Gathering for their annual meeting Sept. 27–29 at First Baptist Church North Pole, Alaska Baptists celebrated work being done, heard plans for future endeavors and extended the state convention leaders’ negotiations with the North American Mission Board for another year.
Randy Covington, executive director of Alaska Baptist Resource Network, noted the last year has been a time of celebrating 75 years of the state convention’s work in Alaska. But using a mountain climbing analogy, Covington said that was the front side of the mountain. The back side of the mountain awaits.
“When you climb a mountain, you get to enjoy the view, look back at where you came from, where you’ve been. That’s the front side of the mountain,” he said. “That was really tough, you might think. You look at the good parts and the bad parts of the climb, but it all comes together because you’ve made it to the peak.
“That’s what I feel like as we gather here today,” said Covington, who has led ABRN for the past 5 years.
In that time, Alaska Baptists have planted 13 new churches and baptized more than 600 new believers. They have adopted a new name and vision to emphasize how the state organization exists to connect churches and provide resources to churches in communities so the gospel can be made known.
Covington highlighted many accomplishments of the past five years, including:
- Supporting and encouraging churches during a global pandemic
- Involving students from across America in summer missions projects, many of whom have felt a call to Alaska to serve full time
- Welcoming missions teams from across the U.S. to help Alaska Baptist churches
- Reaching college students through Mosaic Campus Ministries
- Training and sending more disaster relief volunteers, noting that Alaska Baptists are serving in Louisiana, helping with Hurricane Ida recovery
- Working with the incarcerated and seeing men and women saved because of that engagement
- Assisting churches that need revitalization
- Developing a church planting strategy in communities that have no gospel witness, many of which are in difficult places to reach geographically.
Significant work has been accomplished, Covington said, but more work lies ahead, continuing with the mountain climbing analogy.
“The future is in the back side of the mountain — looking to new horizons that are compelling you to come,” he said. “We as a convention need to look to the places that are yet unreached and the things we still have to do.”
Those new horizons include communities, many in the Aleutian Islands, who are saying “please come. We need a church in our community. Send us a pastor.”
“We need to be available and willing to go to those difficult places,” Covington said.
He laid out a vision for the future, challenging Alaska Baptists to several tasks, including:
- Premeditated, concentrated prayer that unleashes the power of the Holy Spirit
- The need to always be on the front line of winning the lost to Christ and leading them into responsible church membership
- Establishing churches
- Building unity through collaboration and cooperation between Alaska Baptist churches
- Greater participation in and financial support for Baptist work
- A refined strategy to reach the unreached
- Increased partnerships outside the state
- Bringing biblical values to the social ills in the state and being more vocal in sharing the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
- Creating new avenues to ministry to the homeless and down-and-out
- Revitalizing churches that once had vibrant ministries but have fallen on hard times
- Support for missionaries through the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and other Great Commission partners.
“We’re part of the Body of Christ and that’s our calling,” Covington said. “We must be more intentional in engaging people with the truths of God’s word. We can’t wait for them to come to our churches. We must go to where they are and take the hope of Christ to them.
“May God use us to unleash a movement that will sweep through our great state and beyond our borders. Let’s be faithful, let’s be diligent and let’s be bold in proclaiming the gospel so that everyone will have the opportunity to hear the message of Jesus Christ,” Covington said.
The annual meeting also included a missions celebration, Impact Alaska, on Sept. 27, with reports from camps, partnerships and outreach efforts.
Jae McKee, ABRN director of missions and church planting, encouraged Alaska Baptists to be faithful in their work and highlighted the Valeria Sherard State Mission Offering.
“You never ever know what faithfulness will do to make a gospel impact all the way around the world starting right here in Alaska,” McKee said.
Relationship with NAMB
During the meeting, messengers voted to give leaders one more budget year to determine the future of the ABRN’s financial relationship with NAMB.
Last year, responding to a tense relationship between ABRN and NAMB, messengers voted that beginning with the 2022 budget, “the percentage of Cooperative Program funds that traditionally were intended for the North American Mission Board … be retained in Alaska” and designated for a state missions fund “until such time as there is a collaborative, cooperative and mutually agreed upon strategy with the North American Mission Board, as determined by our executive director and the executive board of the Alaska Baptist Resource Network.”
ABRN President Tom Hoffman said the intent behind the extension is to give ABRN and NAMB every opportunity to engage in dialogue because the pandemic restrictions and other circumstances prevented the opportunities they had hoped for in 2021. The extension will give both groups more time to talk, he said.
The end goal is to improve collaboration and cooperation between the two organizations, and there have been positive efforts, Hoffman said.
“Hopefully from this point forward, we’ll be able to move more constructively toward a more amenable partnership agreement,” he added.
“I am very hopeful and optimistic that the conversations we have had will continue, and we can come to a point where we say let’s get back to doing business cooperatively,” he said.
In other business, messengers adopted a 2022 budget of $881,555.