By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
TOWSON, Md.— Three hundred thirty-five Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware messengers and 109 guests came together at Towson’s Sheraton Inn on Nov. 14-16 to glorify God for sheltering and guiding the convention through 175 years of Great Commission kingdom building, for sustaining and blessing during the midst of spiritual storms and for what He is doing and will do as BCM/D steps boldly into the unknown future. This year’s meeting, in addition to worship, business and fellowship, included historical vignettes highlighting the people and events God used to shape the BCM/D of today.
Business was brief this year. Members elected Ken Stalls, Sr., pastor of South End Church, as BCM/D president. They re-elected Harold Phillips, pastor of Pleasant View Church, Port Deposit, as first vice-president; James Burcham, pastor of First Church, Upper Marlboro, as second vice-president; Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Church, as recording secretary and William George, pastor of Kensington Church, as assistant recording secretary.
BCM/D President Byron Day called the meeting to order tapping a gavel fashioned from the original staircase in Eutaw Place, Annie Armstrong’s home church. This year’s theme was “Connect 2010: Celebrating 175 years of Great Commission Partnership.
“…God has been good…He has sustained us,” Day told messengers.
He introduced Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, who had toes tapping and heads bobbing with “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “On Christ the Rock I Stand” and other hymns revamped to a big band sound complete with dueling saxophonists.
The evening also featured Chinese Mission Choir, a four-church combined choir attired in native dress who sang in their native tongue.
Keynote speaker David Uth, senior pastor of First Church of Orlando, praised BCM/D’s diversity. He referenced Rev. 7:9-12, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”
“One day we’ll worship Him together,” Uth said.
Uth said he’s happy to celebrate with BCM/D. “We have a lot to celebrate. There’s a misnomer that we sing because things are good, or give because things are good…
“You don’t worship because life is good; you worship because God is good. We have a God worth celebrating!” Uth exclaimed.
Uth said it’s important to worship because it changes our focus –when your focus is on Him and not you, nothing looks big. We worship because the world is watching and we worship because it’s one of the greatest ways to fight spiritual warfare.
Ellen Udovich, BCM/D missionary for disaster relief, lay mobilization and senior adults, and Lindsey Shaffer, BCM/D associate missionary for volunteer mobilization, ESL and poverty initiatives, shared an historical profile about Annie Armstrong – her ministry to the immigrants, orphans, and the poor. A video showed Baltimore churches following in Annie’s steps including Salem Gospel Church, ministering to immigrants, Open Door striving to give new life to the destitute, Riverside Church feeding the hungry, The Gallery offering HIV testing and The Church on Warren Avenue ministering to their urban inner city neighborhoods.
At the end of the session, messengers got a sneak peak at the new Sherwood Baptist Church-produced movie, “Courageous.”
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra kicked off the morning worship with songs including, “I’m Trading My Sorrows”and “He Knows Your Name.”
Uth said the Apostle Paul’s heart’s desire was to go to Rome. Uth said Rome is a metaphor for a place where we’ve never been with the Lord and to people never reached with the Gospel.
“You were saved to serve and follow your master and live on the edge with reckless abandon,” Uth said.
Uth said the richest places on earth are not the diamond mines and the oil fields. “The richest places on earth are cemeteries. Beneath the sod lie dreams never lived out, ideas never acted upon, songs never sung and books never written.
“Those who want to go to Rome will go to Rome. May I say, let’s go to Rome. In fact, I’ll see you in Rome.”
David Jackson, BCM/D missionary for church multiplication; Rolando Castro, BCM/D missionary for language churches; and Robert Kim, BCM/D missionary for Asian churches, presented “175 years of Church Multiplication,” a historical view of church multiplication. Robert Kim asked language church leaders to come forward for a time of prayer over them and their works.
Jackson told messengers, “Your cooperative program giving and State Missions offering translates to more churches, more people being saved and more saved will lead to more baptized and discipled. Folks, that’s the bottom line. That’s what church planting is all about,” he said.
Following Monday morning sessions, messengers were invited to attend the ministers’ brunch; the minister’s wives brunch, or the “Twenty-five Practical and Priority Suggestions for Today’s Lay Leaders” brunch.
Following Denver and the Mile High Orchestra leading worship, Annie Armstrong herself, (portrayed by Abby Ackermann) paid a visit. “Annie” said she is part of BCM/D’s past, part of the present. “I celebrate your future,” “Annie” said.
Randy Millwood, BCM/D missionary for missional leadership, e-quip.net and small groups, and June Holland, BCM/D missionary for children’s ministry, VBS and weekday education, shared in a skit about 175 years of church strengthening. Holland said the first 150 years were done in a “cookie cutter” style. From Oakland to Ocean City, from Wilmington to Waldorf, all churches looked and worshipped the same.
“One size really did fit all,” Holland explained. But now churches vary greatly. To meet those diverse needs, Holland and Millwood shared how BCM/D offers a variety of leadership training methods and customized events. Even Horizons, the annual leadership training event at Skycroft is changing—it will be provided in one-day format in various locations throughout Maryland and Delaware.
As a way of reminding messengers about the diversified church training opportunities, volunteers passed out different kinds of cookies.
Donald Whitney, associate professor of Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the guest speaker for the Monday afternoon session. Whitney spoke about spiritual heroes.
Whitney’s hero is Charles Spurgeon. He has a bobblehead Spurgeon doll, portraits and he attends conferences about the esteemed preacher.
He referenced Heb. 13:7 and said the Bible encourages us to look back and remember those who led you …and to the great cloud of witnesses in Heb. 12:1.
Whitney said heroes help encourage modern-day Christians as they study their heroes’ lives and discover how they handled adversity. But hero admiration is not the same as foolishness or idolatry, he said.
Spurgeon is known as the “prince of preachers.” “He preached Christ like no one else,” Whitney said. “But Spurgeon can’t preach a better Gospel. The best of men are men at best…
“Preach Christ eminently above all,” he said.
Monday’s afternoon session also included breakout sessions. Messengers could choose from sessions about discipleship in the Mid-Atlantic area; student ministries; women’s evangelism; a workshop for music leaders; reaching people with the Gospel “across the pond;” reaching the poor and neglected; social networking and a tour of Baltimore churches and praying for the city in “touching missions firsthand.”
Later, messengers were invited to an assortment of fellowship dinners including partnership, language, New Orleans Seminary and African American pastors and wives.
Denver and the Mile High Orchestra led worship before messengers heard from Noah Davis, (portrayed by P.J. Foster) an African American missionary and slave who was freed through the purchase of Baltimore Baptists. Davis wrote a book about his ordeal as a slave and used the proceeds to purchase the freedom of his children.
Harold Phillips, first vice-president, introduced Wanda Lee, executive director of the national Women’s Missionary Union (WMU). Lee told messengers WMU and BCM/D have had a “wonderful partnership.”
“Our history is so interwoven with your convention,” Lee said. “You organized before we did and everyone thinks WMU is as old as dirt,” Lee laughed.
Wanda Lee spoke about the beginning of missions, of Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong, and she told of the establishment of the Women’s Missionary Union in Baltimore. She presented BCM/D Executive Director David Lee, and BCM/D’s WMU director, Gayla Parker, with the first WMU calendar of prayer, made in Maryland.
“Happy birthday on behalf of WMU,” Wanda Lee said.
Collegiate Minister Blake Hardcastle led a prayer time before messengers gave a special offering to Embrace Wilmington, a strategic effort to reach the people in Wilmington, Del., led by Embrace Wilmington Executive Director Mitch Dowell. Campus ministers served as ushers while messengers viewed a video showing how Embrace Wilmington is partnering with churches to reach the city for Christ.
Byron Day gave the president’s message on 2 Chronicles 20, the story of how Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, cries out to God for help when armies are gathered against him and how God intervenes, allowing the enemy to destroy themselves.
Jehoshaphat was in over his head, Day said. “We have to watch our pride,” he told messengers. In using our own ingenuity, we might miss what God wants to do. We must be sensitive to His Spirit. “Learn how to pursue God and seek His face,” Day said.
“We know the future will be challenging,” Day said. He told messengers there will be uncertainty, trials… It’s not like it used to be. We’re not a Christian nation. Yet God has called you and me to pierce the darkness. We must go out into the darkness, but the battle is not ours, its God’s.
“What ministry in your life is too big? We can’t, but He can,” Day emphasized.
David Lee, in the executive director’s annual message, reiterated BCM/D’s mission. “The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware exists to intentionally assist in the starting and strengthening of congregations so that together we can accomplish the Great Commission as outlined for us in Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19-20.” Lee said we seek to model the Apostle Paul’s strategy.
“It has been another excellent year of ministry and kingdom impact,” Lee said, referring to possibly exceeding the near record number of church plants as last year; reaching more college students and growth in resort ministry.
“Yet, despite our progress, we find ourselves in a quandary. Actually, we face multiple quandaries,” he said.
“Different people think differently about different things today. We are caught in the crossfire and at times in the collateral damage of these present cultural, generational, and denominational debates.” Lee said the convention is facing many dilemmas. “Some national convention leaders think that they know how to better reach our area than those of us who live here, some are adamant that we need state conventions and associations more than ever. One group believes more dollars should go from the infrastructure to the International Mission Board and others believe we need the infrastructure to get the job done.”
Lee also referenced large churches that feel they are better equipped to reach the lost while small churches are feeling intimidated and forced out.
“In a year that we have seen some of our state convention’s most impacting ministry, we stand to potentially lose significant funding from our long-time partner, the North American Mission Board (NAMB). He said the reality is that NAMB has been a good partner with the BCM/D. We have been a good partner with them.” Lee said his prayer is that the partnership will survive and thrive.
No matter what happens, Lee said the primary responsibility for reaching Maryland/Delaware rests with Maryland/Delaware Baptists – those who live and worship here. “If NAMB dollars go away, we must still find a way to impact this region,” he said.
“We desperately need a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. If we don’t allow God to lead us, we will end up somewhere along the line building a golden calf.
You and I will be called upon to make choices and changes as we go, Lee told messengers. “As we journey forward to a decision and a plan, I plead with us to do it in unity.”
Jason Brown, First Church, Upper Marlboro music director, and First Church member, Mike Brown, led worship on Tuesday, the final session of the annual meeting. The duo led messengers in singing, “Great is Thy Faithfulness” and “Your Grace is Enough.”
General Mission Board President David Sandvick expressed his appreciation to Byron Day for his service as BCM/D president.
Sandvick presented the 2011 BCM/D budget projecting expenditures of $6,238,335. He also presented the Skycroft budget projecting expenditures of $1,920,240. Messengers approved both budgets.
Andy Ehlers, pastor and founder of High Tide Church, brought the annual sermon.
Ehlers started the church in 2002. “Thank you all who have given to the Cooperative Program. You helped get us started,” Ehlers said.
Ehlers talked about the challenges of ministry. He told of going to do a funeral for a suicide victim and then to a seven-year-old’s birthday party. He also spoke of the unique challenges of reaching an unchurched community, having people show up drunk during events and using profanity.
“It’s challenging and difficult,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
Ehlers said there is a storm brewing in conventions, in associations, in churches. We see them as challenging and hard, he said. “In ministry, it gets personal.” Ehlers said, “People betray you.”
“Why do you do this? Because of Jesus,” Ehlers said.
David and Sherry Lee recognized BCM/D staffers Theresa Sassard, Ellen Udovich and Bob Simpson. Sassard completed 25 years. Udovich and Simpson both celebrated ten years of ministry. Adam Holland was also recognized for ten years of service at
Skycroft Conference Center.
The Lees also welcomed new ministers to the convention.
David Lee introduced David Moyer, the new Executive Director of the Maryland Bible Society. Moyer, a member of Long Green Church, said the society is putting an emphasis on reading the Bible as opposed to just owning a Bible.
In agency reports, Robert Gerstmyer, executive director of Baptist Family and Children’s Services (BFCS) said the purpose of BFCS is to serve dependent and neglected children and families in crisis. “Our goal is to break the cycle suffered by kids and families.
Gerstmyer referred to James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Churches partnering with BFCS provided 1,100 children with school supplies. Gerstmyer is anticipating serving at least that many children at the church-sponsored Christmas stores.
Tom Stolle, BCM/D chief financial officer, foundation director and treasurer, gave the Baptist Foundation report on behalf of Tim Lee, president of the Baptist Foundation. Stolle said for 156 years, the Baptist Foundation has served the cause of Christ through the prudent management of endowments that benefit Baptist work in Maryland/Delaware and around the world and by providing loans to our churches and associations.
The foundation makes a distribution annually to BCM/D for starting and strengthening existing churches. John Manry, a trustee of the foundation, presented to David Lee a check on behalf of the foundation for $140,037.31.
James Dixon, missionary for African-American church development, led a prayer for the newly elected officers petitioning God that they “ hear and feel the vibration of your heartbeat….give them the fragrance of who you are,” Dixon prayed.
Blake Hardcastle shared about “Our universities and campuses: mission tomorrow.” Hardcastle emphasized the goal of campus ministry to reach students for Christ, disciple them and connect them to local churches.
Al B. Sutton, Jr., pastor of Living Stones Temple Church, Birmingham, Ala., preached from Mark 3:13-20, where Jesus calls the 12 discipls. Sutton said the men weren’t credentialed or learned. They were the “garden variety” Galileans. He entrusts the church to “cussing, fussing, fishermen.”
Sutton said Jesus gives the strategy to be successful. First, he calls them to be with Him, for them to be learners, and for them to be able to articiulate what they believe.
These are tough times, Sutton said. Society tries to understand, but you and I know what it is—sin. And the remedy is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“If you want to see transformation in a community it always begins and ends with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and we have to get back to preaching the gospel. Preach Christ crucified,” Sutton said.
Next year’s annual meeting will be at the Clarion Resort in Ocean City Nov. 13-15. Larry Eubanks, pastor of First Frederick, will preach the annual sermon. Jason Brown, First Church, Upper Marlboro’s music minister, will coordinate the music.