Teach [us] to do your will, for you are [our] God!
Let your good Spirit lead [us] on level ground!
Psalm 143:10

Back in March, our church voted to affirm the elder’s recommendation to join the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and the Pillar Network (Pillar). The elders felt that joining both of these organizations would help our church raise up new leaders and enable us to partner with other churches to advance the gospel through church planting in our area and in global mission initiatives. Over the past several months, we’ve also continued our dialogue with Sojourn Church about the possibility of joining our churches together. Here are updates related to these different groups:

Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)

In May, we received a welcome letter from Brian Autrey, Executive Director of the Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia (SBCV) noting our provisional acceptance. The process included submitting our application to the state convention and making a $500 donation, and then speaking with Darrell Webb, Northern Virginia Regional Coordinator for the SBCV, to get to know us. Because the SBC is divided into state chapters, being accepted into the state convention means we become part of the national convention.

Since affiliating with the SBC/SBCV we’ve been encouraged by the resources they make available to us and for their advocacy for religious rights in Virginia. For example, as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the SBC produced this helpful guide to help churches think about reopening. Additionally, as Governor Northam was developing guidelines for Virginia, the SBCV was actively dialoguing with his office to clarify what the guidelines meant for churches and to advocate for the church’s right to gather.

We also appreciated a statement the SBC made after George Floyd’s death and we provided a link to this in our pastoral letter dated June 6.

Currently, several staff members are considering educational opportunities at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) and Southern Seminary (Southern). The SBC offers a 50% tuition discount for members of SBC churches to attend SBC seminaries, so please contact us if you’re interested in pursuing a degree or taking courses at an SBC seminary.

Pillar Network (Pillar)

In March, we completed our application to Pillar and made a donation of $2,000 to the organization and were accepted into the Network. Like with the SBC, we’ve benefitted from Pillar’s active support of churches during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, they held several Zoom calls for Pillar churches to discuss the effect of the pandemic on churches, the government’s financial assistance program, and considerations for reopening churches.

Locally, we’ve continued to have Zoom calls with the local Pillar churches: David Schrock and Ben Purves at Occoquan Bible; Rod Fultz and Brad Miller Grace Church of Gainesville; and Chul Yoo at Christ Community Church in Olney, MD. We’ve been learning from each other and experiencing fellowship during our times together. Several other pastors that we know from Northern Virginia are also expressing an interest in Pillar and are looking into affiliating.

In October, we’re planning to have some of the elders attend the Pillar annual conference in Raleigh, NC.

Sojourn Church (Sojourn)

Since January, when Sojourn approached us about the possibility of joining our churches, we’ve continued to maintain discussions with them via Zoom, and more recently in-person. There have also been elders from both churches reviewing the RGC Statement of Faith and Bylaws, and the mission, vision, values, and membership commitments of both churches to determine the level of doctrinal compatibility between the churches. We have also shared financial information between the churches.

The elders from Sojourn will join the RGC elders at our elders’ meeting next Thursday to begin discussing matters to related to church cultures, including how the Sunday service is organized, what membership entails, and perspectives on missions and church planting, community groups, discipleship, and the roles and responsibilities of staff members.

It is our hope to find ways to engage both congregations in the process of evaluation. To that end, we’re planning to have joint Sunday services on July 19 and August 16 at RGC. Justin Pearson will be speaking on July 19 and leading us in the Lord’s Supper at the end of the service. We’re also planning a joint worship night on August 7. Also, throughout the summer, Sojourn will be holding their Sunday service in our upper parking lot (weather permitting) at 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. They’d be glad to have you join them if you’d like to get to know them!

If the discussions with the Sojourn elders continue to move forward, we intend to find creative ways for our church to get to know the Sojourn leaders and members and for their members to get to know us as well. We also want members from both churches to be able to discuss their questions with the elders of their own church. The Covid-19 pandemic complicates these efforts and we’re not sure what all this will look like at this point, but it will likely include a combination of online and in-person gatherings over the next few months. When the plans take shape, we’ll give plenty of notice for when these gatherings are going to take place.

Please continue to pray for the Lord’s will to be done. It’s been a blessing getting to know the folks at Sojourn better during this season, and we trust the Lord will make it clear if our churches should join together. Our goal continues to be to pursue whatever will bring the greatest glory to God, whether as two churches partnering together or one united church.

In all three of these relationships (SBC, Pillar, and Sojourn), we believe the Lord is blessing us with likeminded partners in the gospel. We’re grateful for the Lord’s provision and we’re excited to see where the Spirit leads us in the days ahead.