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Canadian Baptists celebrate baptism, church member records

CALGARY, Alberta, Canada (BP)–A year setting visionary goals, record increases in baptisms and church membership were reported at the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists’ annual meeting.

Messengers also heard challenges to be courageous and believe God during their July 4-6 sessions at Calgary’s Richmond Hill Baptist Church.

And they heard of the effectiveness of Canada’s partnerships with the International and North American Mission boards, Tennessee Baptist Convention and Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary.

The national convention’s 16th annual meeting was preceded by a two-day Xtreme Leadership conference, designed with 33 workshops to help equip pastors and laypeople with 21st century skills necessary to bring to fruition the convention’s goals: 100,000 baptisms, 1,000 churches and 30 international missionaries by the year 2020.

“God has brought great people to our convention and has really motivated us to work toward a greater vision,” said Mimi Chan, pastor’s wife at Evangel Chinese Baptist, Edmonton, Alberta. “He is doing impossible things for us.”

Alan Braun, pastor at Abundant Life Christian Fellowship, Penticton, British Columbia, was re-elected president for a second one-year term.

“If we’re going to take Canada, it will take a convention of churches who see themselves as responsible before God to get this thing done,” Braun preached during the annual meeting, which also broke attendance records with nearly 500 participants representing the convention’s 9,100 members. “God commands us to do things we cannot do.”

In addition to 691 baptisms and more than 1,000 new members of Canadian Southern Baptist churches, both record increases, 19 congregations were added to the convention in 1999, reported Paul Johnson, CCSB church planting consultant. Eight congregations were started in the first three months of this year, he added.

“I believe our vision is a promise from God about what he intends to do in our convention,” Gerry Taillon, the convention’s national ministry leader, said in his annual report. He challenged the participants to venture out with God and see what God would do.

“Everywhere I go in Canada I sense an excitement about what God is doing,” Taillon said. “Pastors are telling me that God is leading them to plant a church or in some cases many churches. God is confirming his vision among his people and leading them to step out in faith and see it accomplished.”

During a 30-minute open forum Thursday morning, layman Harry Dulrage of Johnstown, Ontario, spoke of a conversation he had with his wife.

“Don’t overlook old age,” Dulrage said. “We’re both approaching 80 and this morning at breakfast we said we think the Lord wants us to plant another church.” It will be his third and her second church start. The couple married last year.

Taillon reminded annual meeting participants that the goal is not simply 100,000 baptisms, but 100,000 transformed lives.

“Last night’s message [by Taillon] was so challenging and convicting that if it doesn’t change my life, something’s wrong,” said Ralph Griggs of Langley, B.C. A second-year student at the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, Griggs said he wanted to be pastor of one of the thousand churches the convention has voted to start by the year 2020.

The seminary is of pivotal importance to meeting the convention’s goals, Richard Blackaby said in his report to the convention. Blackaby is president of the Canadian Baptist Seminary. “The greatest limiting factor for the accomplishment of the convention’s goals is leadership,” Blackaby said. “In light of this, the seminary has been doing everything possible to provide the highest quality training for the largest number of people across the convention.”

The Canadian seminary’s first doctor of ministry seminar this year included seven students. The school expects to become fully accredited this year, and additional student housing has been completed. The first class of two-year college students graduated, and trustees have approved a third year. Satellite learning centers also are being developed.

The convention’s goals figured prominently in the messages of several guest speakers, including Charles Roesel, pastor of First Baptist Church, Leesburg, Fla., and Rick Ferguson, pastor of Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church.

In addition to Braun’s re-election, Scott Plavnick was elected first vice president and Miller Zhuang, second vice president. Plavnick is pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Mississauga, a Toronto suburb. He was elected by acclamation. Zhuang is pastor at Richmond Chinese Baptist, a Vancouver suburb. Zhuang ran unopposed after a second nominee declined to serve.

Messengers approved a $2,161,274 operating budget for 2001, up from $1.99 million in 2000. This includes $100,435 for world missions through the Cooperative Program in 2001, up from $89,533 in 2000. An additional $157,218 was earmarked for support of missionaries sent out from Canada in cooperation with the International Mission Board.

The Wednesday evening service included a commissioning service for missionary appointees Abraham and Grace Shepherd and their children Rachel and Ryan. The Shepherds, who have been serving in Ontario, will be working with an unreached people group. They are the fourth family from Canada to serve in partnership with Southern Baptists in international missions.

A three-day youth rally concurrent with the annual meeting involved guest speakers, age-appropriate music and acts of kindness. More than 80 youth washed cars in the Richmond Hill Baptist parking lot and distributed canned drinks and flyers to people in 750 nearby homes to promote the church’s ministries.

“The speakers said a lot of encouraging things,” said Amos Rossworm of the youth rally. He works on a wheat farm with his father, and with the youth at Worsley (Alberta) Baptist Church. “My dad once heard from someone that it’s not how close you can live to the edge, but how close you can get to God. These speakers helped me to focus on that again.”

Volunteers from Ellensburg (Tenn.) Baptist Church adapted the Mt. Extreme Vacation Bible School materials for about 60 children of convention participants. Their workday stretched from 8:30 a.m. to as late as 10:30 p.m.

The next annual meeting of the Canadian Convention of Southern Baptists will be July 3-5, 2001, in Penticton, B.C. It will be preceded by the second annual Xtreme Leadership Conference.