By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md—Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network Executive Missional Strategist Will McRaney challenged the network’s General Mission Board (GMB) to move forward boldly.
“Universally, you asked me to lead courageously. That’s what I’m asking you to continue to do with me. Act courageously. The battle is the Lords and victory is ours. We can move with confidence. We’re on the winning team.
“We live in a highly diverse mission field. The world is here and this is who God has called us to reach. God has directed us to work together to advance His Kingdom. We can do more together than individually, “ McRaney said at the Sept. 9 GMB meeting at the Baptist Network Center in Columbia.
Reviewing the past year, McRaney summarized a few of the Network’s challenges and strengths. Challenges included a steady decline of Cooperative Program financial resources with no indicators this trend will reverse; challenges in communicating with the diversity of the churches; disconnected formal relationships between the state and associational work with changes in denominational funding priorities; overworked staff; outdated contracts for Network center production, and how many pastors feel disconnected to the whole of the ministry as a result of a smaller staff and the communication challenges.
Strengths included an excellent, committed staff working together to advance the Kingdom in the Mid-Atlantic, which he said is known for being a historic pioneering area; strong relationships and high credibility between the staff and churches; and solid Kingdom-minded pastors and planters.
So what about today? McRaney said churches across the region are seeing God move. Some are experiencing new growth, setting records for baptisms and attendance. Independent churches are asking to become part of the Network. Older, declining churches are handing over their legacies to church plants, choosing to share their properties so the kingdom can advance. Other plateaued churches are participating in Turning Around journeys, where they are experiencing new vitality. In other situations, pastors are leaving more financially stable positions to start churches.
“We have an unprecedented number of plants, but there are challenges related to these new starts,” McRaney said, noting there is a sizeable workload associated with caring for these plants and planters with their families. “We are planting more churches with less money and a smaller staff but planters still have to be assessed, coached and trained in planting and what it means to be a part of the Baptist family.”
Despite such a large workload, McRaney said, the network staff is “phenomenal.” For example, the Baptist Collegiate Ministry staff members are “laying down their lives” and are exceeding all expectations. “You wouldn’t believe what these guys are doing. It’s just amazing. You’ve got some giants serving you,” McRaney said.
Referring to the Southern Baptist Convention that met in Baltimore in June, McRaney thanked Robert Anderson, senior pastor of Colonial Baptist Church; David Hall, special assistant to Dr. Will McRaney; Doug DuBois, missionary for student evangelism; and other staff for their work in making the convention a success.
McRaney said the network is regaining focus and has filled several staff openings, referring to David Hall; Keith Hammer, serving with the church strengthening team; Joel Rainey, team strategist, evangelism and missions; and Reid Sterrett, missional catalyst and network connector. The network is still searching for an African American church-planting missionary.
Wendy Mindte, Strategic Initiatives and Network Coordinator, will personally connect with churches and field questions, giving them quick, direct responses and helping them reach the proper missionary for assistance in order to be more responsive to needs and inquiries from the frontlines of ministry.
McRaney also explained that Network leadership analyzed each of the organization’s technical contracts, from telephone and internet services to its copier service and such. Board members applauded when McRaney shared how renegotiating these contracts led to updated and better service and a realized annual cost savings of approximately $70,000.
Regarding caring for pastors and the Network’s goals, McRaney said there will be a major network emphasis—“no pastor goes alone.”
“We are under spiritual attack. We can’t do this isolated,” he said. To facilitate this purpose, the Network will focus on a variety of peer groups based on affinity. “We have people that need to be together because we believe we are stronger and healthier together.”
The executive missional strategist also discussed “Gofwd Mid-Atlantic,” an extension of the state missions offering that will fund ministries in the Mid-Atlantic network. “When you reinvest in yourself, you increase your mission capacity,” McRaney said, noting the funding stream will be explained more fully at the Annual Celebration.
He encouraged members to attend the upcoming Annual Celebration November 9-11, 2014, at The Church at Severn Run. “What an exciting experience we’re trying to create! We have an opportunity in November to set a new direction, to create new energy and new paths forward. We will create meaningful and encouraging experiences, not just meetings. We will celebrate the activity of God in and through our churches. We need to go forward together,” he said.
Using an “ABC” model, McRaney explained some of the rebranding associated with the new dba name of the Network, “We are the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network.
“We are A: an adventuresome people. We are a pioneering people. We want to advance, in courageous and forward thinking ways, not just exist.
“We are B: with our distinct beliefs as Baptists. We believe a certain set of beliefs focused on the Great Commission and God’s book, the Bible, and we hold clearly to the essentials—that’s who we are.
“And we are C: about being connected to one another and to our common mission. People don’t want to be isolated. We can’t walk alone and can do more together.”
McRaney proposed an equation, E3 = M2. “We are going to equip, we are going to encourage, and we are going to engage,” McRaney said. “When we do those three Es (E3), we get a mission that’s multiplied (M2) in its impact. We are going to exist primarily to strengthen churches and multiply mission impact, and we’re going to do this around the Cooperative Program and GoFwd Mid-Atlantic.”
In conclusion, McRaney affirmed, “We’re on a winning team, and we’re moving forward. You are the right people. This is the right time. We have the right methods. We have the right path together. We’re going in the right direction with the right team, with the right initiatives and with a solid strategy serving one another and the one true God who still desperately wants boys and girls and adults to come to faith in Jesus Christ. We are his hands, and we are his feet, and we’re going to go forward together.”