By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md. — Taking a historic leap of faith at their Sept. 6 meeting at the Baptist Mission Resource Center, members of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s General Mission Board approved a 4.5 percent increase in the percentage of Cooperative Program (CP) funds sent to national and international Southern Baptist Convention causes.
They approved a $7,729,121 budget, which includes increasing the Cooperative Program (CP) funding split from 43.5 percent to 48 percent of the CP receipts forwarded to the SBC to fund international and national missions, Southern Baptist seminaries and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Messengers at the annual meeting in November will have the final vote on the budget.
Board members also met a new church planting catalyst and heard reports regarding church strengthening and planting, evangelism, disaster relief and Skycroft Conference Center.
BCM/D Music and Worship Strategist Phil Gifford led in a time of worship and GMB President Curtis Hill welcomed GMB members and shared a greeting he recently received from a fellow pastor— “How are you doing with the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ? We have many things that are priorities,” Hill said, but nothing will surpass knowing Christ.
It has been over a year since Kevin Smith became BCM/D’s executive director. In the executive director’s report, Smith said he’s met with many pastors and church leaders, and he’s energized, enthusiastic and encouraged with what God has and is doing throughout the convention.
“I want you to know, there are brothers and sisters all across our convention, in all 11 associations, who love the Lord deeply, who love their communities deeply. To hear some members and pastors of different churches talk about the mission field around their church is just so encouraging—to see people with that kind of passion for their area!” he said, encouraging the pastors and church members to be faithful to the Word and to be fruitful in discipleship.
Smith strongly and enthusiastically urged GMB members to attend and bring their congregations to the BCM/D’s Nov. 12-13 annual meeting at Kettering Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro. This year’s meeting features a shorter format (ends on Monday evening), expanded childcare (offered even during shared mealtimes), and powerful messages from speakers D.A. Horton, pastor, Reach Fellowship, North Long Beach, Calif.; Jarrett Stephens, teaching pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas; and Dr. Frank Page, president and CEO, SBC Executive Committee; as well as worship led by the Dove Award winning Nelons.
BCM/D Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle, in his financial report, said CP offerings for the quarter ending July 31, 2017, totaled $2,073,158.25, about 3.4 percent behind last year’s receipts. Stolle shared that CP giving is directly tied to church giving. Churches often have “summer slumps,” when people are away on vacation. Management anticipates increased CP receipts in the fourth quarter.
In addition to a financial report, Stolle gave a detailed overview of the 2018 budget that incorporates the increased percentage of funds going to national SBC.
“It’s a big jump. But it’s hard to get to [the previously expressed goal of] 51 percent/49 percent if you only do a half a percent a year. We want to take a bold step of faith” said Stolle, explaining that in 2012, BCM/D messengers voted to increase CP giving one percent (contingent of churches’ increased CP giving) to the national SBC per year until the year 2020 to ultimately reach the 51/49 percentage split.
BCM/D State Director of Missions Michael Crawford introduced James Choi (read about James Choi on page 23) as a new church planting catalyst. Choi will work with the entire church planting team, though he will strategically build relationships with Asian churches. “I am very excited to serve,” Choi said.
Crawford said 2017 has been a year of transitions. Marcus and Chrissie Redding, who formerly served with the church planting team, relocated to North Carolina. Ron Larson transitioned from a “Send City” missionary for the North American Mission Board to becoming a church planter in Columbia. Clint Clifton, Send City missionary of Washington, D.C., is now additionally serving that role in Baltimore. In addition, Crawford reported that Support Specialist Margot Painter has transitioned to the church planting team.
Church Strengthening Team Strategist Randy Millwood shared that in the summer of 2017, the Church Strengthening Team has been in meaningful contact with almost half of the supporting BCM/D churches through on-site visits, camp experiences, ongoing coaching, customized equipping events, and long-term church revitalization relationships, helping churches discover and engage their local community, and assisting churches in transition, between pastors.
Doug DuBois, State Director of Disaster Relief, said volunteers throughout the SBC and BCM/D are fully engaged and are prepared to deploy when called to respond to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.
Stolle, reporting for the convention operations team, in a written report, shared that renovations on the classroom at the Baptist Mission Resource Center, are underway, including furniture replacement and upgraded technology. He said the classroom will ultimately showcase missions and ministries throughout the convention to those who visit.
Stolle also recognized DuBois for his work at Skycroft Conference Center, where 2,070 young people attended seven weeks of camp. Thirty-six people made decisions to accept Christ, and many more rededicated their lives.
GMB members approved an affiliations committee recommendation granting Crosspoint Fellowship Church, Columbia, as a cooperating church with the BCM/D. Paul Viswasam is the pastor.
Tim Simpson, senior pastor of Greenridge Baptist Church, reporting for the Skycroft Committee, said, “[My] Dad was part of the team that walked that mountain with Dr. [Roy] Gresham and others. Many of us have been on the mountain and the Holy Spirit has touched us up there. Many of us believe it’s a really valuable resource, but it won’t continue to be valuable if we don’t really tend to it,” he said.
Simpson shared that Skycroft has many challenging issues that will need to be considered as the convention moves forward. These include a fresh vision and clarification of purpose, needed upgrades and future staff.
BCM/D President Mike Trammell in his closing remarks, urged GMB members to pray for Kevin Smith. “It’s not an easy job. He has a lot of opportunities to tell about the work of Maryland and Delaware and he does that,” Trammell said.
Trammell spoke on Colossians 2:1-7 and the Apostle Paul’s love of the church.
“You can be the most gifted preacher, the most talented leader, but if you don’t love your people you’re not going to have a successful ministry,” Trammel said, additionally emphasizing unity of the body.
“Francis Schaeffer called unity in the church the ‘final apologetic’ to a watching world,” Trammell said. The world looks to us as to how we relate to one another to determine whether this “Christian thing” is real, he added.
Trammell encouraged members to additionally be overflowing with gratitude.