Nine months ago, the pandemic brought our fast-paced lives to an abrupt standstill. We have struggled with the new normal of empty calendars, social distancing, face masks and virtual ministry.
Many of us, and those we serve, have experienced the gnawing hollowness of isolation and a deafening silence that has driven us to finally be still enough to truly know that God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1, ESV). The real question is, what have we learned from the challenging events of 2020?
First of all, we have had time for reflecting on the goodness of God. That was clearly the case in October as almost 300 of our SBC chaplains and families gathered for our Annual Chaplaincy Training at Ridgecrest. Shortly after the event, our Chaplaincy Team spent time evaluating the training, and we all agreed that it was one of our best in recent memory primarily because:
- We had a dynamic speaker, Dr. Jim Spivey, teaching us on our Southern Baptist distinctives as reflected in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
- We had a tremendous worship leader, virtuosic guitarist Jacob Johnson.
- We had time to gather for corporate worship and to hear the inspiring sacred stories of our fellow chaplains.
- We had outstanding support from our North American Mission Board Marketing and Events Team.
- We had a beautiful training environment at Ridgecrest.
But what we didn’t know was how many chaplains would actually show up due to the various COVID-19 restrictions. It was the first time we were able to convene any NAMB-sponsored chaplaincy training since the pandemic began back in March. Whenever you have an event like this, you’re always bound to have a few last-minute cancellations for any number of reasons. But, in this case, every chaplain who signed up for the event was in attendance. There were absolutely no cancellations!
That showed us that all our chaplains remain hungry for professional development training, networking opportunities and iron-sharpening-iron fellowship. Our chaplaincy team was so encouraged to see chaplains and spouses enjoying the time we provided in breakout groups to share, pray for and encourage each other.
Those moments were priceless! It reminded me that, in spite of a pandemic and everything else going on in the world, we need time together “to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate “the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
This year also has given us the opportunity for re-envisioning the chaplaincy ministry in a post-COVID environment. That will be the primary focus for our chaplaincy training in the coming year. During the Annual West Region SBC Chaplaincy Training tentatively scheduled for February 15-17, we will be privileged to have Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary, as our keynote speaker. Dr. Iorg will challenge us to be prayerful, thoughtful and courageous men and women of God as we consider the changes required for the chaplaincy ministry to remain Christ-centric and gospel-focused in the increasingly secular culture that surrounds us.
In closing, please know that you are loved, appreciated and valued—especially now with so many things in our nation and world trying to separate us and come against our mission to take the gospel to the nations. Thank you all, and your families, for your selfless and sacrificial service on a daily basis for the cause of Christ.
I pray that you will experience a truly wonderful Christmas season as you reflect on the hope, peace, love and joy that became ours forever through the birth, life, death and the resurrection of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ. May our assurance as Southern Baptist chaplains, bought with the Blood of our Savior, be in Christ alone.
Published December 10, 2020