A famous French billionaire was once quoted saying, “California is a place of invention, a place of courage, a place of vision, a place of the future. People who made California what it is were willing to take risks, think outside convention and build.” I don’t know much about the Frenchman, but his perception resonates deeply when I think about the leaders across our convention of churches in California. We’ve been saying it for a long while now: California is not like the rest of the country, and we wear that distinction with a certain measure of pride. But it also comes with some potential pitfalls. The communal makeup and geographical and ethnic landscape of California are glorious and unmatched, but that means we usually have to be the first to get our hands dirty carving new pathways with unprecedented innovation. Those seemingly formulaic approaches to church planting, revitalization, evangelism, and missions are great for much of the nation, but they often don’t apply here. California church leaders are torch bearers into forays such as state-mandated child protection laws that get slammed down in CA before any other state. The same goes for compliance issues affecting religious exemptions. Those come to us first, and while they are not necessarily bad things, we rarely get the benefit of following behind those who have gone before. The same goes for local outreach with a global lens and global reach. How many of our sister churches across the country understand what it means to be a Hispanic congregation called to reach the Hmong community that literally lives across the street from their building? The examples go on and on.
If you are serving as a leader in a California Southern Baptist church right now, I would go so far as to say you’ve been set apart for a unique calling at a very unique time. Welcome to the crucible, where ministry is being forged in fresh and revolutionary ways.
Let me be clear. Few, if any, can do this alone well, and that’s where the California Southern Baptist Convention steps up to help. Now, I don’t mean the office in Fresno (though we are here to help, too). I’m talking about the family of churches and local church leaders who are committed to our bigger calling.
In 2024, This Week at CSBC is launching a new feature entitled “California Connections.” The goal of this series is to serve as a connection point on a variety of issues. Here, you will find resources, stories, and/or inspiration for you to grab hold of or glean from, tailored to a California context. “California Connections” is intended to build bridges, joining our identity and purpose as leaders of faith for the edification of both the body and the kingdom to which we are called.
We have assembled a powerhouse team of gifted kingdom-servants committed to holding up this state, who come from different walks of life:
Anabella Ramirez has served in a variety of ministry opportunities in Southern California, Northern California, and the Central Valley, primarily as a pastor’s wife but also as a women’s ministry leader, worship leader, youth leader, and as wife of the Executive Director of our convention. She has seen it all and has a great deal of insight to offer from a vantage point few have been afforded.
We’ve also invited Marshelle Wilburn. Marshelle is an expert and truth-bearer in the field of sexuality, gender identity, and other modern and post-modern cultural issues. She currently ministers in the Bay Area alongside her husband, Port Wilburn, the Bay Bridges Association DOM. She’s thoughtful, articulate, has a deep scriptural mindset, and is very well respected across our state and national conventions.
The group is rounded out by Eydie Miskel. Eydie is the executive director of Raining Hope, a missions organization that provides food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and education to students in Uganda. She has worked closely with California Baptist University, both as a board member and with the Spiritual Life team, coordinating ISP trips for students interested in serving in short-term, international mission projects. She has a heart for missions and ministry and has a global worldview.
I, too, am excited to be a part of this team that has committed to thoughtfully contributing every month for an entire year in a Hebrews 10:24-25 way, spurring one another on and encouraging, especially as we see the Day approaching. I hope that you will follow along as we build California Connections for the kingdom together in this very unique context and in this very unique time. Perhaps we can tweak that California description to read:
“California Convention church leaders are a people of invention, a people of courage, a people of vision, a people of the future. People who know what California can be are willing to take risks, think outside convention (alongside THE convention 😊) to build…up the kingdom.”