By Joel Rainey
Engagement Team Strategist, Evangelism & Mission Engagement
Joel Rainey, tendered his resignation and will be taking the role as lead pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, West Virginia. Below is a written report in the form of a letter by Rainey to the Network’s General Mission Board (GMB) members on Dec. 8 at the Baptist Network Center.
COLUMBIA, Md.—To my fellow Maryland/Delaware Baptists,
It has been a great privilege to serve you in various capacities for the past 11 years. When my family and I moved to Maryland in January 2005, it was because an association and state convention working in partnership had decided to take a chance on a very young, and somewhat untested man. Everything I have been able to accomplish for the sake of God’s Kingdom over the past decade is largely due to your willingness to take that risk. I will be forever grateful for the confidence, financial support, prayers, and cooperation you gave me.
Nevertheless, as you have probably already heard, I will be stepping away from serving this Network in a staff capacity to begin serving as lead Pastor of Covenant Church, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in February. I’ll be taking the ensuing weeks to prepare myself spiritually and otherwise for this new calling, tying up loose ends of commitments made by this team on my watch, and helping Network leadership with any needs relative to the coming transition. After this, I am very much looking forward to serving as a pastor again. Truthfully, this has been a journey of approximately four years. That’s how long ago it was when I first began asking the Lord to place me back in that environment. Apparently, He still had several things He wanted of me in this role first, but I am thankful that He has finally allowed me serve a local church as pastor.
I do want to make clear that this decision and subsequent move is entirely the result of God’s clear call to our family. As much has transpired in the past few months that could easily lead to the conclusion that I am leaving because of some anger or disappointment in my colleagues or our elected leaders, I want to clear the air and state that nothing could be further from the truth. I am genuinely excited about the future of this network, and see it as currently poised for its best days—to the extent that I am both saddened to leave at this time, and simultaneously excited to be stepping into a church that supports this collective work financially. Bill Warren (Network president), Mark Dooley (Outgoing GMB President), Harold Phillips (GMB Administrative Committee President), and Tom Stolle (Chief Financial Officer and former Interim Executive Director) have led with distinction and the highest character during this past year, and I have learned so much from watching each of them that I am certain will be helpful to me as I assume my new role.
I believe the future is bright for our collective work. But for me, that future will involve a different seat—one that my family and I are elated to assume. Please pray for us as we transition, and be assured of our continued prayers, affection, and financial support for a group of Baptists who have blessed us immeasurably over the past decade.
I’m also very thankful for several projects that will continue past my tenure with the Network. In addition to the stellar ongoing work in Collegiate, Disaster Relief and Love Loud departments, I will be working to solidify the following as the Engagement Team anticipates an active spring season:
#LoveBaltimore: Our Team, together with the Church Multiplication Team, is in the final stages of an agreement with Open Door America to provide a demonstration project in the city designed to help our churches bring young men out of poverty, out of the drug trade, and into a community of faith. The seminal form of this will be in partnership with The Garden Church of Baltimore, and will also involve coaching for church planters in the city who are seeking to address the systemic issues that gave rise to the riots. Bill Simpson, CEO of Open Door, is a friend and has been known to Maryland/Delaware Baptists for many years. His knowledge and expertise will be a welcome benefit to our pastors and church planters in the city. Though we have done many good things in the past there, I’m excited to see our Network move beyond merely serving food and water and providing “reactionary” ministry in the wake of tragedy toward addressing the actual causes with Kingdom solutions.
Central Asia Engagement trip for pastors: We are currently putting together a cohort of Mid-Atlantic pastors who will be traveling to the Republic of Turkey May 16-24, 2016. At the invitation of our friends at the American Turkish Friendship Association (ATFA) in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. respectively, our pastors will tour the country together, visiting both Christian and Muslim sites, conversing with our hosts in their homes, and building a growing platform that places the people in our churches in close proximity to Turkish immigrants in this area. This is far more than an intercultural junket. It’s a prototype for how global engagement happens in our current world, and I am excited to see this continue. Our Turkish friends are covering the cost of food, hotel lodging, local transportation, and any site admission costs. The Network is covering in-country flight costs, and the pastors or their churches will cover getting them to Istanbul and back, plus any incidentals. Pray that as this comes together, it becomes a catalyst for genuine friendship, understanding, peace, and the opportunity to share the greatest message of reconciliation in the history of humanity.
“Loving Neighbors in an Age of Terrorism:” Last week, I interviewed Gilles Lisimaque, a French-born brother who attends Upper Seneca Baptist Church, about the recent attacks in Paris. Gilles has a heavy heart for those who need to know Jesus, and is also passionate that his American brothers and sisters understand what is really happening on the ground in Paris. I’ll be posting that interview soon, and from that discussion came the desire to host a conference around the theme of how global Christ-followers engage a world that is engulfed in violence. Our partners at the Montgomery Baptist Association will be working with us on a “town hall” style meeting in the near future that helps those in multicultural contexts understand how best to befriend and share faith with their neighbors in an age where fear can often be our natural and first response. The title may change, and the dates are still to be determined. But no one living in a multicultural, multiethnic, multi-faith area will want to miss it!
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve our collective mission. My prayers are with Network leadership as you move forward by God’s grace, and my support and cooperation as a Network pastor will most assuredly continue. May God bless you all richly as we continue through the Season of Advent.