Posted on : Friday October 1, 2010

By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent

BALTIMORE—The General Mission Board (GMB) of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware met at The Church on Warren Avenue, a historic Baltimore church, for the Sept.  14 meeting, the last before the convention celebrates its own history and looks towards the future at BCM/D’s 175th annual meeting in November.

General Mission Board members of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware worship at the Church on Warren Avenue, a Baltimore city church with a rich history. Photo by Bob Simpson

Michael Gamon, The Church on Warren Avenue’s associate pastor, and the praise team, “New Found Joy,” led worship.

David Sandvick, GMB president, called the meeting to order.

Lyn O’Berry, senior pastor of The Church on Warren Avenue, shared some of the church’s rich history. He introduced Associate Pastor Michael Gamon. Gamon said he and Dawson Hull, the former music minister, came to the church when the youngest person was 75 years old.  Gamon excitedly told GMB members about the church’s newest outreaches and ministries and praised God for “old men who see visions and young men who dream.”

Executive Director Report

“I do not believe in ghosts. I believe in the Holy Ghost, but that is the only one. Yet, I do believe in the cloud of witnesses the writer of Hebrews referenced in Chapter 12,” shared David Lee, BCM/D executive director.

“I cannot help but feel the presence of Annie Armstrong who sat to my right. I cannot help but be awed because I am standing where great preachers of the Gospel like E.Y. Mullins stood.

“It is fitting that you and I meet in this historic setting at such a pivotal time in the life of this state convention. Baltimore is still the largest concentration of lostness in Maryland/Delaware and we know that there are exponentially more lost people here today than when Dr. Mullins stood here to proclaim the Gospel.

It is also significant that you and I will soon gather in Towson to celebrate 175 year of ministry and missions partnership through this convention. Few ever have the privilege of ministry in an area that is so strategic to our nation and to our world. The whole world has its eyes focused on the Baltimore/Washington corridor.”

Lee told members that it is time to begin looking to the future of the convention. “We have known that change was coming.“ Lee said Orlando is behind us, and the vote was clearly for change, though the specifics are not yet clear (referring to the recent SBC vote on the Great Commission Resurgence). “We should know within the next few months the direction the national entities will take, decisions they will make and positions they will assume, many of which will stand to significantly effect how we do business here.

“The irony of our discussion about change and new direction comes at a time when we may be experiencing one of the most productive years ever in our cooperative work here in this strategic region of the world. You will hear and receive reports of what God is doing in Maryland/Delaware as we join hands, hearts and resources to run through doors He is opening.“

Financial Report

BCM/D Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle, presenting the financial report, said the two major sources of funding for the convention are Cooperative Program (CP) giving and funding from the North American Mission Board.  NAMB provides the convention with approximately one million dollars which supports staff, ministries and programs. “We appreciate this partnership,” Stolle said.

CP giving, ending August 31, trails last year-to-date by $92,169.97 or 3.1 percent.  Stolle said last year’s CP giving trailed by approximately $50,000 but this year’s second quarter actually exceeded last year’s second quarter by about $3,000. The third quarter is trailing last year’s third quarter by about $4,000 due to soft September receipts.

Convention operations show expenses are just 39.58 percent. Church services show a 43.94 percent expenditure. Stolle said operations expenses will increase in the fall, especially with the annual meeting coming up in November. The church services expenditure is down due to an unfilled minister relations position.

The Baptist Mission Resource Center (BMRC) operations account has expended $234,239.12 or 87.08 percent of its budget. Stolle said costs have been higher than expected due to a harsh winter requiring heavy snow removal, storage and other costs associated with selling a portion of the BMRC building.

Stolle said the bottom line is that year-to-date, as of Aug. 31, there is an operations loss of $55,652.18. The BCM/D has reduced the loss by about $50,000 from the $105,000 reported at the end of the first quarter. Staff is monitoring ministry expenses and as a team is attempting to achieve a break even result by the end of the year. Assuming CP receipts continue to approximate last year’s actual in most months, Stolle believes this goal can be achieved.

State Missions Offering, funds collected in the fall through the end of December, 2009 are funding 2010 ministries. Concerning the Acts 1:8 missions involvement, only 35.85 percent of the budget has been expended. This is due to timing. Additional costs will be incurred before year-end.

Administrative Committee Report

Wendell McClellan, administrative committee chairman, presented a recommendation to approve the 2011 BCM/D and Skycroft Conference Center budgets and refer them to messengers at the annual meeting in November.

Curtis Hill, senior pastor of Ogletown Church, expressed disappointment that the budget was not increased to give more to the International Mission Board (IMB).

“In light of the IMB shortfall, and the Great Commission direction, I was hoping for an adjustment this year—even half a percent,” Hill said. “I think overwhelmingly the convention said it wanted to go in a new direction.”

David Lee, responding to Hill, said that the administrative committee commissioned Tom Stolle to do a thorough impact report but there hasn’t been enough time to digest the report and work through it. In addition, Lee said there are still many unanswered questions from our SBC entities that need to be answered. The question of changing the ratios had been discussed, but it was felt that the timing was not right to make major changes, he said.

Messengers passed both budgets. They also voted to remove a reverter clause from Calvary Independent Church and for a special called GMB meeting at Skycroft Conference Center to review and discuss the budget impact study and to develop a strategy to address our future as a state convention.

Agency Reports

“Baptist Family & Children’s Services (BFCS) is in the business of breaking the cycle of abuse, neglect, violence and poverty,” Robert Gerstmyer, BFCS executive director said.

Gerstmyer said he’s pleased to give a good report in spite of the recession. CHOSEN (Children of Special and Exceptional Need) served 67 children and 15 are either being adopted or returning home. The Good Samaritan Network has helped 374 families so far this year. Many calls, Gerstmyer said, came from BCM/D churches. Nine churches partnered with the agency this fall to provide 1,050 children with book bags and backpacks to start the new school year.

Gerstmyer encouraged GMB members to consider becoming involved with Safe Families, a Christian alternative for foster care. Gerstmyer said children often languish in the social service system. “We want to intervene before parents are reported for neglect and abuse and before children are taken from their homes,” he said. Several pastors and their families are stepping forward to be Safe Families. Gerstmyer commended those pastors for being an example for their congregations.

Tim Lee, president of the Baptist Foundation, reported that 17 churches have outstanding loans from the church fund. For the nine months ended June 30, BCM/D earned $115,288 on loans to churches. Church loan income for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, estimated to be $150,000, will be used to start and strengthen churches.

As of June 30, the market value of the investment portfolio was $5,832,164. Lee said the second quarter was a tough period for equities. For the quarter ended June 30, the return on equities was (-11.6 percent), however, the return on fixed securities was three percent.

The Foundation will continue to focus on education and planned giving and it has resources available for churches for stewardship ministry.

Strategy Team Reports

Church Multiplication missionary, David Jackson, reported for the Church Multiplication Team that there have been ten new church starts since May and 25 underway since January. Most notable is the establishing of churches in four new people groups – Japanese, Swahili, Burmese Chin and Cambodian.

Jackson reported that the team is spearheading efforts to involve more churches as church planting centers. They recently met with NAMB and plan to soon launch the first CPC network on the Eastern Shore.

In addition, the team is working on a project to analyze the strengths of churches, discovering characteristics of people in associations and locating places with greatest need and opportunity for church planting in the convention.

Jackson introduced Asian church planting missionary, Robert Kim. “God is at work in Asian people groups in the convention,” Jackson said.

Kim shared how 23 Asian churches gathered and prayed out loud to the Lord at the recent concert of prayer at Hanuri Korean Church in Silver Spring, Md. He said the different groups prayed out loud in different languages, confidently approaching Him. “God is not confused,” Kim said, smiling. They prayed for planting and growth.

Kim told of growth in the Filipino communities, works in Havre de Grace, Rockville and Laurel. He also told of a block party hosted by Nepal Church of Baltimore and Bhutan Church of Baltimore that drew 350 people. Kim said Samuel Cho, who pastors both churches, gave an invitation. “He invited Bhutanese people to come to the Lord and for them to proclaim Jesus as Savior. Around 25 people stood up at that invitation. It was an emotional time for me, with joy.”

David Jackson introduced Japanese church planter, Nick Nishio, and his wife, Sachi. “A vision for church planting has been discussed and prayed for over seven years,” Nishio said. “Thank you for making this happen. Nishio said he is especially grateful to Robert Kim, David Jackson and Ron Blankenship. “They have been my mentors, my teachers and my friends.

“I ask one thing, I need your prayer,” he said. Nishio said there are more than 6,000 Japanese people living in Maryland and another 4,000 in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.

“We are going to be the first Southern Baptist Japanese church in the Greater D.C. area so I need your help.” David Jackson led a time of prayer for Nishio and Sachi.

Randy Millwood, BCM/D missionary for missional church leadership, small groups, seminary extension, spiritual formation and, reported for the Leadership Development and Support Team. Millwood said the strategy of the team revolves around four principles: soul care; self awareness; skill development; and support systems.

Regarding soul care, Millwood said, “I am absolutely convinced that if they’re not falling head over heels in love with Jesus, the church, the people he came to die for, any success amounts to nothing.”

He said self awareness is realizing how fearfully and wonderfully we are made, which makes us value and care for others.

Skill development is making pastors and leaders aware of the opportunities in the region and for listening to the needs as they emerge in life and church.

Millwood said support systems are crucial. If spouses are not finding joy in service, if they’re burnt out and not happy that will greatly impact the lives of pastors and staff.

The Acts 1:8 Involvement team continues to assist churches with networking, resourcing and facilitating mission opportunities. In a written report, Ellen Udovich, BCM/D missionary for disaster relief, lay mobilization and senior adults, said the highlight of the summer was the arrival of Lindsey Shaffer, who is serving as a volunteer mobilization, poverty initiatives and English as a Second Language associate missionary.

The Resource Development Team, led by Tom Stolle, BCM/D chief financial officer, missionary for ministers’ compensation, church treasurers and stewardship, continues to focus on Cooperative Program (CP) and planned giving. New CP promotional videos will be shown at this year’s annual meeting. There is also an emphasis to keep fresh material on the website that tell the CP story.

Ad Hoc Committee Reports

Homer McKeithan reported for the Affiliation Committee. McKeithan asked members to vote to accept Church of Columbia into the fellowship of the convention. McKeithan said the committee has read their statement of faith and by-laws and they are in agreement with BCM/D. Members voted to accept the church.

Embrace Wilmington Report

Mitch Dowell, Embrace Wilmington executive director, reported that he and his wife, Rosetta, are completely moved into their home in Wilmington. They are members of Bethany Church. Embrace Wilmington’s office is also located at the church.

Dowell, in a written report, said that his first year of Embrace has been focusing on familiarizing himself with the region and making connections.

Embrace Wilmington’s four focus areas are: church strengthening; church starting; creative evangelism and community impact evangelism.

Dowell said in the area of church strengthening, six churches participated in LifeWay’s ME (Ministers of Education) project. The project offers LifeWay-sponsored regional representatives who visit and offer assistance to churches.

Church starting is a priority and Dowell is working with David Jackson to develop strategies to address the uniqueness of Wilmington to achieve this goal. Dowell said he has been speaking at many churches sharing how to use simple, relational and effective methods to share the gospel. Dowell said his goal is to be a “catalyst to get the leadership of our churches excited about making disciples and to lead their members outside the walls of their churches and into the lives of those whom the Lord will bring to them.”

Regarding community impact evangelism, Dowell said Wilmington games were cancelled this year due to city budget shortfalls. The Youth Evangelism Conference will be at Ogletown Church on Nov. 5-6.

Dowell said he has received calls from the Kentucky Baptist Convention and others who plan to come to Delaware next year. He is working to secure partnerships for every Delaware church who requests one.

He also intends to encourage and assist every Wilmington and New Castle County church to conduct at least two evangelistic projects other than VBS in the city of Wilmington and to partner with at least one non-Southern Baptist Church or para-church organization within the city of Wilmington in a servant evangelism project.

President’s Remarks

Byron Day gave his final remarks as BCM/D president as he rotates off of the General Mission Board.

Day shared that in February 2008, when he was ill in the hospital, enduring suffering and not being able to eat or drink, God gave him a peace and a joy and reminded him that He was in control.

He referenced Isaiah 40. Day said scientists talk about how incredibly huge the universe is, yet God is above that. “We forget, in the midst of circumstances, troubles; all that goes on…, God really is in control.”

Day said the bottom line comes down to trusting in the Lord, as a convention, as God’s people.

“We can’t save one soul. We can’t change one life. Only You can,” Day prayed.