Posted on : Friday May 24, 2019

By Sharon Mager

MIDDLETOWN, Maryland — The General Mission Board (GMB) of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) met on May 7 at Skycroft Conference Center in Middletown, Maryland. GMB members visited the mountaintop center, where they enjoyed a time of fellowship over lunch in the dining area prior to the start of the meeting.

The GMB met at Skycroft on May 7, 2019.

BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith welcomed members and read from John 3. He went on to introduce Sherri Swanson, the wife of Bayside Baptist Church Pastor Glenn Swanson, who led in a time of singing hymns such as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and “How Great Thou Art.”

GMB President Frank Duncan read from Psalm 36:5, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens. Your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV)

He prayed, “Father, we thank You for this time to gather, representing our various churches coming together for the work of this great convention. Lord, we desire to do Thy will. It is our great and distinct privilege to be a part of the work that You are doing to advance Your kingdom….”

Financial Report

Sherri Swanson led a time of singing hymns.

Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle reported that Cooperative Program (CP) giving is up, exceeding last year’s first quarter by over $51,236.12 or 5.7 percent.

Regarding disbursements, Stolle reported convention operations are running ahead of the year-to-date budget. Facility repairs were higher than anticipated in 2019, but Stolle explained these expenses are not incurred evenly. Management currently expects to be within budget at year-end.

For the three months ended on March 31, 2019, results have yielded a deficit of ($2,367.12).  A deficit is not unusual for this point in the year, Stolle said. Assuming CP receipts track on budget and out of state partnerships are secured, management expects that operations will approximate break even at year end.

Regarding Skycroft Conference Center, receipts are ahead of budget by $40,050.30 or 1.76 percent through the first quarter, though Stolle cautioned that there is a concern that general user fees are down from last year. Fewer user fees mean fewer guests registered to stay at Skycroft, he explained. Management is exploring ways to raise additional revenue during non-summer months.

Associate Executive Director Tom Stolle shares the financial report.

For the three months ended March 31, 2019, disbursements totaling $464,585.87 represent only 20.45percent  of the budgeted expenses incurred compared to 23.24percent of budgeted expenses incurred in 2018 for the same period.  Stolle emphasized that the Skycroft staff continues to do their best to control costs. He noted that all expenses are not incurred evenly, with a higher percentage of certain costs incurred in the summer months when more guests are on the campus.

First quarter results yielded a surplus of $143,394.43. “This is not unusual for this point in the year,” Stolle emphasized, adding that management currently expects that operations will approximate break-even at year end, although the reduced occupancy numbers compared to last year are concerning.

Regarding State Missions Offering (SMO), affiliated churches gave $137,455.30 designated to fund approved SMO initiatives — Skycroft Evangelism, Church Planting, Collegiate, Special Needs, and Disaster Relief. To date, $32,026.58 or 21.35percent  of these funds were expended.  Stolle emphasized that as we move into the summer months, we will see more disaster relief funds spent due to seasonal natural disasters that will necessitate relief efforts and funding.  All funds received will be used as designated.

Baptist Foundation

Stolle reported for the Baptist Foundation of Maryland/Delaware. Fourteen churches have outstanding loans from the church loan fund. Income for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2019, will be distributed to the BCM/D to start and strengthen churches. Management currently anticipates that distribution to total between $90,000 – $105,000.

Three churches have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney church loan fund,  established in 2006 and for small, emergency loans to churches.

Frank Duncan serves as the GMB president. He read Psalm 36:5, “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens.” (NIV)

As of March 31, 2019, the market value of the investment portfolio was $8,577,994. The most recent calendar quarter portfolio performance reflected a return of 9.4 percent. The one-year performance reflected a return of 4.7 percent, and the three- year return totaled 8.2 percent.

Executive Director’s Report

“Since 1836, the BCM/D has existed to strengthen and plant churches in this two-state region,” BCM/D Executive Director Kevin Smith said, addressing the GMB members. He shared the BCM/D’s three core values: cooperation, affirmation, and multiplication.

Regarding cooperation, Smith said the Southern Baptist mission methodology is effective and admired by other denominational leaders.

GMB members worship through singing and prayer at the beginning of each GMB meeting.

“They appreciate our methodology,” Smith said. He explained that many leaders appreciate the processes in the Southern Baptist Convention–how faithful stewards in local congregations give in their churches, and then the congregations give a percentage of undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program, which funds all of the missions in the state, nation and internationally.

He expressed thankfulness for national leaders who recently answered the call to fill strategic positions in SBC agencies and seminaries, and he asked for prayer for those entities that are still seeking leadership.

Smith said he is excited that Dr. Paul Chitwood is the new president of the International Mission Board (IMB). Chitwood, he said, believes strongly in the SBC methodology. The IMB is vital, Smith emphasized, especially to smaller state conventions that don’t have full-time staff personnel whose work is focused on missions mobilization. Smith said BCM/D is also blessed to be just over a two-hour drive to the IMB offices in Richmond, Virginia.

Kevin Smith reiterates BCM/D’s three core values: Cooperation, Affirmation, and Multiplication.

Regarding church safety, especially as it relates to sexual assault and abuse, Smith said BCM/D has been proactive, offering “With All Purity” discussions to provide helpful tools and information, with Biblical integrity, to pastors and church leaders presented by legal and social professionals. Smith said information from the SBC Sexual Abuse Presidential Advisory Group, formed by SBC President J.D. Greear, is expected at the annual SBC meeting in Alabama in June, and that the BCM/D will respond with more resources accordingly.

There is currently safety information on the BCM/D website provided by BCM/D Children, Bible Teaching, and VBS Consultant June Holland, who also regularly counsels churches regarding these topics.

Smith stressed, “We have been, and we are, and we do take these matters very seriously.”

Church Services Report

Mark Dooley, who began serving as the BCM/D director of evangelism in January 2019, said that a major emphasis of church services is building relationships.

Dooley has met with over 48 pastors face-to-face since January, sitting down for lunch, or meeting in an office to hear concerns and praise God for how He is moving in the churches. “That’s one of the things I’ve enjoyed the most…,” he said. He’s also contacted dozens of pastors through phone calls or emails. BCM/D consultants have also consistently reached out to build those relationships, he said. “Everyone is involved in reaching out and trying to touch the churches, church members, and especially the pastors, getting to know them and develop relationships.”

Mark Dooley shares that relationship building and education continue to be a church services team emphasis.

Dooley said ongoing training continues to be a focus of our church services department, referencing multiple successful children’s ministries and Vacation Bible School training, “Preaching Roundtable” events and prayer workshops, as well as an upcoming disaster relief training.

Also, Dooley said that following a state revitalization network meeting in Oklahoma, leadership is considering a sermon-based approach for revitalization efforts as a potential addition to the “tool kit” of resources.

Dooley also referenced the effectiveness of church assessments. He and Church Services Consultant Randy Millwood are developing a convention-specific church health assessment that can be used by churches at all stages, not just when they’re in transition.

Currently, at least 22 churches are without pastors, Dooley said. The convention is prayerfully seeking to assist those churches.

“Pray for consultants as they reach out to help those in transitions,” he said.

Revitalization efforts are ongoing and will be until Jesus returns, Dooley said. Four churches are now being trained through the Thom Rainer “Revitalize Network.” The BCM/D has a partnership with the Revitalize Network.

Church Planting Report

State Director of Missions Michael Crawford reported that church planting is in the best place it has ever been and that the relationship with the North American Mission Board has never been better.

Crawford said he’s happy to see increasing unity within the planters’ network. “They are building relationships with each other, talking to each other, and encouraging one another,” he said.

This fall, Crawford and the church planting team will address the top six challenges identified by local planters, providing experts who will be able to assist in these problem areas. “We want to eliminate challenges,” Crawford said.

Mike Crawford says church planting has never been better.

Churches planting churches is the primary strategy of planting. Crawford said, “Not every church will plant a church, but we want to see churches plant churches.” We want to be like the disciples in Antioch, he explained. They heard what was going on and sent someone. “That’s what we want to be at the BCM/D. We want to hear about what’s happening in your church, and if you have a church planter or a group of people that wants to start a church, we’re excited to help in any way we can, to come alongside and partner with you. We want to put some wood down and light it on fire,” Crawford said.

“I believe vision is what you see when you close your eyes. So, to me, I’d like to close my eyes and wake up in 2030 to a new reality where the majority of planters that are being planted in the BCM/D are coming from our churches. I believe we’re on that path and we’re going to get there. We have cooperated; planters have been affirmed in their local churches, and we’re rolling with them towards the issue of multiplication.”

Misc. Business

GMB members voted to approve BCM/D affiliation of Union Church, in Washington D.C. The church is part of Mclean Bible Church’s New City Network of church plants.

BCM/D President’s Address

BCM/D President Harold Phillips shared about the need for prayer. Using Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, knowing He was to face the cross, Phillips showed how prayer gives Christians the ability to accept the weakness of the believers in our lives (Jesus’ disciples); the ability to accept the wickedness of the wicked and to still love them (the Roman soldiers); and the ability to accept God’s will over our own (“Father, not My will but Thine”).

Harold Phillips says sometimes prayer is for us to be able to accept what cannot be changed.

“Jesus was a prayer warrior, and He was God incarnated,” Phillips said. He shared part of a devotional he heard while he was on a trip to Israel when he was standing in the Garden of Gethsemane – a name referring to an oil press.  Jesus was being pressed, Phillips said. Jesus knew that when He went into the garden that He was facing the cross and that He would still face the cross when He came out.

Prayer doesn’t always change circumstances, Phillips explained. “Sometimes the prayer is for you,” Phillips said. It did not change the circumstances for Jesus, but it changed Him.

Jesus was sorrowful when He went into the garden, and during the time He prayed, and He was frustrated during prayer, but He came away from prayer revitalized. “He had the ability to face what was in front of Him.

“Even Jesus was changed by a prayer meeting,” Phillips said.

Closing the meeting, Phillips prayed, “Father, we thank you for the wonderful blessing of being able to call on the name of the Lord.

“We’re thankful for at times being able to have the Holy Spirit come over us and give us peace…”