By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md.—BCM/D Executive Director David Lee labeled 2013 as “The Year of Adventure,” at the General Mission Board meeting on Dec. 4 at the Baptist Mission Resource Center.
Robert Anderson welcomed returning and new General Mission Board members.
Mitch Camp, South Columbia Baptist Church’s Minister of Music, led GMB members in worship, singing a medley of “Glorious Day,” “One Small Child,” “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Darline Ballou, GMB Nominating Committee Chair, recognized Administrative Committee members.
Kerry Hinton, Administrative Committee President, introduced BCM/D Executive Director David Lee.
Executive Director’s Report
David Lee reiterated BCM/D’s mission statement. “We exist to intentionally assist in the starting and strengthening of congregations so that together we can accomplish the Great Commission as given to us by our Lord in Matt. 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8.
“We are about proclaiming the message of hope. That message is amplified this season of the year as we celebrate the birth of hope,” Lee said, referring to a message he recently heard preached by The Church at Severn Run Senior Pastor Drew Shoffner.
Lee said the convention’s methods and approaches will change, but all change must by gauged by the Word of God.
“I have always contended as a leader that the Word of God is never open to compromise or change, but all of our methods must be placed on the table for constant evaluation. We have this moment. We cannot afford to waste it or to miss opportunities to witness for Him because of our stubbornness or unwillingness to change, even when change is uncomfortable,” he said.
Lee said he appreciates the openness of the GMB to change.
“There is a world to be changed,” Lee said.
“This is a time of transition,” Lee told GMB members, referring to his recent announcement that he will retire effective July 31. “I am at peace with that decision, believing that it is the right time for me and for this convention. It has not been easy. Disconnecting from this tremendous opportunity to serve will not be easy. I am convinced, however, that God knows exactly what is best for all of us.”
Lee told board members that it will be part of their responsibility to hire a new executive director. “We need to begin now covering that process with prayer. God gives His people leaders with just the right gift mixes to lead in His time.
“God is already preparing that person,” Lee said.
Lee announced the resignation of BCM/D missionaries Freddy and Gayla Parker. Freddy will serve as pastor of Lifeway Baptist Church in Little Rock, Ark.
“We will miss Freddy and Gayla. They have left an indelible imprint on the cause of missions in our convention,” Lee said.
“As is our practice, we will evaluate the positions vacated by the Parkers before proceeding,” Lee said.
Progress is being made with an African American Church Planting missionary candidate. There is also an evangelism position to be filled, funded jointly by BCM/D and the North American Mission Board. The GMB administrative committee will work with the BCM/D on these searches.
“I choose to call the coming year ‘A Year of Adventure,’” Lee said.
“We are at a good place as a convention. I am not satisfied. I hope you are not either. There is so much work to be done. It will require that we work together. I appreciate so much the prayerful support of all our churches. I will always contend that we can do more together than we can individually.”
Kerry Hinton, returning to the podium, smiled and said, “Welcome to the adventure!” Hinton introduced BCM/D Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle.
Tom Stolle said the numbers are encouraging. Cooperative Program receipts of $3.5 million trail $33,000 from last year, which is .9 of 1 percent, almost tracking with last year. Stolle projects that by the year’s end, CP, if the giving level for November and December approximates 2011, will trail the budget at about 4.2 million, a little less than last year.
Stolle said the good news is that all major ministry categories are within budget with the exception of the Baptist Mission Resource Center operations, which is running barely ahead by 1.6 percent or $4,650. This is primarily due to technology upgrades including a transition to extensive use of Macs rather than PC laptops.
“That is actually at a pace a bit better than last year,” Stolle said. ”I do expect operations will break even, assuming CP receipts run the same way as 2011 for the remainder of this year. So much hinges on that seventy cents on every dollar that comes from CP.”
Stolle explained that last year’s state missions offering funds this year’s efforts and that the BCM/D is on track to expend what has been taken in.
“BCM/D is in a good ready cash position with bills paid in full and on time,” Stolle said.
Concerning Skycroft Conference Center, its current earnings are $20,252.49, through ten months. Stolle said management expects that barring unforeseen events, Skycroft operations are expected to break even at the year end.
“It has been a good year. God has blessed. I pray that God is pleased at what’s happening in His convention.”
Messengers discussed how to address the legislation regarding same-sex marriage. Hinton said he believes if churches do not have something in their bylaws stating that they refuse to perform same-sex marriages, that they should do so as soon as possible.
In other business, BCM/D’s attorney, Jeffrey Agnor, said the law making same-sex marriage legal has a strong exception for churches.
“Any church can refuse to marry people of the same sex,” Agnor said, adding that there is a “huge carve-out” for churches.
Steve Hokuf, pastor of First Baptist Church North East, asked about the convention’s policy.
Agnor said if someone is in a ministerial role, there would not be a problem. Beyond that, Agnor said it is something he will need to deal with.
Hinton asked the Bylaws Committee to consider those issues in their discussions.
Strategy Team Reports
David Jackson, reporting for the Church Multiplication Team, said God is doing “marvelous and wonderful things,” with a banner year of over 50 church planting efforts underway. All eleven associations were involved in one or more church plants for only the second time this century. New works are reported in a variety of ethnic groups including African American, Anglo, Filipino, Haitian, Hispanic, Korean and Nepalese.
Jackson, quoting Theologian Peter Wagner, said, “Church planting is the most effective evangelistic methodology known under heaven.”
Jackson told of new churches bearing fruit almost immediately. Steffan Carr, who planted “Bruce Outreach,” had 105 in attendance at their November launch. Campus Pastor Adam Muhtaseb baptized seven new believers in December.
Phil Meekens, who began New Beginnings Church in Elkton, started a church through a ministry-based operation. Amazing Grace Ministries was a food ministry for the poor, serving 220 to 250 people and out of that ministry came a church.
Ken Stalls prayed for the church planting ministry. “Let us never hesitate to follow you eagerly. Bless our efforts to plant churches. We know this is your will.”
Ellen Udovich reported for the Acts 1:8 Missions Involvement Team.
“Our team assists churches in developing and implementing effective missions strategies so together we can fulfill the Great Commission and Acts 1:8. Our goal is to see every church involved in “glocal” missions – that is, reaching lost neighbors wherever they are: next door, across the state, across the nation, around the world.
“Effective mission strategies engage the giftedness, the passion of every believer,” she said. The team wants to help churches lead their members to see themselves on mission for Jesus at the ballfields, in the schools, at work, wherever they are.
Udovich said we share the love of God in practical ways because effective missions follows the model of Jesus, who met people’s physical as well as spiritual needs. But missions doesn’t stop with good deeds alone—people need the gospel as well.
“Good deeds are good things but we’re not the Girl Scouts, we’re the people of God,” Udovich said. “Effective strategies win people to Christ, disciple them, plant churches.”
Udovich said some may think their church is too small, too poor or not ready to plant churches.
“But if you’re giving to state missions, Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, or the Cooperative Program (CP), it’s too late. You’re already part of church planting!” she said.
“We can help you discover the people groups in your community, she said. Are they the guys at the firehouse, the nursing home, military families, teens? How do you learn about them and their culture? Why do you hire a youth pastor – because we need someone who can understand teenagers and speak to them “in their language.”
A lot has changed in the last generation. There was a time when we thought of ministry to people from other countries, we though of getting on a plane. Now, if you want to do international missions you can go to West Africa. But we also have a congregation of West African people right here; the same people group, but here in our backyard. Instead of ministering to them in Africa for a week, you can minister to them on an ongoing basis throughout the year. The people in our language churches need help with English, Sunday school and leadership development. Those are things you are already doing in your own church—it’s just another step to come alongside and assist a church plant with these things.
“There are many ways to be involved in missions. Expand your vision…what is God putting on your heart?
“The world is a really big place, and if we’re to share the gospel with every single person, hit or miss random acts of kindness are not going to do it. We need every church to be actively engaged in effective mission strategies.”
Randall Blackman, pastor of Faith Baptist Fellowship, Cambridge, prayed for the team. “Lord, we don’t know what to do but our eyes are fixed on You…help us not to feel timid or to shrink back in what You’re calling us to do…help us lean solely on You for power…Lord, we need Your power to reach these people.”
Agency & Committee Reports
Robin Shifflett, chairman of the History Committee, reported for the committee.
Shifflett told GMB members they need volunteers to help get historical material catalogued in the computer database. They are hoping to bring youth groups in to do the work.
They are also working to develop policies about what material people can and can’t check out.
Shifflett said every church has a file in the history room. What’s in that file depends on what material churches have sent in through the years.
“We encourage churches to send us information,” Shifflett said. If a church burns down, those records could be lost, but having them in the history room is great backup, Shifflett said.
John Schoff reported for the Baptist Foundation. Schoff reported 16 churches have outstanding loans from the church loan funds. Six have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney fund, which is used for small emergency loans to churches.
As of Sept. 30, the market value of the investment portfolio was $6.8 million, reflecting a 10.4 percent return on the portfolio. The one-year profile performance reflected a return of 17.2 percent.
The Foundation has grown from 2008 to this year from $5.2 to over $6.8 million.
“That’s a good feeling, but God gives us more not to be independent, but to be dependent,” Schoff said.
Schoff said that over the next two decades, as baby boomers age, more assets will be available. We should not let those assets drift away from our churches, he said.
Mitch Dowell, executive director of Embrace Wilmington and Delaware Baptist Association Director of Missions gave his final Embrace Wilmington report. Dowell said, “God is doing great and mighty things” in the city. Dowell said God has answered prayers to send church planters.
Dowell said Hockessin Baptist Church commissioned and sent out their core team to begin worship services at The Church at LOMA on Market Street. They conducted their first service in LOMA Lounge in October. On Dec. 2 they called Jeffrey Keith to pastor the new church.
LifeHouse Church outgrew their space at the Townsend firehouse and now meet at Everett Meredith Middle School. They have baptized over 60 believers this year and will have another baptismal service in January.
Dowell introduced Rashad Gibson, a young man in the final stage of church planter assessment, who wants to plant a church in Wilmington and needs a site and a sponsoring church.
Gibson said he feels called to build community within a church, a church on mission where every disciple is a missionary. “We’re going to be aggressive. We have to be aggressive in Wilmington,” he said. Gibson said before launching he wants to work getting the church known through street evangelism, door to door ministry and other outreaches.
Responding to Mitch Dowell’s statement that Wilmington earned the distinction of the most violent city under a population of 100,000, Gibson said he knows about rough areas, having grown up in North Jersey.
Gibson said he needs churches to partner with him.
Bethany Baptist Church sponsored Embrace Wilmington’s first Hispanic work under the leadership of church planter Alexis Vides. His church “Nuevo Amanecer” continues to grow as they meet in homes for Bible study and at Bethany Baptist for worship. 2013 will mark their second year.
Mike Solomon, a new church planter, recently completed his assessment, and hopes to plant the “Rock Church” in the Newark area.
“Embrace Wilmington officially ends in 2012; however, our desire and efforts to embrace the city will not end,” Dowell said. “I’ve seen the Lord do some amazing things in the Metro Wilmington area, and I’m convinced that that He’s not finished yet.”
Remaining Embrace Wilmington funds have been redirected to church multiplication.
“It has been an honor and pleasure to serve as Embrace Wilmington’s director, and it will be am honor to continue to serve this great convention in its continued efforts to reach the lost of our cities,” Dowell said.
Skycroft Conference Center
GMB members voted to call a special meeting of messengers for the purpose of considering the sale of a perpetual conservation easement on the Skycroft Property to the State of Maryland.
The meeting will be held at 2 p.m., Monday, January 14, 2013, at the South Columbia Baptist Church.
The State of Maryland has offered $1.1 million for a perpetual conservation easement on the Skycroft property. This offer is due to Skycroft’s land being the location of the historic battle of South Mountain. In September 1862, General Robert E. Lee led the southern army into western Maryland as Stonewall Jackson tried to capture the northern arsenal at Harper’s Ferry. Union Commander George McClellan discovered Lee’s mislaid battle plans, and McClellan forced his army through three passes in the South Mountain range. The armies fought in the areas of Fox’s, Turner’s and Crampton gaps. The Union army gained control of the passes, but the southern resistance allowed Lee to regroup and set the stage for the Battle of Antietam.
Skycroft is located on Turner’s Gap, a 1,500 foot elevation–the highest spot looking down on two roads. David Sutherland, a representative of the Civil War Preservation Trust, said the perspective helped the Confederate army block the transportation of the Union trying to get to Antietam.
“What we presented here has been a conservation easement with an historical twist. It affects the entire property. Skycroft would continue to operate and expand to benefit the operation,” Sutherland said. The only limitations are whatever the state and county allows, which are the current limitations.
This refers to the developmental envelope – approximately 25 acres that the facility now occupies. Under the easement, BCM/D would still own all of the property, but could only expand within the “development envelope.” All of the property could still be maintained.
The property could not be subdivided. If the property is sold, it must be sold to an organization that will operate it as the same type of business it is now.
Sutherland said the historic areas would have markers with maps, for Civil War enthusiasts. Skycroft’s Executive Director Doug DuBois said Civil War buffs visit the Skycroft area regularly and never cause problems.
The first motion is: “Motion to refer to the messengers at a called meeting on January 14, 2013 that we agree to the sale of a perpetual conservation Easement on the Skycroft property to the State of Maryland for $1.1 million, in accordance with the terms presented to the General Mission Board by a representative of the Civil War Preservation Trust.”
The second motion is: “Motion to put $1.1 million (less transaction costs) into the Skycroft Development fund to be used for Skycroft maintenance and development as authorized by the General Mission Board.”
BCM/D President Robert Anderson referenced Micah 5:1, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”
In a time of despair, Micah wanted to give hope, Anderson said. Bethlehem means “house of bread,” he explained. Ephrata means “fruitful, fertile.”
Here’s a little town, little in geography in population and yet…hope is on the way.
“It’s going to come out of this little place called Bethlehem,” Anderson said. Bethlehem where “…from you shall come one who will be ruler in Israel who comes from and is of old—from ancient of days,” Anderson said.
“Wow, I’m not a Greek or Hebrew scholar but this excites me. From eternity past, someone is going to come at a time of desperation, and they’re going to change the way things are.”
“People need hope today…,” Anderson said.
“I don’t know how it all works. I just know God said that His Holy Spirit would hover over a young teenage girl, a virgin, and that she will give birth to a little baby who is from eternity. Folks, can you get that!”
“Something infinite became finite and found a resting place in a little girl…”
That would change the hope of the world.
“If God can do something like that, He can do something in your life, in your ministry.
Wherever your Bethlehem is, it’s significant, Anderson said.
“Christmas is about Someone coming, stepping on eternity, landing on this planet and changing the world for His glory.”