On Wednesday night, February 25, UBC welcomed John Upton as our speaker. He began by bringing greetings both from the Baptist General Association of Virginia, where he is Executive Director, and the Baptist World Alliance, where he serves as President. In his BWA role, he has been traveling around the world to visit and support Baptist congregations, and he shared about a recent trip to meet with African Baptist leaders, many of whom are serving in difficult and dangerous situations. Upton relayed to us that when these churches are feeling forgotten and alone, the support of their Baptist sisters and brothers around the world is incredibly meaningful.
Drawing on the book of Acts, Upton’s message centered on what we do “together” as the body of Christ. Reporting on the activity of the Baptist General Association of Virginia (BGAV), Upton described a hopeful and promising time in Virginia Baptist life. In fact, the BGAV’s impact stretches far beyond Virginia: Baptist congregations from seventeen other states and countries have joined the BGAV to partner in the work we are doing together. Even though it may seem odd that churches from other states are joining an organization with “Virginia” in the name, Upton explained that these churches are joining because they agree both with our work in missions and the manner in which we are doing it. He listed five characteristics that draw these churches to associate with Virginia Baptists: being Gospel-centric, being relationally rich, being civil and reasonable, having a heart for the not-yet, and having a sense of mission and call.
Upton emphasized that we as Baptists are not afraid of the future, both because it is “a future that God inhabits” and because we have had a rich heritage in the past. Virginia Baptists continue to adapt and serve God in new and meaningful ways, and the fruit of these efforts can be seen in our campus ministries, new churches being planted, fresh expressions of church, our affiliated colleges and seminaries, our disaster relief work, and countless other ways that we are serving the Kingdom of God in Virginia and beyond.
After a question-and-answer time with Dr. Upton, Michael Cheuk reiterated our church’s support of both BGAV and BWA, and he presented Upton with a check for each organization. These contributions, a supplement to the annual amount we give through our budget, are part of how our congregation voted to use the surplus in our giving from last year. Upton expressed his gratitude on behalf of the organizations he represents, reiterating that the work he described is our work, part of the much larger mission that we as the body of Christ are doing together.