By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—David Lee, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s executive director, challenged General Mission Board (GMB) members to be prepared for the multitude of opportunities God is giving to Maryland/Delaware and to be prepared for the challenges that always accompany opportunity.
The GMB met at the Baptist Mission Resource Center on May 3. Missionary for music and worship, Bill Archer, led a short good old-fashioned hymn sing time of worship.
General Mission Board President David Sandvick called the meeting to order and shared about his mom. Sandvick said his mother had a washing machine with a wringer and how she once had her arm pulled in to the elbow. Sandvick laughed and said she really did know what it meant to “go through the wringer.”
“Many of us are in ministry up to our necks and we, on a daily basis, meet people going through the wringer,” Sandvick said. Or, perhaps you are, he said to members. Sandvick encouraged them to continue to pray for one another as the culture we live in continually keeps us near or in the “wringer.”
Executive Director Report
BCM/D Executive Director David Lee told GMB members that as a pastor, his favorite day of the ministry year was always Resurrection Sunday. There are always many visitors and those who just attend on special occasions. Lee said it was always fun when churches had to add chairs for the service.
It was exciting, he said, to stand and preach to a full house, telling people that Jesus could change their lives. “I could say to them, ‘However you have been living, you don’t have to live that way anymore through the power of the resurrection.’”
Lee asked for GMB members to share highlights from their Resurrection Day services.
Bill Cochran, pastor of Landsdown Church, praised God for Resurrection Sunday baptisms. Robert Anderson, pastor of Colonial Church, Baltimore, said he preached to a full house on Resurrection Sunday and that they had 300 people attend their sunrise service.
David Lee reiterated BCM/D’s mission, to intentionally assist in starting and strengthening congregations so that together “we can accomplish the Great Commission as given to us by our Lord in Matt. 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8.” Lee explained that the convention is approaching that mission strategically in five areas: church multiplication; church services; leadership development and support; Acts 1:8 missions involvement and resource development.
“In each of these areas, opportunities abound, but so do the challenges,” Lee said. If an opportunity is presented, a challenge is connected, just like having the extra visitors for Easter and having to add extra chairs.
“2010 was a banner year in church planting with more than 30 new churches with four of those representing the crossing of language barriers,” Lee reported. Reports indicate that language church planting is continuing to expand, he said.
“We have the opportunity to plant more churches in Maryland/Delaware than ever before. It will not be easy. There are open doors of opportunity, but there are also many challenges. Pray that God will raise up church planters in our midst,” Lee said. Many of those who will plant churches are sitting in our pews, he told GMB members.
Lee said there are also signs of a spiritual movement of God on the Eastern shore. “Keep looking for the hand of God at work there,” he said.
“We continue to seek to reach our cities,” Lee reported. He said doors are opening in Wilmington, but the challenges are great.
Lee commended Baptist Family & Children’s Services and Open Door Community Development Corporation for their work in ministering to those who are hurting and often neglected.
In addition, Lee said God is opening doors in collegiate evangelism. “We could very well have the opportunity to reclaim ministries that we had to pull back from in the past. We are also talking about expanding our ministry touch to include new campuses. We are also exploring how to connect church planting to this area of our ministry.
“In the area of church services, we are about to launch a major pilot to tackle the challenge of plateaued and declining churches in Maryland/Delaware,” he said. Transformational Church is providing a foundation for the convention to help our churches redream the dream.
Lee said BCM/D continues to support and equip leaders. One way is through Shepherd’s Rest, a peaceful retreat at Skycroft Conference Center that ministers may use free of charge. The house is 90 percent booked for 2011. Lee said there is a lower unit that needs to be completed and made available to provide more opportunity.
Lee said in some areas you don’t have to go looking for God, He just seems to open a door or pitch a tent right there. One area that is happening in, Lee shared, is in ministry to special needs children. A BaptistLIFE article written by Shannon Baker about BCM/D’s chief financial officer, Tom Stolle, and his family has been given national coverage and there has been a great response by families who empathize with the Stolles and need ministry resources.
Tom Stolle shared about the struggles that face families of special needs children. Many families opt to watch church on television rather than attend in person because they do not want to face rejection or find themselves the object of derisive stares that they get when they’re shopping in department stores, Stolle said.
Stolle said that Seaside Church in Lewes, Del., made the decision to become a special needs church with full inclusion. “My son, for the first time,…can participate in a full worship service. Praise God! They made special accommodations for him.”
Other families are taking notice and are attending the church as a result.
Stolle said he and Charlie Arnold, pastor of Seaside, went to the Sussex Consortium, a partnership and association of eleven school districts who pooled their resources to fund the expertise and programming for special needs children, and asked how the church could partner with the consortium. Stolle said consortium leaders were surprised, but pleased. The church will be participating in a water park event with 200 special needs families and in a special software training.
“I am praying for a revolution. I’m praying that God will create such a move amongst his people that we would have no choice but to go out and make accommodations and serve these families,” Stolle said.
David Lee reported that he has been in contact with friends in Alabama and other areas where deadly tornados recently struck. “They need our continued prayer and support. What a classic example of challenge and opportunity!”
“There have been a couple of moments in my ministry career that have spanned more than four decades now where Southern Baptists had the opportunity to come together amidst challenges to unite powerful forces to literally make a major difference in our communities, our nation and our world. But we failed to seize those opportunities. We made bad choices. Or we chose something new to fight about rather than capture our momentum to impact our world.
“Maybe I am naive, but I believe we are at that moment again.”
Lee said he is seeing Southern Baptists having better, but sometimes harder conversations, seeking to find ways to work together. There is a greater focus on mission.
“If a critical mass of our national, state, associational and church leaders can get on the same page [or at least in the same Book!), and speak the same language of unity, love and mission, we could see something happen that has not happened in our lifetimes.
“I want to make a statement in our 2012 budget. Our work here is strategic. We do not and must not dismantle our infrastructure. But we must join hands as Southern Baptists if we hope to make any difference in this world for Jesus Christ. We are working on a budget that represents a bold step in a journey to changing our Cooperative Program (CP) formula with a 2 percent adjustment in 2012 with a goal of 49/51 by 2020. I am praying that Maryland/Delaware Baptists will embrace this new direction.
“At the end of the day ministry is about opportunities and challenges,” Lee said
BCM/D Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle, presenting the financial report, said Cooperative Program (CP) giving is running slightly ahead of budget for the first quarter of the year with $1,105,199.36 in year to date receipts, which represents 25.7 percent of the annual budget amount fo $4,300,000.
The other primary source of income, receipts from the North American Mission Board, total $202,167 or only 20.2 percent of the annual budget due primarily to NAMB-funded staff positions which remain vacant.
Within a few expenses categories, disbursements are running a bit higher than year-to-date budget due in part to the timing of expense recognition. This includes Convention Missionary Benefits as well as the Baptist Mission Resource Center due to the timing of the recognition of both staff and business insurance costs. Additionally, Convention Operations are running slightly higher than the year-to-date budget due to Transformational Church training which took place early in 2011. Note also that Leadership Development expenses are also running slightly ahead of budget due to the increased demand of those in ministry accessing counseling services through Centrepointe.
At present, management expects all expense categories to end 2011 within budget.
Stolle said the BCM/D remains in a good ready cash position. He thanked God for His continued blessing of our churches and the state convention.
Administrative Committee Report
Jimmy Painter, administrative committee chairman, reporting for the administrative committee, introduced the recommendation to transfer the ownership of the Baptist Student Ministry building (Tom Woodie Center) to the Western Association. GMB members approved the recommendation.
Mitch Dowell, executive director of Embrace Wilmington, said Wilmington churches are active and some churches are becoming passionate about having an impact on the city of Wilmington.
Dowell reported that John Coleman, senior pastor at EverSpring Church is reaching a diverse group of people in Bear, Del. This is a plant that meets at a Boys and Girls club is drawing 35-40 children.
Plans are underway for a new Hispanic plant working through the areas of Christiana Court and Maryland Park apartments. Following seasons of prayer offered by Berlin and Bethany churches, church planter Alexis Vides plans to form a core group through home Bible studies.
Dowell said there is also the potential for an African American church plant in the Edgemoor community working to reach a Nigerian community.
Part of the Embrace Wilmington strategy is helping churches move beyond the “simple evangelistic event model” and being more intentional and creative in connecting with people.
Dowell said Ogletown Church and Iron Hill Community Church are using Celebrate Recovery as an outreach tool. Iron Hill is also hosting coffee houses at their “Common Ground Cafe.” Hockessin has been equipping their congregation to share the gospel with Muslims.
LOMA Coffee, a coffee shop owned and operated by Hockessin Church, is doing well. Dowell meets with Del Tech students on Tuesdays and Thursdays to answer their spiritual questions.
Other outreaches include Ogletown Church’s five-week camp and Solid Rock church’s four-week camp.
“Pray for me as I seek God and to be the best I can be in coming alongside churches. I am seeing lives changed and God glorified,” Dowell said.
Robert Gerstmyer reported for Baptist Family & Children’s Services. Gerstmyer shared that eight children were adopted in BFCS’s CHOSEN program and seven children were returned to their families.
Additionally, he told GMB members, three teen boys were saved through BFCS’s programs. “We are delighted with that–not only to nurture, but to lead young men to the Lord.”
The back-to-school effort, collecting backpacks full of school supplies for needy families, is already starting. Gerstmyer said the focus for this program is Baltimore, Cumberland, Cambridge, Salisbury and Seaford.
Gerstmyer also encouraged GMB members to consider leading by example, participating in the Safe Families program, providing a safe haven in their homes for children whose families are going through difficult times.
“This is an opportunity to practice biblical hospitality,” Gerstmyer said.
Tim Simpson, pastor of Greenridge Church in Boyds, Md., asked Gerstmyer, “What’s the best part of your job?”
Gerstmyer replied, “Telling stories about kids who have been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ.”
Deborah Heath reported for the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware. Heath said that currently 16 churches have outstanding loans.
“If your church needs a loan, or if you know of a church, that is in need of a loan to buy property, renovate what you have, consider talking with us. It’s a win-win. We provide low interest loans, and what you pay in interest starts other churches. You can’t beat that,” she said.
Strategy Team Reports
Acts 1:8 Team Strategist Ellen Udovich reported for the Acts 1:8 Missions Involvement Team. Udovich introduced Lindsey Shaffer, associate missionary in lay mobilization. Shaffer shared about volunteer portals, a new networking initiative that provides churches a way to post needs that can’t be fulfilled by their congregation and allows others churches opportunities to serve.
Udovich shared about disaster relief regarding Japan. Baptist Global Relief representatives are working with Japanese Baptist Churches to equip them to do ministry. Udovich said Japanese pastors are reporting seeing people’s hearts more open and people asking more questions. Nick Niche, a Japanese church planter in Rockville, said he is also having more spiritual conversations with people since the earthquake.
“Please be praying for an outpouring of God’s Spirit. This could be the time of a great revival of Japanese people coming to know the Lord,” Udovich said.
Udovich also asked GMB members to continue to pray for churches in Alabama as they minister to their communities.
Tom Stolle, BCM/D chief financial officer, reporting for the Resource Development Team, said the team works in cooperation with the Baptist Foundation providing education including minister tax seminars, helping new finance teams and promoting planned giving.
In addition, the team is committed to promoting the Cooperative Program. This year’s strategy includes the continuation of mailed CP promotional materials. Videos will continue to be developed and the team will use Facebook and other social media to increase exposure. The team plans to initiate a pilot project in which some churches will receive a flash drive loaded with CP resources. In addition, the team is exploring the possibility of developing a CP “app.”
In written reports, Randy Millwood, Leadership Development and Support Team leader and missionary for missional church leadership, small groups, seminary extension, spiritual formation and E-quip.net, reported 13 couples attended the Ministers and Mates Retreat in January. One hundred twenty women participated in the Ministers Wives Retreat in March. An African-American Awareness Conference was hosted in March with 40 participating. The group was challenged regarding personal prayer life, and provided church growth tools. Fifty church leaders have participated in ShepherdNet groups, small learning clusters and approximately 5,000 training videos have been viewed on E-quip.net. Other successful miniseries include Restore My Soul ministry retreats and Church Refuge initiative used during a forced resignation and ministers’ counseling service.
Mike Watterson reported for the Church Services Team. In a written report, Watterson said the Horizons Ministry Conference was shifted to two one-day conferences due to economic conditions. This, however, drew a minimal response and the conference was postponed for this year. Watterson said the team is looking at other possible scenarios. “Horizons has not disappeared off into the horizon. It will return,” he wrote.
Out of the four VBS clinics offered to date as of the report, there were 520 participants.
In a Church Multiplication Team report, David Jackson, team strategist and church multiplication missionary, said eight new works are underway in 2011 so far. These can be found among the Anglo-American, Burmese, Filipino, Hispanic, Japanese and Korean people groups. An African-American and Ghana church plant will soon follow.
Jackson said there are major signs of progress. “We’ve seen our second work among the Japanese take place in less than 12 months, remarkable in that we’ve not been able to start work with them in our history before 2010.
Jackson also reported attendance “highs” in new church starts that have set all-time records.
Ad Hoc Committee
David Lee, representing the Affiliations Committee, presented Trinity Church of Hyattsville to become a BCM/D church. Lee said the church is very much in line with Southern Baptist theology and was previously affiliated with the D.C. Baptist Convention.
GMB members voted in favor of accepting the church into the convention.
Kerry Hinton reported for the Strengthening Churches Grants Committee. Hinton said $93,000 was requested from 27 churches and $45,000 was awarded to 15 recipients. Churches used the grants in a variety of ways including a trailer for a block party, after school programs, VBS, a biker ministry, ministry to internationals and more.
BCM/D President Ken Stalls shared how proud he is when he sees Baptist disaster relief “yellow hat” volunteers on the television working in the background during news coverage of the recent disasters.
“It has been such a blessing to see the work our folks are doing,” Stalls said.
“Those people work like Trojans,” Stalls commented. “They’re not wasting time. I noticed something about them–they’re not arguing about worship styles. They’re not arguing about the Great Commission Resurgence, methodologies or best authors–you know why? They know the task at hand is far too important to waste time arguing.
“Maryland/Delaware, I’ve got a news item. We’ve got a lot of differences, but we have an awful lot that is alike…That’s where our focus needs to be…where God would have us to come together and do what needs to be done. The disaster we’re dealing with is people’s lives day in and day out. How can we not be focused?”