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During this quarter, I was able to participate in Graduation Exercises for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I had completed my course work earlier, but because of COVID-19, the school closed commencement activity. So, I received the degree of Master of Arts in Ministry Leadership. This underscores my conviction that as servants of God, we should never stop growing. Do you know what we call a tree that no longer grows? Dead! Leaders are meant to be lifelong learners. There were several other opportunities I availed myself of that I might specifically develop my competencies as an Associational Mission Strategist. I attended the Legacy Church Conference, June 7-8 in Caraway to explore how to help our older churches to be refreshed in ministry and refocused on the Great Commission. Preceding the SBC meeting in Nashville, TN, I went to two days of training and encouragement at the Southern Baptist Conference for Associational Leadership and profited greatly from the fellowship and experiences of those who have been in the trenches doing Associational work. Then, on August 3-4, Southeastern Seminary hosted its annual AMS Conference, which I was blessed to attend and thought it very profitable.

One of the things I learned is that many churches that are struggling are candidates for revitalization. Others may be past that and need fostering—that is an intermediate step for a church that is considering adoption—to come under the nurture and care of a healthy congregation, buying them time to consider whether they need to fully relinquish control to an adopting congregation. Adoption is the other opportunity, where a church no longer has the resources for revitalization and now is ready to allow the “parent church,” to fully adopt the struggling church. Would any of these options be something your church needs to consider?

I am part of a Haywood Baptist Revitalization cohort that meets monthly. I am looking to expand my role in revitalization work and am scheduled to attend an equipping session through the State Convention in October to help me be more effective in this area. I have not attempted “fostering,” but if your church thinks it is at that point, then I will be glad to speak with you. As to adoption, I have recently accepted a six-month intentional interim pastorate at Calvary Baptist Church in Canton as they voted unanimously to let me lead them in an adoption process. Would you pray for me as I develop the plan to implement for them, as well as finding a parent church that is just suited for them?

When I pastored in the Charlotte area in the 1980’s Shamrock Drive Baptist Church was a strong, vital congregation. I do not know all the history, and how things happened, but somewhere along the way, they lost their focus on the Great Commission and as a result do you know what occupies that building today? An Islamic center! Where a preacher once stood and preached truth, now an imam preaches deception. Pews that occupied Christians have been replaced by prayer rugs on the floor, Muslims kneeling toward Mecca. That can happen anywhere. Church buildings have been turned into apartments and restaurants. This is no longer the scene in Europe and New England alone, but has come to the Bible belt! God help us!

There are two great mission opportunities in September where we need your help. First, we have been invited to have part in the Canton Labor Day Festival on Sunday afternoon and evening, Sept.5 and Monday, the 6th. We need at least one representative from your church to sign up and get to work this Sunday recruiting people for three-hour blocks. Also, on Sept.10, opening night of the Mountain State Fair at the Ag Center near Asheville Airport, we need to fill six slots for the break tent during the 10 PM to Midnight shift. Call me if you can serve. To prepare for these events, we will offer Evangelism Training on the 3 Circles and the Evangecube, here on Thursday night, August 26th at 6:30 PM right here in the HBA Conference Room.

I met with our new EDT from the State Convention, Todd Unzicker—an enjoyable time of fellowship and information. He wanted me to remind you to commit to “Fill the Tank” on Sunday, September 12. Whether you have any baptismal candidates or not, I exhort you to run water in the baptistry and have the church family pray that God will save some souls! We are going to do that at Calvary, where it has been sometime since they have baptized anyone. I want to make sure that it still holds water! Maybe your baptistry is used for storing Christmas decorations! Clean it out! If nothing else, this can serve as a great reminder of the priority of evangelism. Calvary, Crestview, and Hazelwood have signed up so far. You can meet Todd up close and personal as we are merging our Pastor’s Conference with Buncombe Baptists next Monday at the BRC, with a free lunch, if you will let us know today that you are going!

I have preached at several of our churches and met with some of our pastors. I have been to the Orchard and Antioch for Vision meetings. I was able to lead a prayer seminar at Rocky Face and would be thrilled to do one for you. I want you to know I pray for the leaders and churches of this Association day after day. I am thrilled to be here and want to make a difference for the cause of Christ. I can do training for deacons, Sunday School leaders, and more. I would be glad to talk to you about a stewardship process or capital campaign to build or pay off a debt. Please—wear me out! I will retire in heaven. Stay tuned—there is more to come!

Our next meeting will be combined with Camp Meeting, and we are calling it, “The Haywood Southern Baptist Convention,” October 24-26, with great Gospel singing and preaching—asking God to bring revival to Haywood County!

Your Partner for the Gospel,

Dennis Thurman, AMS

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