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Acts 1:8 mandate to churches underscored by Minn.-Wis. Exec

WAUKESHA, Wis. (BP)–“Let’s Go Minnesota-Wisconsin!” was the theme of the two-state convention’s annual meeting, challenging messengers to share the love of Christ with people at home and around the world.

A total of 88 messengers and 86 visitors attended the Nov. 3-5 sessions at the Country Springs Hotel and Conference Center in Waukesha, Wis., representing 40 churches from six of the convention’s eight associations.

“It’s back to the basics tonight,” Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, told the crowd, asking them to read Acts 1:8 in unison: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Endel shared his conviction that a biblical church follows the mandate of that verse and sees itself as a worldwide mission center.

“If we are going to be His witnesses in our Jerusalem, we’re going to have to get out of the walls and into the streets where the people are,” he said, asking, “If your church closed tomorrow, would your community miss you?”

Each church also has a responsibility beyond its local community and must also find ways to reach its state, its nation and its world, Endel continued.

“You and I continue to write Acts 1:8 as we are His witnesses to the world,” Endel said.

Other speakers echoed that theme.

John Avant, vice president of the evangelization group of the North American Mission Board, said Southern Baptists have gotten used to getting “boxes” from NAMB containing the latest evangelism initiative.

“When I came to this position nine months ago, I put a moratorium on creating new products,” Avant said. “No longer are we going to send you a box and say, ‘Here’s the NAMB product we want you to use.’”

Instead, Avant said, churches need to “make evangelism good news again” by doing it “the Jesus way.”

“We need to return to that place where evangelism is not just something super-Christians do once a week but is the joy of our life,” Avant said. “If we ever return to the joy of evangelism, then almost any box will do, any program will do.”

R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., noted that the Christian church is plateaued in North America and declining in Western Europe.

“Everywhere else the church is growing,” he said, citing growth in Latin America where 400 people an hour are joining evangelical churches, Korea where the Christian percentage of population has grown from 1 percent to more than 40 percent in the past 45 years, and China where a house church movement has resulted in more than 100 million believers in a communist society.

An International Mission Board representative to the Far East who was back in Minnesota-Wisconsin temporarily, challenged the convention to consider whether God might be calling it to take an international assignment.

“Is Minnesota-Wisconsin the end of the line for you, or could God be calling some of you to the ends of the earth?” asked the missionary, whose name cannot be identified for security reasons.

Kendall Moore, national literacy missionary with NAMB, encouraged churches to consider using literacy training as a tool for reaching people.

“I would encourage you to look out your door,” Moore said. “There are people out there who are waiting for you to teach them how to read and write.”

The Minnesota-Wisconsin meeting was without conflict or controversy, with no resolutions offered, all three officers elected by acclamation and the only other motion — that the recommended budget be approved — passing unanimously.

Shelby Alcott, a member of Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Greenfield, Wis., was elected president; Les Stevens, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., first vice president; and Arne Gulbrandsen, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Racine, Wis., second vice president.

The 2006 budget of $2,211.652 is down 1.8 percent from the 2005 budget. As in the 2005 budget, 13 percent of Cooperative Program receipts will be forwarded to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries, while 87 percent will be used for M-W causes. Principal changes in the budget, Endel told messengers, included 2.5 percent salary increases, the doubling of disaster relief funding and a downward adjustment of church planting funds due to decreased support from the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Also during the meeting:

— A Jan. 31 retirement date was announced for Norman Wallace, M-W church growth and health director, after 21 years on staff.

— An offering of $827.29 was received to assist churches damaged by Hurricane Katrina in the Mobile Baptist Association in Alabama.

— Special prayer was voiced for the pastor of a Hmong Baptist church in Minnesota facing possible deportation.

There were light moments during the sessions, including a rap which Guidestone representative Mike Harris wrote for his report after hearing special music during a previous session from a church that uses Christian rap in worship:

“I’m from Guidestone and I’m here to say,

“No one’s going hungry when they’re old, no way!

“Retirements, investments, insurance, too,

“What we do is all about you!

“We can help one way or another

“So you won’t have to move in with your mother.”

The resolutions committee also used humor in its report: “Whereas, no messenger has found sufficient reason, resolve or bellyaching to set forth a recommended resolution, be it resolved that we, the resolutions committee, have no resolution, fallacious or otherwise, to offer this body. Praise God, we’re free at last.”

Next year’s meeting will be Nov. 2-3 at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Duluth, Minn., with Paul Berthiaume, pastor of Jacob’s Well in Eau Claire, Wis., scheduled to preach the annual sermon. There are 13,781 members of 145 churches and missions in the Minnesota-Wisconsin convention.
David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, newsjournal of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

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