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Baltimore draws spotlight during Md./Del. annual meeting

TOWSON, Md. (BP)–The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware came home to Baltimore for its 170th annual meeting, Nov. 13-14 at the Sheraton North in Towson, Md.

“This is fitting for Baltimore to host the BCM/D annual meeting because it all started here 170 years ago,” said Gerald Wade, Baltimore Baptist Association’s interim director of missions.

BCM/D Executive Director David Lee unveiled a surprise — a video presentation from the North American Mission Board’s president, Robert E. Reccord, inviting Baltimore to become a Strategic Focus City.

“This means that we have the opportunity to partner with the entire Southern Baptist Convention as they join us in praying, witnessing and serving the people of greater Baltimore in the name of Jesus Christ. That is something to celebrate!” Lee said.

“There are still some hurdles,” Lee noted. “Baltimore churches must vote to invite the North American Mission Board and the BCM/D to join them…. We have some infrastructures to build.”

“Call Unto Me — Praying Together for God’s Power” was the theme of the convention, attended by 450 messengers and 160 guests representing 176 churches.

Messengers re-elected James Nichols, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Glen Burnie as president;, Lyn O’Berry, pastor of Linthicum (Md.) Baptist Church, first vice president; Robert Lilly, pastor of Catonsville (Md.) Baptist Church, second vice president; and Gayle Clifton, pastor of Olney (Md.) Baptist Church, recording secretary.

Messengers approved the BCM/D 2006 budget of $6,679,103, up $227,769 from the current budget, and the Skycroft Conference Center 2006 budget of $1,647,083.

John Gauger, vice president of the convention’s general mission board, reported on the following actions: Tae Park, BCM/D Asian church planting missionary will retire effective Dec. 31; John Draper, former Baltimore Baptist Association director of missions, began Oct. 10 in a contract position as Acts 1:8 missionary; $25,000 was transferred from BCM/D reserves to the Mississippi Baptist Convention to assist in helping Hurricane Katrina victims; and $5,000 was transferred from BCM/D reserves to Mid-Maryland Baptist Association to assist in providing food to hurricane Katrina victims.

Messengers unanimously approved resolutions to express appreciation to Ellen Udovich and George Blevins for their leadership in helping churches and individuals respond to the year’s natural disasters in a Christ-like manner and to express appreciation to all who gave offerings, provided supplies and went on mission trips. The resolution also encouraged churches and individuals to continue praying for, contributing to and going to help in the stricken areas.

H.B. London, Focus on the Family’s vice president of church, clergy and medical outreach, provided the Monday afternoon theme interpretation, “Praying Together for Our Nation,” drawing from Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (KJV).

“Our country is in a moral freefall,” London said. “Satan is encroaching on the turf of Christians. We need to stand up and say, ‘You’re not having any more of our children, our marriages or our churches!’” Christians must be the Elijahs of this generation, to take stands that are sometimes costly and sacrificial, he said.

London urged every pastor to be surrounded by prayer warriors to pray for the anointing of God, for protection and for the truth to be heard by those in the church.

He added that every congregation needs a social concern committee — a group of people who are equipped to be socially aware and to inform others.

And pastors must have the freedom to speak the truth in love, London said.

“You need to be careful how you criticize [a pastor],” London counseled. “Allow him to be bold, to speak the truth in love, not to divide or cause contention, but simply to show righteousness so that our nation is exalted and sin is disgraced.”

A patriotic tribute also was part of the Monday afternoon session. As the band played, veterans from all branches of the military rose as uniformed flag bearers brought in the banners from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines.

Marine Colonel Sam Ferguson, son of B.J. Ferguson who has ministered throughout Maryland/Delaware, shared a short testimony.

Nichols based his presidential address on the Luke 5 account of the disciples fishing all night. They were tired and hadn’t caught anything. Then Jesus said to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught.”

Nichols urged the church to go where the “fish” are; to obey the Master and to do it all in Jesus’ name and power.

Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary President Jeff Iorg gave the theme, titled “Praying Together for Our Churches,” on Monday evening.

Focusing on the priority of prayer in the church, Iorg pointed to 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5 as providing an intentional prayer strategy.

First, leaders must ask for prayer, Iorg said, noting, “When a leader asks for prayer, he reveals his dependence on God and his need for strength other than his own.”

Iorg counseled, “Keep [the church’s prayer warriors] informed and trust God for the power that comes from this incredible resource that He has given you.”

The passage also points out specific prayer requests: that the Lord’s message be spread rapidly and honored and that the Lord’s messengers be delivered from wicked and evil men.

“Trust the Lord’s promises are real when we pray,” Iorg said. “When I am frustrated or anxious, it’s generally when I’ve forgotten God’s promises, namely, that He is faithful to us.”

Finally, the leader must pray for the people, specifically that the Lord would “direct their hearts to God’s love and to Christ’s endurance.”

Lee, in his message, titled “Re-dreaming the Dream,” referenced Hebrews l2:1-3: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Lee urged Maryland/Delaware Baptists to re-dream the dream of what it means to be a state convention; to rediscover what it means to be a cooperative people; to rediscover what it means to be a missionary people; and to rediscover what it means to be a catalytic people, a people of bold initiatives.

Gary Frost, executive director of the Metropolitan New York Association, gave the Tuesday morning theme interpretation, titled “Praying Together for Our Cities.”

Frost pointed to the need for urban warriors to fight the good fight of faith with the end result of disciple-makers or “replacements” in the faith.

As Satan’s terror has reigned since the fall of Adam, Frost said, there have been great warriors of the faith — such as Abraham and David, but Jesus Christ is the “ultimate warrior” who has called the church to multiply the earth with soldiers for Christ.

“We cannot be Satan sympathizers — falling for the lust of our eyes and the pride of our flesh, but we must be faithful to the Kingdom of God,” Frost said.

Upon hearing that Adrian Rogers, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn., had died, Harold Phillips, senior pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., made a motion to send a letter from the BCM/D convention to Adrian Rogers’ family and his church offering condolences and also appreciation for the contribution Rogers made to the Kingdom of God.

Another messenger made a motion to change the process of how prospective new churches are credentialed into the BCM/D. Nichols ruled the motion out of order since the convention already has a process in place through its general mission board for credentialing new churches covering doctrinal and procedural issues.

Phillips made a motion for the executive director to form a committee to research what BCM/D can do to influence Maryland public school curriculum to be more biblical and family friendly and to bring a report to the annual meeting in 2006. “Our children’s future is at stake,” Phillips said. The motion carried unanimously.

On Tuesday afternoon, Frost gave the final theme interpretation, titled “Praying Together for Our World.”

Frost noted that disciples advance the King’s agenda by disciple-making, not “religious cloning.”

“The disciple needs to be in the midst of the body of Christ,” he said. “The whole church is responsible to develop believers for the work of God.”

Described the characteristics of a disciple-warrior, Frost said he or she first is a God-called person who has been touched by God. He contrasted the employee who looks at the clock with a laborer who looks at the assignment. The laborer says, “Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.”

The disciple-warrior is also Scripture-grounded, love-compelled, Spirit-guided and Christ-exalting, Frost said.

Rather than the individualistic adage, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” Frost urged the following response: “God’s love is for the nations, and He loves you enough to give you a place to be in it.”

Frost urged messengers to be like the disciple John, the “disciple of love,” whose great love of Jesus enabled him to receive the ultimate revelation found in the last book of the Bible.

“In so doing, the world will see Christ, not the religion, but the Person living within us,” Frost said.

In the annual sermon, Wally Weeks Jr., pastor of Pleasant View Church in Oakland, Md., said prayer is life’s ultimate privilege.

Prayer nurtures intimacy with God through the work of the Sprit, Weeks said. The Spirit then moves to produce longings for the will of God, he continued, noting that real prayer ultimately is a no-lose situation because God does not reject the prayers that originate with Him.

Next year’s meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at the Holiday Inn in Solomon’s, Md.

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