African American Day enhanced by Connect Church Praise Band

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The praise team from Connect Church in Decatur led worship at the annual African American Day at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board Missions and Ministry Center, held March 9. GERALD HARRIS/Index

DULUTH — Jean L. Ward, president of the African American Fellowship and pastor of East Atlanta Church, greeted the 75-80 African American guests at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board on Thursday, March 9, starting a meeting to remember with his warm welcome.

Churches that want to put some spiritual zest into their worship need to ask the praise team from Connect Church in Decatur to come lead the congregational singing and provide the special music or give a demonstration of joyful praise. Their instrumentalists included a saxophonist, drummer, keyboardist, and six vocalists.

Connect Church provided the music at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board building for African American Day and it was fabulous. Jasmine Douglas is the worship service director and Rev. Martez Andrews the lead pastor. Jasmine is the recruitment coordinator for Beulah Heights University and it would appear that whatever she does is accomplished with excellence. But for this service, Pastor Andrews took the leading responsibility with the praise team and was superlative in his role as the worship leader.

Pastor Andrews indicated that Connect Church did not even exist five years ago, but was launched in partnership with Butch Butcher and the GBMB church planting team. Since the day it was founded the church has had significant growth and baptized 110 new converts. From all appearances the church is a strong, vibrant fellowship.

Jean Ward, president of the Georgia Baptist African American Fellowship and pastor of East Atlanta Church welcomes guests at teh Georgia Baptist Mission Board March 9. GERALD HARRIS/Index

J. Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, brought the message prior the fellowship luncheon and started by stating, “Brother ‘Tez’ (Martez), I see that you are a triple threat man. I knew you could preach. That makes you a single threat guy. However, I now see you can also sing. That makes you a double threat man. But I also liked your ‘moves,’ and I think that makes you a triple threat man.”      

White added, “I was asked some time ago to preach at an African American church for the 7:30 a.m. service.” He explained that the congregation seemed to be somewhat subdued and White asked the pastor why there was so little verbal response typically commonplace during a sermon in a predominately African American church.

The pastor said, “Well, I told them to keep it down so as not to distract you, but the 9:30 service is much more active. The congregation will be full of intensive response during the sermon at that service.”

White said to the pastor, “ Well, I want to preach for that service.”

The pastor said, “No, you are not ready for that service yet.”

Getting, and staying, on course

However, it soon became apparent that the executive director was ready for his audience on Thursday. He spoke of taking flying lessons when he was pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton in the 1970s. A man in the church who owned an automobile dealership had purchased a plane and offered him the use of the aircraft if he wanted to learn how to be a pilot.

White recalled, “Since it only cost $7 an hour to hire an instructor and gas was only $.50 a gallon, I decided to learn how to fly the airplane.”

Tez Andrews, pastor of Connect Church in Decatur, served as worship leader for the gathering. GERALD HARRIS/Index

Once he had learned the fundamentals of flying, White was instructed to take a certain kind of flashlight with him on every flight. He was told, “You will always need to be able to see the instruments. A flashlight will be a good backup for the electrical system; and the kind of flashlight you purchase for this purpose is vitally important.”

White was told about a man and his wife and another couple who decided to fly to Panama City one evening for a seafood dinner with plans to return to Carrollton the same night. On the way to the Florida coast the four adults got into a lively conversation and after a period of time the pilot looked up and realized they were over the water. They had flown over the land and then over the Gulf of Mexico.

When the pilot looked at his instruments, to his horror he realized that they were not working. He had placed his flashlight on top of the instrument panel and the magnet in the flashlight had skewed the instruments’ reading and there was immediate panic. However, when the flashlight was removed from the top of the instrument panel it was obvious the readings were not permanently distorted and the pilot was able to find his bearings, locate the airport, and land safely.

“In the life of the church,” White declared, “it is possible for a magnet to pull the church off its course. Some people can talk against the pastor and his vision for the church and pull the church off course.

“But the course or direction was given to the church by Jesus. That course is missions and evangelism. Some churches get off course and are no longer involved in that objective and miss the purpose for their existence.”

God’s church

J. Robert White, executive director for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, brought the pre-luncheon message on African American Day at the Misisons and Ministry Center. GERALD HARRIS/Index

“According to Acts 1:6-7, the disciples tried to get Jesus way off course,” White pointed out. “They wanted Jesus to establish a kingdom for Israel.

“The church at Corinth was being pulled off course by some detractors who wanted to follow Paul or Apollos rather than Christ. But Paul said, ‘I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.’ In other words, Paul said, ‘I am nothing, and he that waters is nothing, but God is everything,'” White added. “If we don’t get our way in the church, it’s okay, because it is God’s church.”

“And in Acts 1 Jesus responded to the disciples who wanted Him to establish a kingdom for Israel, by saying, ‘It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father has put in his own power.’ That was just a polite way of saying, ‘This is none of your business.’”

White concluded, “Don’t argue with God when He asks you to serve Him, because He has already given you everything you need to fulfill your spiritual calling. I know missionaries who have been on furlough, missionaries who have served on the edge of chaos and uncertain of their future in a hostile environment, but they want to go back, because that is where God has called them and that is their home.

“But God needs you to be a missionary here. However, I am afraid we have become a silent generation. Jesus said, ‘You shall be witnesses.’ A missionary is someone who tells what he has seen and experienced. That is what God wants us to do.”

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