By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, Md.—The Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network General Mission Board (GMB) met at the Network Center on Dec. 2, the first GMB meeting ever for some freshman members. They heard and shared ministry updates, voted to allow disbursement of funds for maintenance and upgrades at Skycroft Conference Center and they were challenged to fully support Executive Missional Strategist Will McRaney.
Network Missionary for Music and Worship Bill Archer led a time of singing carols. Archer said, “We worship a God who keeps His promises.” Archer referred to the season of Advent, a time of preparing for Jesus’ coming as a baby as well as preparation for Jesus’ second coming in glory. Archer said it is a time of celebration and proclamation.
Network President Mark Dooley presented a video about the Mid-Atlantic Network that was shown at the Annual Celebration. Executive Missional Strategist Will McRaney said the video and others are available online (www.gofwdmidatlantic.com/videos) for pastors to use to introduce the Network to their churches as well as videos about Gofwd Mid-Atlantic and the Cooperative Program.
“We are all indebted to the Cooperative Program,” McRaney said. In addition to the CP, McRaney said we have a state missions offering called Gofwd Mid-Atlantic. It’s a tool of reinvesting we need to use to impact the world God has brought to us.”
McRaney said it’s great news that the Network is reaching such a diverse group of people, but that’s also the challenge. “We’re reaching new people who do not know who we are,” McRaney said. How do we pass on the essentials of being a Southern Baptist, as well as being people of the Mid-Atlantic Network?
“You can’t be a selfish church and grow. You have to have people who are willing to put aside their wants and desires to advance God’s Kingdom,” McRaney said.
“All of us have been impacted by those who have passed before us,” McRaney told GMB members. Referring to a presentation by comedian Dennis Swanberg, a special guest at the Network’s Annual Celebration in November. McRaney said others have planted shade trees for us in the past and now we must plant shade trees that we will never sit under, but that will be there for those who follow us.
Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network Chief Financial Steward Tom Stolle reported Cooperative Program receipts totaling $3,471,177.94 for the ten months ended October 2014, reflecting $57,142.04 or 1.7 percent higher than year-to-date October 2013. “It has been a long time since I’ve been able to report that CP giving has increased this late in a calendar year,” Stolle said.
Stolle said North American Mission Board (NAMB) funds will show an increase prior to year end as NAMB monies sent for evangelism and church planting support will be recognized into income.
“All major expense categories are operating within budget. Our missionaries and staff take the budget very seriously,” Stolle said.
Though the bottom line shows a slight deficit of $19,151.70, Stolle said management believes operations will break even by the end of the year.
Skycroft Training Center’s receipts are $1,902,996.55, at 94.68 percent of budget. Stolle said management believes the operations of the Training Center will report a break-even bottom line by the end of December.
Designated dollars set aside for specific purposes total $1,209,893.36. Of this amount, $368,452.34 remain from easement funds received by the Skycroft Training Center which is to be used for facility renovations and improvements and $456,744.63 is designated specifically to church planting.
Messengers approved a motion to allow Skycroft Training Center Executive Director Doug DuBois use $165,029 for additional improvements to the center. These funds will be allocated from monies received from the sale of a conservation easement. This would leave approximately 25,000 in the easement funds.
DuBois explained that the funds will be used for siding, kitchen equipment, carpeting, beds, and repair of maintenance equipment.
“This will help us be competitive in today’s market,” DuBois said.
Skycroft donated some supplies, such as older bedding, to Bruce Outreach Center, a new church plant in Westernport, Md., and old kitchen equipment to Streetlite Christian Fellowship‘s new Transformation Center in Brooklyn, Md.
Asked about future repair needs, DuBois said there is much to be done, but like a home, he is concentrating on those projects that need immediate attention using the funds available.
Tom Stolle told members that in 2015, Skycroft’s budget will include setting aside $105,000 for future improvements as well.
Strategy Team Reports
Joel Rainey, reporting for the Engagement Team for Evangelism and Missions, explained that the team “wants to help you more effectively share Jesus with the world; to love your neighbor and share Christ.”
Rainey said in the fall of 2014, the team focused strategically on Islam, which Rainey said is currently the second fastest growing religion in the world, and the fastest in Great Britain. The United States has experienced a 25 percent growth rate in Islam in the past decade, he said.
“We want Muslins to know who Jesus is and to come to faith in Him,” Rainey said.
The team sponsored two events, a simulcast featuring the testimony of a young Muslim who came to faith in Jesus and converted to Christianity and how that decision affected his life; and an interfaith forum featuring Muslims, Jews and Christians talking openly about religious freedom and the differences in the religions. Both events were offered to help Christians understand the differences between the two faiths, to break down walls and to develop unconditional friendships with those of other faiths.
Rainey encouraged GMB members to get involved in the ministry with international students in Ocean City under the leadership of Resort Missionary Lynn Davis.
“We are making an enormous impact right there on the beach,” Rainey said.
Wendy Mindte, missionary for ministry evangelism, reported for the Church Strengthening team. Mindte highlighted 60 different opportunities churches have through the Network to receive training, network, and be encouraged.
She encouraged GMB members to participate in upcoming peer learning groups. Mindte said Jesus, as a Rabbi, took a core group and trained and equipped them with the intention that the group would train and equip others. “Jesus’ strategy was to mobilize them to multiply. That is true of your Network. Our desire is to mobilize and multiply,” Mindte said. Peer learning groups will be part of that strategy in 2015, she said, and encouraged leaders to participate in a group.
Mike McQuitty, reporting for Collegiate Ministry said 450,000 college students are in the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network area and that is a diverse group. At the University of Maryland there are 5,000 international students from 133 different countries in one campus.
“The Network’s Collegiate Ministry Team seeks to reach, disciple, and mobilize the college students and church ministry leaders to reach the campus communities in the region,” McQuitty said. The ministry team uses Baptist Collegiate Ministry, church-based and church planting models to accomplish that task.
Report from Executive Missional Strategist
McRaney told GMB members the Annual Celebration was a phenomenal experience. McRaney said about 700 individuals attended the meetings. “That’s pretty amazing compared to what it had been,” he said.
And it wasn’t just the numbers, McRaney said. “It was all the work to reconnect,” he said, referencing the idea of bringing bricks; that we are stronger together and that we have a path that begins in the 1700s and continues through today and that each church has a part of that path.
“The number one message we found in talking with you guys is that many of you felt disconnected,” McRaney said, noting the disconnection from each other, from the state, from the association. “You feel isolated,” he said. McRaney said the Network will work very intentionally to assure pastors that they are not alone.
He was also pleased with the success of the Ministry Wife Brunch.
“The ministry wife brunch was a great experience. If the wife doesn’t make it, everything else suffers,” McRaney said.
He also referenced the speakers, the worship leaders, the legacy churches and planters—and the overall “interconnectiveness.” McRaney congratulated Network Director of Communications Shannon Baker and Creative Design/Brand Coach Sean Copley on their work with the extensive rebranding project.
McRaney recognized outgoing Executive Office Coordinator Misty Pearson, who is resigning at the end of December. She and her husband Daniel will be working in church planting in Texas. Donna Jeffreys has been transitioning into that position. “We are excited to have Donna move over and assume the role. We have been very blessed with Misty and her sweet spirit,” McRaney said.
McRaney also welcomed Niki Taylor, ministry assistant to Joel Rainey, working in the area of evangelism and missions.
Wendy Mindte is assuming the additional role of Network Coordinator, being a Network first point of contact.
David Jackson resigned from his position as church planting strategist and accepted a call to serve as Director of Church Planting for the Baptist Convention of New England.
“David has a been a leader here and nationally. He will do a great job,” McRaney said, noting he has formed a team to help navigate through the church planting transition.
Regarding church planting, McRaney said the Network is striving to balance church planting and meeting the needs of the plants. There are twice as many planters, but not twice as many coaches, trainers and money, he explained.
McRaney said he is very supportive of church planting. He worked in church planting for 25 years and he has done extensive research on the topic for the Southern Baptist Convention. He emphasized that church plants, as with all aspects of the Network, must be stewarded well.
Looking ahead, McRaney stated that the 2015 Network budget is based on $250,000 in new dollars received through GoFwd Mid-Atlantic, a newly named extension of the annual State Missions Offering, which will now be available for churches who want to invest in local ministry all year round.
“We have done everything we could to be efficient,” McRaney said, referring to a complete audit of all Network finances over the past year, reworking contracts and making changes in the areas of technology saving over $50,000 with increased productivity.
“We’re not asking people to do what we’re not willing to do. These are bumpy times…we must reach the world God has brought to us.”
Network President William Warren, senior pastor of Allen Memorial Baptist Church, said that as he prayed during the two-plus hours driving to the meeting from Salisbury, he felt God saying, “Let Will McRaney know you have his back, that you’re praying for him. Support him.”
Warren called McRaney a man of great vision and courage who is not afraid to tackle hard issues. Warren said McRaney is a man of truth and lives the Great Commission.
“I learned a lot today about the great challenges that lie before us,” Warren said. “I want to be a bridge builder. I want us to work together to build bridges to go forward and take as many as we can.”
Warren encouraged GMB members to pray for and encourage McRaney.
“I’d like to create a room full of prayer partners. The best thing to do for him and the staff is to pray for him,” Warren said. He said he is compiling a daily prayer partner list of those who will commit to praying for Dr. McRaney for specific needs.
“If I were in his shoes, that’s what I would want,” he said.