By Sharon Mager

COLUMBIA, Md.—Newly elected Kevin Smith, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (currently doing business as the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network), gave his first address to the General Mission Board (GMB) at their Sept. 6 meeting at the Baptist Center, sharing his heart for unity and prayer.

Phil Gifford, church strengthening specialist for music and worship, led a “grace” themed time of worship.
GMB President Mike Trammell called the meeting to order and Lance Metcalf prayed, “We’re thankful for the gift of another day…the privilege of knowing and serving you…and we’re thankful for your grace….”

Report from Executive Directorkevinsmithcmyk
Smith welcomed GMB members and shared that he and his family are settling into their new home in Annapolis. He is getting to know staff and pastors, their burdens, passions, gifts and skills.

He told GMB members that he not only affirms and agrees that the executive director is accountable to the GMB but that he will enjoy reporting to the GMB as they meet through the year, adding that he has served as a convention president and as a GMB chairman, so he understands his role.

Smith shared his priorities for the remainder of 2016 and early 2017:

• Heal and strengthen our fellowship, especially regarding those in different geographical areas. For example, he said, those in the Western Baptist Association should have a good understanding of and fellowship with those in Delaware.

• Clarify our distinctiveness and our strengths. Each state convention has certain areas where they are especially strong, Smith said. For example, the Kentucky Baptist Convention has great children’s homes; Oklahoma has the best camps around.

“What are the strengths of Maryland/Delaware? We want to focus resources on the things we do well and be very strategic in supporting our churches.

“One of the best things about meeting with pastors and meeting with small groups of pastors is finding out the challenges that they’re dealing with and the way that the state convention can best support the vision they have for their church and the ministry context in which they find themselves,” Smith said.

• Encourage Cooperative Ministry—Biblically, the reality is that we can do more together than individually, Smith continued. For example, over the last few weeks people have been in great pain in Louisiana. The Cooperative Program allows Southern Baptists to be there.

“It takes a mass of people who can put together hundreds of thousands of dollars, even millions of dollars, to buy significant equipment, to have a significant size of churches to pull and deploy enough retired and self employed individuals who have the time to help. That’s just one demonstration of what people can do together. It would be impossible to do that alone. Smith said large churches with $6-8 million budgets can’t do individually as one church what we can do together.

Smith also said, “I want to make sure that in our church planting and our church multiplication efforts that we are sharing our Southern Baptist identity with brothers and sisters.”

WMU’s mission education programs, such as Girls in Action and Royal Ambassadors, instilled a Southern Baptist identity that we clearly understand allowed us to have resources we don’t have today, he said.

• Clarify our particular BCM/D mission focus based on our “bandwidth.” We aren’t able to do everything, Smith said. Some choices will be made. “When you try to do everything, you do most of those things poorly,” he said.
Smith said he wants to build up the convention’s presence in Annapolis and Dover.

We had an initiative where we spent time, prayer, communication and outreach with members of the United States Senate. Modeling those things, we will do that with those in our state capitals, he explained.
Living in Annapolis, Smith said he will be getting to know state leaders and will do likewise in Delaware, partnering with the Delaware Baptist Association and churches.

To be more successful, Smith said he would encourage churches to be diligent in completing their Annual Church Profile (ACP) reports.

When we say Maryland/Delaware Baptists, how many people are we really talking about? Smith asked. “Every soul matters, but when we’re talking to people in Annapolis and Dover they want to know how many souls we’re talking about. We need an idea of who we are, so when we’re talking and we’re trying to represent a public witness, we need to know— are we Mighty Mouse or Mini Mouse?”

Smith said the ACP also reports on baptisms, which help with ministry evaluation. “Are we being fruitful? Jesus looked upon the multitudes and was moved with compassion and prayed to the Lord of the harvest to send workers to the vineyards. How do we know if we’re reaping from the harvest? We need some type of measurement,” he said. Smith encouraged churches to at least complete the ACP information regarding worship attendance, discipleship and baptisms.

Regarding the Cooperative Program, Smith said, “I hope in the next 18 months we can recoup the decline of the last several years of the Cooperative Program. The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force Report says CP is the baseline of what we do cooperatively as Southern Baptists so I would love to be at a $4 million level as a flat baseline.”

Smith said giving to the CP does several things. “It says that we are collectively partnering in cooperative ministry together. Secondly, it says that we value the things we do here in Maryland and Delaware.”

Smith said a $4 million level keeps the convention at a good, healthy 15 percent level with its NAMB cooperative budget and agreements.

“A strong Cooperative Program at the state convention says that those churches are committed to the mission of that convention and the things we’re doing cooperatively, and it says we want to be a healthy partner with our national entities with regard to missions and strategies.”

Regarding the State Missions Offering (SMO), Smith said he wants to recoup $100,000 and ultimately get into the $200,000-$300,000 range. In addition, Smith said the SMO is an opportunity to partner with other non-SBC Bible-believing churches.

“The Cooperative Program is us doing our thing and identifying ourselves as cooperative Southern Baptists. The State Missions Offering is a place where any Bible-believing Christian who supports the things that we do and wants to support our mission can contribute,” he said.

Smith affirmed the Network’s relationship with the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “Our relationship is in a very good state,” he said.

Next year is the renewal of the three-year strategic cooperative agreement with NAMB, Smith said. “I feel good about how things are going with our [NAMB] regional vice-president Steve Davis and, of course, the president of the North American Mission Board, Dr. [Kevin] Ezell. I’m excited and hopeful with the way things stand,” he said.

Smith said he’s also had interaction with the SEND D.C. coordinator. We will have some good partnerships especially regarding southern Maryland and Washington, D.C., suburbs.

Smith shared he has been spending time with other convention leaders in the Mid-Atlantic region, hearing their burdens and concerns and sharing some of the Network’s joys and challenges.

Smith said he would also spend significant time in the South building partnerships. We’re not a South convention, but we’re not like a frontier convention, he said. Churches in the South want gateways into the Northeast and they want trusted partners – those whom they can trust with both the Gospel and their resources.

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary will be a great partner in ministry, providing resources and theological opportunities for pastors and churches, Smith said, adding that the convention will always have a good relationship with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, due to Smith’s past teaching experience at the school.

Smith said he had a good visit with Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and that LifeWay will be a faithful partner in ministry.

Culturally, Smith said he would stand for religious liberty. “We are Baptists. Baptists believe in religious liberty for everybody – if we believe in religious liberty then we certainly believe in the corollary of free speech.” Smith said that includes everyone—Quakers, Muslims, … “I will go out of my way to educate people on [religious liberty] and make sure we’re speaking historically and accurately about those things,” he said.

Smith said we must learn and know one another for the purpose of unity.

“Different types of Southern Baptists must understand and appreciate one another for spiritual reasons to provide a viable platform for the Holy Spirit to use us in some wonderful ways,” he said.

Smith encouraged appreciation for one another and understanding different ministry contexts regarding church planting, replanting and revitalization.

“We have to believe different is just different. It’s not better; it’s not worse,” he said.

Some churches are louder, quieter, shorter and longer. Some are very close to college campuses and must adapt to meet those needs.

Smith said regarding church planting, some new starts are in middle class neighborhoods where two to three years is reasonable to expect viability and the development of a base of tithers and givers. However, two to three years of supplementation by the Network and NAMB is not a reasonable window in an area of high poverty, he explained, which might require another type of supplemental arrangement possibly through SMO and other resources that provides supplementation into years four, five or six.

We need Baptists in good suburban comfortable areas to understand that about the poverty areas. They are ministering in different contexts, he said.

Smith also emphasized strengthening the convention’s Southern Baptist identity.

“Your profile [requirements for the executive director role] said you’re looking for a Southern Baptist man. I’m a Southern Baptist man! If you wanted a generic evangelical man your profile should have said that,” Smith said with a big grin.

Smith encouraged GMB members to attend the Network’s Annual Meeting in November.

“We will have a strong emphasis on prayer,” Smith said, noting the theme will be “United in prayer, seeking Christ’s Spirit” from Acts 1.

“Southern Baptists are good at strategy, and vision and planning, and I believe that those things matter, but if you read the New Testament, nothing happens with mass groups of people being moved by the Gospel without the Holy Spirit moving.

“Vision and strategy and planning do not work regeneration. John 3 says regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit. We want to provide a platform by us being a unified, united body, being attentive, like the disciples were in the beginning of the book of Acts waiting for the promise of the Spirit and a desire for God to use us and move among us,” said Smith.

He encouraged pastors to bring their church members to the Annual Meeting. Ephesians 4:11-12 (“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”) is very important to me, Smith said.

“State Baptist conventions are not conventions of pastors, they’re conventions of churches. We want to make sure we have members of our churches richly engaged in leadership and serving in areas of ministry,” he said.
Smith said he would speak at the Lay Leaders brunch at the Annual Meeting, though he said he prefers the term, “saints” as opposed to “lay leaders.”

Moving forward, Smith said he wants to bond with his team leaders.

“I’m excited. I’m happy to be here. I hope that we will pursue a path of John 17, where Jesus says, “I pray that they will all be one….”

Budget Report
GMB members approved a $7,585,448 budget, including Skycroft Conference Center, which will be presented at the Annual Meeting in November for final approval by messengers.

Budgeted Cooperative Program receipts total $3,750,000. The 2017 budget incorporates a 1 percent increase in the amount of cooperative program receipts that are sent out of our region to the SBC. This sets the proposed percentage split for 2017 to 56.5 percent staying in the region and 43.5 percent sent out of the region.

Budgeted expenses include State Missions Offering dollars designated for Skycroft Camp Evangelism, Special Needs Initiatives and Church Planting Initiatives.

Communications is consolidated into the executive office, allowing for more efficient sharing of ideas and vision.
Financial Services, Baptist Resource Center Operations and Evangelism (Engagement and Training) are merged to create the Convention Operations Team.

Total budgeted receipts for Skycroft are $2,252,339, which represents the total received associated with camp attendees and usage of the facility. The majority of expenses represent the cost to service guests, operate the facility and perform repairs and maintenance.

Financial Report
Chief Financial Officer Tom Stolle presented the financial report. Stolle said when compared to July year-to-date last year, Cooperative Program is down $150,513 or 6.6 percent. Stolle reported that management believes Cooperative Program will end 2016 approximating $3.7 – $3.75 million. This, he emphasized is dependent on churches investment in ministry through the Cooperative Program.

“God has continued to provide our needs,” Stolle said. “But that doesn’t mean tough decisions won’t have to be made.”
Receipts from the North American Mission Board total $513,563.48 tear-to-date, which Stolle said is consistent with year-to-date budgeted expectations.

Referring to the operating income statement, Stolle reported that the year-to-date bottom line deficit is of only $1,344. Understanding that CP giving accounts for approximately seventy cents of every non-Skycroft budgeted dollar received, the bottom line depends on how churches respond in giving, Stolle said.

Regarding Skycroft, the statement shows an year-to-date receipts exceeding disbursements by $266,194, however, Stolle explained, that is due to a majority of income received over the summer. There will be incoming expenses. “I do anticipate that we will break even at the end of the year, but Skycroft operating margins are thin,” Stolle said. “We’re very appreciative of the ministry of the Skycroft staff and what they do,” Stolle said.

Baptist Foundation
Stolle, reporting for the Baptist Foundation, said 16 churches have outstanding loans from the church loan fund. Income earned for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 will be used to start and strengthen churches. Current estimates indicate that this income will total between $110,000 to $125,000. Each year at the Annual Meeting, the Foundation presents a check to the BCM/D to start and strengthen churches. Churches that received strengthening church grants benefit from this fund.

Three churches have outstanding loans from the Arthur Nanney church loan fund. The Arthur Nanney fund was established in 2006 to provide small emergency loans to churches.

Regarding investment balances and market performance, as of June 30, the market value of the investment portfolio was $7,148,793. The most recent calendar quarter portfolio performance reflected a return of -0.1 percent, the three year return totaled 6.0 percent.

Stolle reminded members that the Foundation provides financial stewardship training and manages endowment funds for churches and associations. Even those with modest investment needs may take advantage of the same discounts offered to multi-million dollar investors.

The Foundation also provides education to churches, highlighting faithful stewardship as well as offering various options to give financially to the Lord’s work both in life and death. For more information, visit the Foundation website, www.bcmd.org/baptist-foundation.

Other Business
GMB members voted unanimously to release a reverter clause on First Baptist Church of Edgewater’s property at 38 West Central Avenue, Edgewater, noting that funds from the sale of the property could be used for future ministry in the community. The church merged with Riva Trace Baptist Church.

After discussion, GMB members voted in favor of suspending a previous action decided in May regarding the affiliation of an association of Korean Baptist churches with the Network, like a geographical association, until collaboration can take place between Kevin Smith, the Korean churches, and members of the affiliation committee.

Members also voted to return to the legal name of the convention, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, but asked that messengers be given an opportunity to vote on this action during the Annual Meeting in November. Harold Phillips, chariman of the Administrative Committee, said the “doing business as” name Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network was causing confusion to churches and others outside the convention. The final decision will be on the agenda at the Annual Meeting.

Additionally, members voted to authorize up to $400,000 to negotiate the purchase of 43 acres of land, which includes an old farmhouse, adjacent to the Skycroft Conference Center that has become available for sale.

Mike Trammell explained that currently, Skycroft is restricted from building or expanding any part of its operations without upgrading wastewater fields, which were designed and installed in 1974.

Doug DuBois, Network strategist, evangelism & mission engagement and executive director of Skycroft, said that if the property would pass a perc test it would be approved as a location for an upgraded wastewater field and allow for further improvements and expansion of Skycroft’s operations.

Smith said at some point the convention would have to address the issues of sanitation and water flow. In addition, the land would provide a needed buffer for Skycroft.

DuBois said, depending on the expenses for legal costs, the upgrading of the wastewater fields could be made at a later time, but at least the land would be secured.

Following the business session, Smith recognized outgoing members of the GMB: Jesse Arce, Steffan Carr, Cecil Cunigan, Mark Dooley, Ken Fentress, Glen Leatherman, Andrew Morgan, David Orr, Bill Warren and Mike Trammell.
Trammell presented Executive Office Coordinator Donna Jefferys with a box of candy, thanking her for doing a “yeoman’s job” of running the executive office in the midst of the transition of executive directors.

Convention president
Outgoing Network President Bill Warren, in his final closing remarks to the GMB, said according to statistics, it takes 19 Maryland/Delaware Baptists to lead one person to Christ, Warren said.

“That’s not acceptable,” he said. “My question for you is whether you are a paid or unpaid ‘saint,’ do you have someone on your heart, on your prayer list and on your schedule?”

Many don’t, Warren said. Unfortunately, some pastors say they don’t have a lost person on their heart because they’ve got 99 sheep. They’re afraid if they don’t take care of the sheep they’ll lose their jobs.

“If you’re an unpaid saint, you might say, ‘It’s not my job,’ that’s why we have a shepherd. Or, ‘That’s not my gift. My gift is not evangelism.’

“Maybe you say we just don’t have time…”

“You might say, ‘Well, I don’t know any lost sheep.’ I say get out of the saltshaker.”

Warren suggested a website called, pray4everyhome.com. “They’ll send you five names in your neighborhood to pray for.

“If you don’t have a lost person on your heart, on your prayer list and on your schedule, you need to repent. Ask God to guide you to someone in your neighborhood to lead to Christ.”

Ken Fentress closed the meeting in prayer. “Thank you for our new executive director…for your grace to us as your children…we have come through many dangerous toils and snares and we’re so thankful for your amazing grace.”