The San Diego Southern Baptist Association held its first in-person meeting in 15 months due to Covid-19 restrictions. Over 140 pastors, church planters, and ministry leaders gathered at Bethel Baptist Church in Escondido, where Ray Owens is Pastor. Mike Carlisle, Director of Missions, and his wife Judy opened the meeting to an enthusiastic group of leaders.
The meeting was held Tuesday, June 8th, and introduced a new plan to divide the large 4200 square mile County into six regions. The new plan calls for a regional leadership cohort from churches inside each of the six areas. A volunteer leader and co-leader will provide a more localized contextual strategy for each region. In addition, the association will provide communications, prayer cover, and administrative support through a new Vision San Diego website now being developed.
Carlisle explained, "while Baptist associations provide support for churches, they also have a purpose of mobilizing churches for a larger outreach to the region. Mobilizing churches to work together and impact its region is much like what Nehemiah did when he mobilized families to rebuild the broken-down city wall of Jerusalem in their neighborhood."
Two main features explain how the strategy works. First, pastors and leaders will gather each month in their regions to encourage each other with prayer, peer-to-peer learning, and a fellowship meal. Second, regional teams will build relationships with community and city leaders inside their region to serve their community's needs better.
The first part of the strategy is to build the relational strength of the churches and leaders in the region. The second is to create a more robust outreach to the region's needs, identifying and serving community needs, such as poverty, mentoring, support of local schools, and much more. Finally, every region intends to be a valued partner in the flourishing of the church and the community.
Dr. Hal Seed, Pastor of New Song Church in Oceanside, commented, "This is the best association meeting I have attended." Sam Williams, long-time pastor and city transformation author, echoed Pastor Seed's comments saying, "this was an excellent association meeting."
Judy Carlisle, who serves as Director of Ministry Operations and Discipleship, introduced new plans to support women in leadership. Judy is a partner with Pam Neighbor, at the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) to provide opportunities for women in each region to build stronger relationships and ministry skills.
After introducing the new structure and strategy, Carlisle asked the audience to join others from their local regions and discuss two questions. The first question was, "where is God already at work" and the second question, "what are the needs of their region." Next, the groups from each region paused to pray for the impact they could make together in San Diego.
The meeting concluded with a fellowship luncheon where CSBC Ralph Neighbour and Jason Blankenship explained how CSBC offered support to churches. Also, during the lunch period Adam Groza from Gateway Seminary, D.A. Horton from California Baptist University, and Tom Jones from Baptist Foundation of California explained how they supported churches.