By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
COLUMBIA, Md.—Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) Executive Director David Lee declared 2011 the “Year of transformation” in his presentation to the BCM/D General Mission Board (GMB) at the Baptist Mission Resource Center on Dec. 7. Lee acknowledged that the convention faces challenges. “But I also believe that we can emerge in 2011 transformed into an improved and strengthened network of churches seeking to reach Maryland/Delaware and our world for Jesus Christ,” he said.
Bill Archer, BCM/D missionary for music and worship, led GMB members in singing a medley of Christmas carols.
Newly elected BCM/D President Ken Stalls referred to John 13:34-35, “A newcommand I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” It’s so simple, but exactly what we are to be about,” Stalls said.
Darlene Ballou, GMB vice president standing in for President David Sandvick, welcomed messengers. She told of liking foreign movies, but often times having more questions than answers in the end. Ballou said as the convention enters 2011, there may also be more questions than answers. She referenced James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Executive Director’s Report
Lee welcomed newly elected GMB members. He recognized Randy Millwood, BCM/D team strategist for the Leadership Development and Support team, for authoring the book, “To Love and to Cherish This Day Forward,” and said he is proud of Millwood. Lee called Millwood “the real deal.” Lee also recognized church multiplication missionary, David Jackson, who is in the process of publishing a second book using new church principles for existing church renewal.
Lee shared the story of a naturalist who discovers a huge cocoon and takes it home. The man is fascinated and succumbs to his curiosity. He uses a scalpel, slices open the cocoon and frees the moth. The large, beautiful creature emerges and flaps its wings, but, alas, it cannot fly.
“He has robbed from the moth the struggle to escape the cocoon and thereby has rendered his wings useless,” Lee explained. “I use the story to reinforce the fact that God sometimes allows His children to experience the wilderness, to experience the challenges, to experience even the hard times so that they can gain strength as His disciples,” Lee said.
He referenced the exodus, when God led the Israelites through the desert instead of a straight path to the Promised Land so that he could prepare them for what was ahead and to help them to trust Him.
Lee said Maryland/Delaware Baptists are a Great Commission people. “Our very mission statement reflects that,” Lee shared. “We are a Matthew 28:18-20 people. We believe that all authority does reside in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” he said.
“Maryland/Delaware Baptists are an Acts 1:8 people. We believe you start in Jerusalem. You expand to include the regions near you. You do not neglect the hard places that constitute your Samaria. And you do not stop until the Gospel reaches the uttermost parts of the earth,” he said.
“We are cooperating Southern Baptists,” he continued. Lee explained that Southern Baptist churches celebrate their autonomy, but acknowledge and choose to partner with other churches, associations and state and national conventions to do Great Commission work.
“We are a Cooperative Program people. Each church, small and large, joins resources to impact each unit of the Acts 1:8 missions map. We have been asked as partners to provide more resourcing and give more attention to the unreached people groups in our world. I want to be clear and public today and say that I wholeheartedly support doing that. It is my hope as we journey through the year of assessment and transformation that we will do everything possible to begin our journey toward the recommended 50/50 split of Cooperative Programming resourcing received throughout the state convention given by our cooperating churches. Lee reported that BCM/D’s current percentage is 59-41, a figure, Lee said, that ranks in the upper quadrant among state conventions as to percentages.
BCM/D will most likely follow the pattern of other conventions by making the commitment and journeying incrementally while evaluating ministries and making adjustments. “It is my prayer that churches will also respond to the recommendation coming out of the recent meeting in Orlando, that churches prayerfully consider increasing their Cooperative Program giving. If that happens, we can move much more quickly to our desired goal as a state convention.
“We are a missional people,” Lee continued. “Our mission and our strategic initiatives have driven our work and our work has driven our budget. Our system has been built so that it is subject to perennial evaluation—stopping the things that are not effective and marching boldly with creative new ideas for joining God where He is at work. We in fact have the reputation of being a bold and creative convention.
“We are a diverse people.” Lee said the process that will be developed at a specially called meeting in February must provide opportunity for people to be heard, needs to be assessed in all of our churches, and work to target creatively the mosaic that God has given to us as our mission field. This will take time. At times it may be a struggle. But don’t forget the moth. We don’t want this to be too easy.
“We are a church people. I am a member of a local church and so are you. All of us understand the pre-eminence of Christ and the importance he gave to the local body of believers. Whatever we choose to do in the future, it is my prayer that it will remain focused on starting and strengthening congregations so that together we can accomplish the Great Commission.”
Lee said he would like to join SBC President Bryant Wright in calling Maryland/Delaware Baptists to solemn assembly in January to pray for personal cleansing and preparation, a time of worship, a time of corporate confession, repentance and prayer and a renewal of our covenant commitments with Jesus Christ.
“If we do this well, then the other matters we have discussed will fall in place as He directs us,” Lee said.
“We can do this. We can do this together. So let’s get started. The journey begins today. I pray that the result will be genuine spiritual transformation and that Maryland/Delaware Baptists will soar with the eagles.”
BCM/D chief financial officer, Tom Stolle, presented the financial report. Looking at the operating income statement receipts, Stolle reported Cooperative Program receipts ending Oct. 31 totaling $3,595,701 trails last year’s receipts by $86,994 or 2.4 percent. Stolle said management anticipates a year-end total of approximately $4.3 million, slightly below the 2009 year end actual receipts. Additionally, Stolle said North American Mission Board (NAMB) receipts year to date of $694,852 are running below budget due primarily to several NAMB-funded positions that have not been filled this year.
Concerning operating disbursements, all of the expenses by category are within budget with the exception of the Baptist Mission Resource Center Operations. The year-to-date overage is primarily due to snow removal associated with the record snow fall totals for winter 2010 as well as dollars reserved to fund future exterior facility expenses.
The bottom line is that in the first ten months, the BCM/D operations show a loss of $22,579. That is a big improvement, however, from year-to-date March 2010 when operations reported a loss of approximately $105,000. Stolle said that the improvement is due to staff doing a great job of ministry while carefully monitoring expenses. Continuing that approach, Stolle said he believes the BCM/D will approximate a break-even bottom line by year-end, assuming Cooperative Program receipts for November and December approximate 2009 giving levels.
Concerning expenses associated with the annual State Missions Offering, Stolle explained that the prior year receipts fund the current year missions efforts. Stolle said he expects that all funds will be utilized by year-end 2010.
Concerning the balance sheet, Stolle reported that the BCM/D is in a good ready cash position. Bills are paid in full and on time. “I am thankful to God for His continued blessing.” Stolle commented. “It’s been a tough journey financially, but I’ve never been more proud of what we’re doing.”
Strategy Team Reports
Bob Simpson, BCM/D’s associate executive director, reflected on BCM/D’s last decade including a sizeable restructuring resulting in the development of five strategies and five teams, comprised of staff and lay leaders, to implement those strategies. Those teams are: church multiplication, church services, leadership development and support, Acts 1:8 missions involvement and resource development.
Several Maryland/Delaware Baptists gave brief testimonies about how one or more of these teams impacted his church, or impacted him personally.
Simpson said church planting has been very successful, with 34 new church starts this calendar year. BCM/D has been averaging 25 to 30 church starts each year for the past decade.
“This year has been especially rewarding,” Simpson said. There are new works in four people groups: Swahili, Burmese Chin, Swahili, Japanese and Cambodian.
Simpson introduced Hispanic church planter, Isaac Moncada. Moncada and his wife, Ana, arrived from Peru in May 2006 and were the first Hispanic church planters in Baltimore. Simpson said the Moncadas are “catalytic” – they establish churches and move on. He and his family have started four new churches in the area.
“Hispanic people in the United States are very different from Spanish people in our own country,” Moncada told GMB members. Moncada said BCM/D missionaries helped tremendously in providing the Moncadas with the research information they needed to do effective Hispanic ministry in the United States.
Randall Blackmon, pastor of Faith Church, Cambridge, shared about his interaction with the church services team. Blackmon said his initial acquaintance was when he and his wife attended a new ministers and spouses’ retreat in Ocean City about 15 years ago.
Blackmon spoke of his friendship with former BCM/D executive director, Charles Barnes, then later with David Lee. Blackmon said he and his church have been blessed by BCM/D children’s ministry missionary, June Holland. Holland gave much time and effort to help the church a children’s program on Wednesday nights. He praised the annual Horizons leadership conference and the benefits of the leadership training.
Blackmon said his church has also benefited through the relationship with former BCM/D chief financial officer (CFO), John Faris, and current CFO, Tom Stolle. He recognized BCM/D disaster relief missionary, Ellen Udovich, and her disaster relief training help.
Blackmon also expressed his thanks for the ministry of the BaptistLIFE staff making his congregation aware of kingdom building locally, nationally and around the world.
“Our church has proudly supported CP giving—regularly and generously but the blessings have far outweighed what our church has given. You all and we together help my church do more for Christ than we can do alone.”
Doug Dubois, executive director of Skycroft Conference Center, shared about reBoot – a student evangelism retreat to help kids who attended summer camp come back and get re-energized. “Our goal was to have 200. We had 250 with powerful speakers and good break-out sessions,” he reported. Dubois said 12 churches participated and several students accepted Christ.
Kevin Marsico, pastor of North Star Church, was blessed by a “soul care” retreat, sponsored by the leadership development and support team. Marsico said he began a journey where God whispered His pleasure and His love for him. Marsico wanted his congregation to have that experience. He coordinated with team strategist, Randy Millwood. “We coordinated dates and 20 leaders got off work. We took a day away and spent it with God,” Marsico said.
Faith Church, Knoxville, member, Alan Caho, gave his testimony regarding the Acts 1:8 missions involvement team. Caho, a retired deputy sheriff, developed BCM/D’s communications unit and he works with associational and state disaster relief ministry. Caho said disaster relief is different from other types of ministries. “These people have had everything turned upside down. When they see shirts that say Maryland/Delaware they ask, ‘Why are you here?’ We say, ‘Jesus went to the cross for me so the least I can do is come and love my neighbors.’”
Caho spent the majority of his career with the crime scene unit. Caho told GMB members that television show portrayals of this type of work are far from reality. “It’s one of the dirtiest jobs in the world. I continue to carry the baggage of the memory of seeing every lifeless child I’ve dealt with…using my skills in disaster relief validates my career,” he said. Caho said he uses his career experiences to help others deal with crisis situations.
Caho expressed concern for emergency workers damaged by their careers. Ken Stalls led members in praying for Caho, his paramedic son, and for other emergency workers.
Jimmy Painter, pastor of Cresthill Church, told how the resource development team led by Tom Stolle, has helped his church through assessment of their financial situations, recommendations for efficiency and stewardship training. Painter said Stolle also was very helpful to a new Filipino church plant that meets at the church in helping them with their financial structuring.
Agency and Committee Reports
Severna Park Church member, Jim Benson, representing the History Committee, recognized former committee chairman, Carol McGiffin, with a plaque and thanked her for her three years of outstanding service.
Robert Gerstmyer, executive director of Baptist Family & Children’s Services, told GMB members that BFCS is working to break the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness. He shared about the organization’s CHOSEN program, providing foster care and adoption. Gerstmyer said 15 children were adopted in 2010. He also discussed “Safe Families,” a service that attempts to rescue kids before they suffer abuse, neglect or trauma. This program allows Christian families to take children into their homes temporarily while a family is undergoing a crisis. Two churches now have Safe Families.
Tom Stolle gave the Baptist Foundation report. Stolle explained how the Foundation provides low interest loans and invests the funds. Currently, 16 churches have outstanding loans with the foundation. The interest from the money is used to strengthen and start churches.
As of Sept. 30, the market value of the investment portfolio was $6,236,414. For the quarter ended Sept. 30, the portfolio performance reflected a return of 8.3 percent. The 12-month return was 9.5 percent.
The sale of a portion of the Baptist Mission Resource Center building provided an additional $1,000,000 invested in the foundation.
The foundation continues to focus on planned giving and education.
Embrace Wilmington Executive Director Mitch Dowell reflected on Nehemiah, who wept and fasted when he heard the wall was broken down. “He had a holy discontent with the situation. When I think about Embrace, I see people in distress, spiritually broken down walls, and I weep and mourn for that city,” Dowell said.
Dowell said he had an opportunity to meet a lot of people, from the homeless to the governor. “That’s a real good thing. I think I need to establish credibility if I am going to help churches make an impact,” he said.
Dowell reported that the churches have had a good summer. Mission teams were mobilized to come and help; partnerships were formed. On Nov. 3, LOMA Coffeehouse opened in Wilmington, as a place to meet and get to know each other. A nearby ministry area will be opening soon. Dowell said he has already talked to several people in the coffeehouse who are interested in Bible studies. Ogletown Church plans to do a five-week summer camp in 2011.
Dowell said he has had the opportunity to preach in many churches in Delaware. “The goals remain the same: church planting, strengthening and community impact,” he said.
John Boulet, senior pastor of Hockessin Church, spoke to the board regarding an upcoming GMB special meeting in February. He posed several questions to the GMB.
Boulet said the Cooperative Program is good, but not enough is reaching the International Mission Board (IMB). He likened it to a train that must stop at hundreds of stations before it gets to the IMB, which he said is the “caboose car.” “Does the disbursement to oversee missions satisfy the expectation of our churches?” he asked.
He also questioned whether the desire to do more “good things” has diluted the intended impact of CP. Boulet questioned what can be done at the local church level instead of at the state level so that more funds can be channeled to IMB, NAMB and other outside mission organizations.
Ken Stalls told GMB members he was humbled at his recent election as BCM/D president. Stalls referred to Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Stalls said, “Though churches are not Immanuel, He is in us. Our commission is to be that presence everywhere we are,” he said, referring to John 20:21, “… As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (NIV).
“I don’t know what will happen in the time that lies before us. But I know clearly we are to take the presence of God with us wherever we go. If we ever get away from that we might as well go home and forget it.
“I’m so happy to be a part of this portion of God’s kingdom. I’ve served as a pastor, a church planter and a director of missions. I love where God has put me at this stage of life. It’s an exciting place to be. I believe God has placed us here for such a moment as this.”
Stalls said that as he draws closer to retirement, he believes God is showing him what the important things are. “I believe He’s doing that for us as a state convention. Let’s find out what they are and do them with all the fervor we can.”