Most Florida Baptists would agree with H.B. Charles Jr. when he says that God has called the church to be involved in very practical ways in the lives of believers and nonbelievers.
But Charles, senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church with campuses in Jacksonville and Orange Park, finished his thought with a more daring sentiment: “I don’t think that will look the same way in every church, in as much as every church doesn’t look the same.
“We’re in different places and have different issues. But I think we need to be engaged in reaching out to the least and the last and the left out and the lost, and to caring for hurting people, caring for widows and orphans. I really think legitimate Christian priorities get us engaged in things that can have a transformative impact on the culture without us trying to play politics.”
Charles shared these thoughts with me during a wide-ranging conversation as we sat together on the platform of his downtown Jacksonville worship center just days before he would be named president of the 2018 SBC Pastors’ Conference. Go here for details: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1726
He gave this example from his own church’s ministry about how Shiloh does not set out to duplicate what other churches already are doing: “I think there are churches around me here that are doing great things that I commend and I see it and I say, “Wow! Praise God.” And I encourage those pastors.
“I just don’t feel any pressure that I have to imitate what another church does. So during my shepherding and care here this church will not be out in the streets; I don’t feel like we’re uninvolved because we’re not marching. I believe being faithful to the calling we have requires me to lead our congregation to a different strategy.
“I feel like you should not suggest that the way you are led is the way everyone should be led. And I feel like you should not feel the pressure to be doing what every other church around you is doing. You need to with your time, with your resources look for the opportunities, issues, needs and ask God: How would you have me to serve?”
This is the third blog post from my conversation with Pastor Charles. Here’s the link to the first one, where I asked Pastor Charles why more historically black churches were yet to align with the SBC: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1732 In the second blog post, Charles told the story of Shiloh’s decision to align with the SBC: http://gofbw.com/blog?id=1736
Our website will feature one more excerpt from my conversation with Pastor Charles. This digital content will not be repeated in our July print edition, but that issue will include an edited version of Pastor Charles’ thoughts on a range of other topics as part of our regular “Behind the Pulpit” feature.
A video of our conversation also will appear on goFBW.com. You can go now to the Witness’ YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/2pnmUFX to see videos of Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in the Tampa area; Sam Rainer, pastor of West Bradenton Baptist Church; Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola; Willy Rice, pastor of Calvary Church in Clearwater; Ken Whitten, pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church outside of Tampa; and, Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville.
Kevin Bumgarner is executive editor of the Florida Baptist Witness. He can be reached via email at kbumgarner@goFBW.com, and followed on Twitter @FBW_editor