The South Carolina Baptist Convention will meet later this year, Nov. 13-14, and for the first time in many years we are having the meetings in Charleston. Personally, even though I am from Charleston, I believe having the meetings in a more centrally located place like Columbia is ideal. With so many of our churches in the Upstate, it’s also good to meet in that area on a regular basis. For the majority of our people, the drive to Charleston will be longer, the traffic will be worse, and the city will already be crowded with tourists from Ohio. So, why would we want to have the meeting this year in Charleston?
The theme this year is “Building Bridges,” and Charleston serves as an ideal setting for our convention to build bridges with the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a city where there are so many “firsts” for Baptists, we are taking unprecedented steps this year. The meetings will be held at Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, an historically black church with a heart for evangelism and unity in the gospel. Pastor Augustus “Robbie” Robinson is a grace-filled leader who has led the church from a very small congregation to one with thousands each Sunday. The church campus has acres of free parking and ample space for all of our activities. Mount Moriah has been amazingly supportive and helpful to our preparation team. Every year, our convention receives greetings from the president of the Education and Missionary Baptist Convention, and this year we will do so from within the building of one of their flagship churches.
The bridge building will not stop there, however. Our convention is committed to building bridges with the gospel to reach lost people. One key strategy is to plant churches. In Charleston alone, 46 people move into the metro area every single day. South Carolina is seeing similar growth in our cities and all along the coast. Planting churches is a key strategy to reaching lost people, and our convention will offer an opportunity to meet and connect with church planters from all across South Carolina.
In 1848, the Whilden family, one of our first SCBC missionaries, sailed out of Charleston to Canton, China. This year’s convention in Charleston will also emphasize international missions, the commitment to build bridges to the billions of lost people across the planet. Our messengers will have, for the very first time, an opportunity to be able to meet all of our current South Carolina IMB missionaries and learn more about how we can partner for the gospel.
If all this were not reason enough to make this year’s convention a priority, the Tuesday night worship service will be unforgettable. Emanuel AME Church, where nine church members were murdered in June of 2015, will host our evening of worship. Pastor Eric Manning has graciously offered us this invitation, and my prayer is that revival comes to the city and to our state through this experience. You will be in downtown Charleston where the power of God’s grace was so beautifully displayed by the families of those killed. The blood-stained floor speaks of the depth and life-changing fullness of God’s grace. That our convention would be welcomed to this historic sanctuary is a testimony to the God who builds bridges by the power of the gospel.
— Marshall Blalock is pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church and president of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.