SEBTS Kingdom Diversity hosts first black church conference

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State of the Black Church ConferencePastors, ministry leaders and students gathered on October 28, 2016, for the State of the Black Church Conference at Friendship Chapel Baptist Church in Wake Forest North Carolina. Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) hosted the event that included break out sessions, panel discussions and sermons focused on the variety of theological and ecclesiological perspectives of the black church. 

To open the conference, Walter Strickland, special advisor to the president for diversity and instructor of theology at SEBTS, gave a brief history of the black church and its differing forms today. “Each of these developments in black Christianity is important. They all have distinct personalities and each of them can learn from one another,” he said. 

Strickland also emphasized that Christians should be aware of the danger of telling a single story. He said that marginalized Christian voices like those of Native Americans, Asians and African Americans should be elevated to join the majority voice to tell a better and fuller story of the Church in America. “We are better at serving and pushing back the gates of hell side by side than we can individually,” he said.

Through breakout sessions, the conference addressed discipleship, preaching, church finances, college ministry, generational gaps and apologetics. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn more about black liberation theology and the history of the black church.  

SEBTS Kingdom Diversity Coordinator Maliek Blade led two panel discussions that addressed many topics pertinent to the black church today, including the upcoming election, the spiritual legacy of Martin Luther King, reformed theology and more. 

Panelists included Thabiti Anyabwile, pastor of Anacostia River Church in Washington D.C.; Lisa Fields, founder of the Jude 3 Project; Jerome Gay, pastor of Vision Church in Raleigh, North Carolina; William “Duce” Branch, instructor of New Testament at The College at Southeastern; H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida; Charlie Dates, pastor of Progressive Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois and Patrick Wooden, pastor of Upper Room Church of God in Christ in Raleigh. 

To wrap up the conference, Charles delivered a sermon on Second Timothy chapter three, encouraging the audience to be faithful ministers of the word of God. “Faithfulness to the gospel in our generation requires that we contend for the sufficiency of scripture, not just the inerrancy,” he said.

Citing nine commands in the Second Timothy passage, Charles said the most important command is to preach the word. What matters in preaching is the content of the message, not the presentation. 

“The pulpit is no place for worldly theatrics or self-help theories,” he said. “The pulpit is the throne for the word of God, and we must faithfully preach the word.”

In his final exhortation, Charles spurred listeners on to finish the task of preaching the word well. “You get no credit with God by how well you start,” he said. “The question is will you finish strong. God expects us to be faithful to the assignment he’s given us to the very end.” 

The Kingdom Diversity Initiative at SEBTS is an effort to equip students from every corner of God’s kingdom to serve in every context of the kingdom, with a focus on increasing the number of minority students and women at SEBTS. For more about the initiative, visit

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