GMB meets in Redland Baptist Church’s “Barn”
By Sharon Mager
The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware’s (BCM/D) General Mission Board (GMB) met on May 11 in a barn. Actually, the “barn” is one of several buildings situated on Redland Baptist Church’s property in Rockville, Maryland. With the doors open on a breezy, comfortable day, combined with masks and distancing, the barn offered extra safety for the GMB’s first entirely in-person meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began.
GMB President Frank Duncan welcomed members and Redland Baptist Church’s music team provided music via a recorded video
Duncan thanked Redland Church for the use of their facility, and he thanked GMB members for their perseverance through the past year.
After sharing from Colossians 1:9-18, Duncan prayed, “Lord, I can’t think of a better way to start this GMB meeting than with that last verse, ‘that in all things You might have pre-eminence.’ Lord, we live as believers, those who have personally placed our faith in You, so that You may be pre-eminent in our lives, so that You might be the One who receives all the glory.
“As a convention of churches in Maryland/Delaware, may it be that in all that we do … in the work we share together, that You will have pre-eminence. Work through our effort. Apart from you, we can do nothing. But in You, we are establishing and advancing that eternal kingdom.”
Associate Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle said Cooperative Program (CP) receipts totaled $1,138,734.58 for the four months ended April 30. CP receipts, he reported, are up $48,682.57 or 4.5%. Year-to-date April CP receipts trail budget by ($77,932.08) or (6.4%).
“That we are outperforming last year by 4.5% for the first third of the year is significant, and we certainly thank God for His provisions,” Stolle said. “Through this pandemic, God has sustained our convention and our affiliated churches.”
Receipts from the North American Mission Board (NAMB) total $246,750, or 26.7% of the budget. Financial support received from NAMB is not recognized evenly throughout the year. Stolle said management expects this income to approximate budget at year-end.
Regarding disbursements, Stolle reported no major ministry/expense areas are over budget. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we interact with churches. “We continue to engage our churches and pastors virtually, although more in-person interaction is expected as the year progresses and as regulations ease and apprehension concerning COVID-19 decreases,” he explained.
For the four months ended April 31, 2021, the bottom-line deficit totals ($33,713.99).
Regarding State Missions Offering (SMO), for the four months ended April 30, $10,499.41 of the $103,041.90 received has been expended, with most dollars expended toward ministry assistance for our Kenya partners.
Directing attention to Skycroft Conference Center, Stolle said Skycroft is still heavily impacted by regulations and consumer apprehension concerning COVID-19. “Some are ready to go out, some are afraid, and others fall somewhere in the middle, and that affects us, especially regarding camp.” Both income and expenses are well below budget due to the lack of activity on the mountain. Income is at 16.2% of budget, and expenses are at 16.26%.
The pandemic and associated government regulations mean fewer guests, and it’s still a struggle financially, he shared.
“The good news is that we are seeing an increase in the number of retreats. We had fifteen retreats since January and ten baptisms.” Stolle said staff anticipates having 2021 summer camps, but there will likely be fewer guests than in past years due to governmental regulations and some remaining consumer apprehension related to the pandemic.
Stolle expressed thankfulness for the Payroll Protection loan support, which allowed Skycroft to retain its full-time core staff. “The staff has worked hard improving the property and performing various maintenance and upkeep tasks throughout the pandemic. They are to be commended for their hard work and dedication to the ministry.”
Stolle said Skycroft might report a deficit at the year-end of 2021. “It is too early to project what that deficit might be due to the impact of regulations and when and if those regulations are lifted.” Stolle encouraged members to pray for Skycroft.
Stolle shared that the financial bottom line is that BCM/D is “in a good ready cash position with its bills paid in full and on time.” Reserves total approximately $3,659,083.55.
“COVID-19 is nothing for God,” Stolle said with a smile.
Baptist Foundation Report
Stolle, also reporting for the Baptist Foundation, shared that 17 churches currently have loans through the Foundation. Thirteen have secured loans and four unsecured emergency loans through the Arthur Nanney church loan fund for small emergency loans to churches. Interest from the loans is used to start and strengthen churches.
Stolle encouraged churches to contact him for information regarding stewardship and preparation for planned giving. “We have a passion for believers leaving a financial legacy,” he shared.
Executive Director’s Report
BCM/D Executive Director Dr. Kevin Smith thanked GMB members for their service through the challenging year. Through the pandemic, churches have been persevering in sharing the Gospel. “I am excited about where we are. I don’t know if you realize it, but since last March (2020) Maryland/Delaware church congregations baptized and discipled believers. They didn’t do international missions, but a whole lot of local missions.” Smith cited food and clothing giveaways, the provision of hot spots for students, and the provision of COVID-19 testing and vaccination registration help, just to name a few of the various outreaches.
“In many ways the Lord has blessed, and I want you to know that and to feel good that God’s faithfulness is consistent in challenging times.” Smith shared that since the pandemic began, many churches have called pastors. They went through virtual search and interview processes before in-person meetings. Additionally, some churches moved forward in building programs.
Smith emphasized that COVID-19 clarified vision, revealing strengths and weaknesses. “Nothing in church life is caused by COVID-19. Anything that happened in church life during COVID-19 revealed that. If you had good fellowship, COVID-19 revealed that. If you had poor fellowship, COVID-19 revealed that.” Also, he continued, COVID-19 revealed if a pastor based decisions on his knowledge of church members or if a pastor was disconnected from the membership.
He was greatly encouraged to see pastors’ willingness to be flexible. “A lot of guys didn’t like this video stuff and all that, but they ‘turned on a dime’ in two weekends last March.” As a result, some churches were surprised to see additional people viewing their services and becoming engaged.
COVID-19 also exposed gifts, Smith said. Many pastors have been excited about young people in the church stepping up to help with technology needs.
Looking ahead to the national convention in June, Smith told GMB members, “My greatest prayer is the unity of brothers and sisters who are seeking to cooperate together.”
Pointing to international ministries, Smith said, “Our missionaries on the ground have been able to do fascinating things.” He added that IMB missionaries are involved in just about every happening shared on news posts around the world. And in closed countries where they are unable to engage, they are still providing help in some capacity.
Chuckling, Smith said, “We’re like Walmart,” having so many resources that sometimes we forget what we have.
Looking at “state-side” ministries, Smith said, “The CP allows us to do what we do to serve Maryland/Delaware Baptists.” The BCM/D staff has been continuing to engage with pastors and leaders, providing encouragement, guidance, conflict resolution, and assessments.
While talking with planters of churches three years old and less, Smith said they were horrified at the idea of planting amid a pandemic. However, they have been surprised at the incredible opportunities that opened to reach people, become established, and grow.
Referring to God’s blessings on the churches as they engage their communities during COVID-19, Smith, quoting Sir Winston Churchill, said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”
Sharing about church services, BCM/D State Director of Evangelism Mark Dooley said he’s thankful for a tremendous team.
Dooley cited Children’s and Youth Ministry Consultant Kris Buckman. “She is a rockstar in her world. I could not have been more impressed with her creativity.” He referenced her development of a BCM/D KidsMin Facebook page, which has opened a tremendous door for children’s ministers to collaborate.
Amy Smith has moved from international resort ministry in Ocean City to a different calling, Dooley reported. Some of the funds from her position were shifted to Buckman, increasing her hours and providing the opportunity to add the youth ministry component to her job description.
Dooley updated GMB members regarding upcoming events, including two pastor appreciation events at Skycroft, Roundtable teaching conferences, revitalization webinars, and a Renovate conference in October.
Visit the BCM/D website events page for more information on upcoming opportunities.
In Miscellaneous Business, Randall Blackmon, the pastor of Faith Baptist Fellowship Church in Cambridge, Maryland and the chairman of the BCM/D affiliation committee, shared Temple Hill Baptist Church’s request to become affiliated with the convention. The request followed a recent presentation by Dr. Smith. The church felt affiliation would provide greater cooperation opportunities. Blackmon said, “they eagerly anticipate serving.”
Temple Hills Church is led by Pastor Omar Johnson. Johnson has his Master of Divinity from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Formerly a member, Johnson became pastor of the church in 2019.
BCM/D President Harold Phillips, who pastors Pleasant View Church in Port Deposit, Maryland, shared from Mark 14, referencing Jesus’ time in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Phillips fondly remembers visiting the Garden and was there for a worship service many years ago. He still remembers a preacher sharing that even Jesus, when headed for the garden, knew He needed prayer.
And He told Peter and the other disciples to pray, though they slept. “He told them, you need to be praying! It’s coming! Temptation is coming! Challenge is coming!“
Turning to the present, Phillips looking at GMB members said, “We’ve come through a whole lot and we may have a whole lot more to go.
“The bottom line is we need to be praying people but we also need to be helping our people be praying people.”
Phillips said as believers, we pray for our families, our churches and presidents, and sometimes, we feel discouraged – like no work is getting done. But often, the work getting done is in us, he shared. Prayer allows us, like Jesus, to accept God’s will. It allows us to accept the weakness of others.
“What’s shocking to me is that prayer is something that even gave Jesus strength. When He went into the garden He was beside himself because He knew what He was facing. But He came out like a lion. What changed? A few hours of prayer.”
Phillips said prayer is more than getting, or hearing from God. It’s about saying “Oh God,” this is what I will, but if you choose to do something different, I will serve you.
“Prayer is being transformed. it changes hearts, minds, everything about who we are and whose we are.”