell Family will lead worship.
Pastors attending the conference will take part in six to eight breakout sessions designed to encourage and train them further.
First Baptist Church in Pineville and the Louisiana Baptist Convention are helping make the conference possible.
The pastors’ wives in attendance will have the opportunity to attend a section just for the ladies.
The group, Partners Assisting the Lord’s Servants, strives to encourage and train them in their role as the spouse of a bivocational and smaller church pastor.
“The Celebration at Louisiana College will be to recognize, encourage, and affirm all of our bivocational pastors and their wives but, we are planning to hear from many of our own Louisiana Baptist bivocational pastors in open forums of discussion at the celebration,” said Gary Mitchell, Louisiana Baptists bivocational and smaller church specialist. “The LBC has named exemplary bivocational pastors of the years since 1999 and we will honor these Pastors at the 2015 National Celebration.
“The Louisiana Baptist Convention has been at the front of the SBC Convention’s bivocational ministry work for years now having personnel that relate solely to this huge area of ministry,” said Mitchell, a charter member of the organization. “Louisiana smaller church pastors can boast of being 79 percent of the total LBC Churches and in the SBC, the percent is 81 percent.”
Mitchell, who also is pastor of First Baptist Church in Chataignier, is one of two Louisiana Baptists appointed by SBC Executive Board President Frank Page to a 21-member Bivocational and Small Church Advisory Council.
Mark Tolbert, pastor of Bedico Baptist Church in Ponchatoula and director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence based out of the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary campus, is the other council member from the state.
The newly established Caskey Center is an initiative between NOBTS and an anonymous donor to provide free theological education for Louisiana SBC pastors and staff members who are bi-vocational or serve churches with an average worship attendance of less than 250 people.
The group held its first meeting Sept. 11 – 12 in Atlanta, Ga.
Through 2017, when the group ends its three-year term, the council will gather statistics and information to define the characteristics of SBC churches and then compile a report based on that data. Page defines a smaller church as those with Sunday school attendance of 125 or less.