A new team of strategy coordinatorsby Marty Simpkins
The Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (Convention) has a new strategy titled, “Impacting Lostness Through Disciple-Making.” The strategy resulted in the restructuring of the Convention’s staff to better assist the Convention’s churches in fulfilling this strategy. One of the additions to the Convention’s staff is the Strategic Focus team. This team is currently comprised of seven strategy coordinators who are assigned to seven of the eight population centers in North Carolina where research has identified the most concentrated numbers of lost people live.
Russ Conley leads the Strategic Focus team. Conley has served the Convention since January 2004 working first as a contractor and then becoming a full-time employee in 2010. Most recently, Conley’s assignment has been in the area of church leadership development and deacon and elder ministry. He began the process of searching for potential strategy coordinators during the summer of 2013, shortly after receiving the new assignment as Team Leader for the Strategic Focus Team.
“We were looking for individuals who have a compelling desire to see the Kingdom advanced by impacting lostness through disciple-making as evidenced by their lives,” Conley said. “We were also looking for people who had an intuitive grasp of the new strategy and could articulate it in their own words with a clear focus on disciple-making as the way to advance the Kingdom in the 100 pockets of lostness across the eight population centers.”
Conley also searched for individuals who would not only complement the other members of the larger Strategic Focus team, but individuals that would also be equally good partners for associational and local church leaders in each population center.
“The best candidate would be one who was self-motivated because of their deployed role in the field,” Conley said. “But they would also be an effective team member who would work hard to help their teammates and team see success, by God’s grace, in impacting lostness through disciple-making across all eight population centers.”
Because each of the population centers enjoys a unique context, each strategy coordinator will work with local partners to develop contextually appropriate strategies; simply stated, the strategies developed in one population center may not look like those developed in the other population centers. However, Conley indicated that in the midst of this diversity, there are still a number of points of commonality. For example, all of the strategy coordinators will seek to assist in the development of local prayer strategies, personally engage in disciple-making, build relationships and raise awareness of the lost people in their area.
The strategy coordinators’ task is to work collaboratively with other Convention staff and local partners to bring the Convention’s disciple-making resources to each of the eight population centers. To accomplish this task will require them to develop relationships with a variety of people throughout the community. Strategy coordinators will need to work with local partners to identify the communities’ socio-economic and ethnic groups as well as the natural barriers to church planting and disciple-making.
Cris Alley is the strategy coordinator for the Triangle area, which includes Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. Before joining the Convention, he was a pastor, an International Mission Board (IMB) missionary in Asia and most recently, the minister of adult ministries at Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover, N.C., where he emphasized evangelism, discipleship and church planting.
“God long ago ignited a passion in my heart for engaging all people groups with the gospel,” Alley said. “I am very excited to begin developing relationships with directors of missions, pastors and other church leaders so that together we might impact lostness through disciple-making in this region.”
Chuck Campbell is the new strategy coordinator for the Greenville area. He has served as a pastor and as a director of missions, and he most recently served in the Transylvania Baptist Association.
“The people and culture of Greenville and the surrounding area share so many similarities to the area I grew up: Tidewater, Virginia,” Campbell said. “I believe God wants to bring a movement of disciple-making in Greenville that will impact the region.”
Steve Harris will be the strategy coordinator in the greater Asheville area, referred to as the Blue Ridge population center. Harris has served local churches as a staff minister, pastor and church planter. He planted New Life Community Church in Asheville about 17 years ago and served as a pastor there until leaving to join the Convention. As his congregation grew, its members became deeply involved in starting church-planting movements locally, nationally, and internationally.
“God led me to pour my life into the Asheville region years ago when I planted New Life Community Church,” Harris said. “I am excited about the new opportunity to pour into the lives of directors of missions, pastors, lay leaders in the church and others.”
Larry Phillips is the strategy coordinator for the greater Hickory area, also known as the Unifour population center. Before joining the Strategic Focus team, Phillips served as a church staff member, an IMB missionary in South America and on the Convention staff working in Hispanic church ministries.
“God has placed a burden on my heart for the people of the Unifour area,” Phillips said. “All of my ministry experiences, including local church service, State Convention service and missionary service with the IMB help me to not only see the lostness of this population center, but motivate me to be the kind of partner that I wish I had when I was serving the local church.”
Michael Boarts is the strategy coordinator for the Fayetteville population center. Boarts has been a pastor in the Fayetteville area, serving Highland Baptist Church in Hope Mills for 10 years. Prior to entering ministry, he was a public school teacher.
“Having spent the last decade serving a congregation near Fayetteville, I both understand and love the diversity of people that live in the area,” Boarts said. “While not everyone living in and around Fayetteville is connected to the military, the military certainly impacts everyone in and around Fayetteville. I am passionate about the gospel, about disciple-making and about seeing all the different people groups that I love become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Michael Sowers serves as the strategy coordinator for the Triad, which includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point. Sowers served as a pastor before coming to the Convention, when he took on the role of youth ministry consultant for North Carolina Baptist Men. Sowers then became the first consultant for the Convention’s Office of Great Commission Partnerships. In this role, Sowers worked to establish partnerships between North Carolina Baptists and our partners in New York City and Boston, and internationally in Toronto and Moldova.
“This region has grown quickly in recent years and enjoys diversity similar to but very different than the other population centers,” Sowers said. “I am encouraged that I have discovered that God has already placed a passion to impact lostness through disciple-making in the hearts of so many.”
Patrick Fuller is the strategy coordinator for the Charlotte metro population center. Prior to coming to the Convention, he served churches in North Carolina and most recently served as senior pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Greensboro.
“The Charlotte area has strong churches and strong church leaders, but the region has grown so fast and become so diverse that to reach Charlotte, North Carolina Baptists need to see the city as their mission field,” Fuller said. “I am learning of the large numbers of unreached people groups present in the region and praying that God will bring together associational leaders, pastors and other church leaders so that we might identify the most strategic ways that people might be reached with the gospel and become disciples who in turn make disciples.”
These seven coordinators are quickly developing a strong team approach for building the relationships necessary for the creation of essential strategies in each of the population centers. Conley is confident that this team will accomplish much in their collaborative efforts.
“One thing we all share in common, however, is a passionate desire to see the Kingdom advanced by impacting lostness through disciple-making,” Conley said. “We don’t have all the answers, but we do have confidence that working with local associational and church leaders together, we will discern God’s direction. He is already at work throughout the state, and we have only to join Him in His work.”