The Rev. Julius Scruggs is looking for a few good churches -- around 7,000 of them.
Scruggs, the newly elected president of the Nashville-based National Baptist Convention USA, hopes to triple the number of active churches in the nation's largest African-American denomination in three years.
The convention claims more than 30,000 churches and 7.5 million members but most are inactive. Only 2,800 churches were eligible to vote at the denomination's national meeting in Memphis last month.
To vote, a church has to donate $400 to convention causes and be active in convention meetings. Scruggs' first goal will be to raise that number to 10,000.
Few active churches means the convention's work suffers, said Scruggs, who was in Nashville Thursday for meetings at American Baptist College.
"It takes money to do mission and ministry," he said.
Scruggs intends to motivate congregations and get the churches organized.
He wants to follow the example of Southern Baptists who pool their money and energy through their Cooperative Program to do mission work, run colleges and seminaries, and build more churches.
National Baptists, working through local associations and state convention, could do the same, he said.
Focusing On Four Key Areas
To rally support for the convention, Scruggs, a pastor from First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala., who holds a graduate degree from Vanderbilt University, plans to focus on four key areas:
• Raising support for American Baptist College, the convention-owned school in Nashville.
• Attracting new active churches.
• Increasing foreign and domestic mission work.
• Forming a public policy committee to influence social issues like health-care reform.
"In the United States, we need health care for everyone," he said.
The Rev. Forrest Harris, president of American Baptist College, is pleased to see Scruggs, who serves on the college's board, lead the convention.
He believes Scruggs has the skills and wisdom needed to renew the convention.
"I believe his leadership will positively impact the theological direction, denominational mission and relevance not only of National Baptists nationally but will also impact the future of black Christianity globally," said Harris.
Harris said Scruggs has the ability to motivate and organize large numbers of churches and a moral vision of God acting to bring social justice in the world. Those strengths will give him the chance to make the convention a force for the good of society, Harris said.
"This large number of black churches will be able to leverage that vision,'' he said.
Along with affecting public policy, Scruggs also hopes the convention can renew its infrastructure.
That means attracting and training new and younger ministers, converting new believers, and strengthening African-American families.
SOURCE: Tennessean - Bob Smietana