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Colo. annual meeting marked by worship, church planting vision

VAIL, Colo. (BP)–Routine business took a back seat to extended times of worship, prayer, testimonies and focus on a God-sized vision for a statewide church planting movement during the Oct. 23-24 annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist General Convention.

With the theme of “A Church Grows in Colorado,” worship and testimonies highlighted the diversity of Colorado’s Southern Baptist local churches. Messengers also reaffirmed the centrality of God’s Word and a cooperative spirit as the defining characteristics that unify Southern Baptists. The program exclusively featured Coloradoans leading in worship, sharing testimonies and preaching.

Mark Edlund, the convention’s new executive director/treasurer, shared his vision for an aggressive church planting movement exploding across the state in his inaugural annual meeting message to the CBGC.

“I see a church growing in Colorado, a church whose roots are deep. And no matter what happens, that church grows,” Edlund said. “I see a church planting movement that would result in 3,000 churches and 600,000 SBC members in the next 20 years.”

Edlund used population statistics along with CBGC history to examine questions such as “Where have we been? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? And what is it going to look like when we get there?”

He also pointed out that numbers could be tricky. “Yes, we’ve grown. We have more churches. We have more missions. We have more members.

“But we’ve lost ground,” he said.

“Church planting has to be done intentionally and exponentially, rather than incrementally,” he said, showing how Colorado’s population is far outpacing the growth of Southern Baptists in the state.

“Healthy churches plant healthy churches,” Edlund said, adding that, “Every church should be planting churches.”

In his first six months on the job, Edlund traveled the state, visiting with directors of missions, pastors and church leaders to discover the heartbeat of Colorado’s Southern Baptists — who they are and how they perceive themselves.

“Every church should be focused on the Great Commission,” Edlund said. “Some churches need refocusing or restarting. Some churches need hospice care — helped to die with dignity and then be reborn.

“Convention harmony and unity are found in scriptural authority and cooperative missions,” he added.

Accomplishing the Great Commission in Colorado, Edlund said, requires “moving away from corporate models and penetrating lostness.”

“Various segments in Colorado need different strategies,” he said. “With resources always flowing toward lostness.”

Edlund said his immediate goals for the CBGC include emphases on strategic focus, segmentation, leadership development, revitalization/refocus and prayer/evangelism.

During the meeting, four Colorado pastors shared testimonies about places in Colorado already experiencing a church planting movement.

Robert Finif, pastor of Fairplay (Colo.) Baptist Church, testified how he was saved because of the ministry of a Colorado church planter, Richard Vera.

After hitting rock bottom in his life, he entered a drug rehabilitation program in Vail. About three months in the program, Finif met Vera, pastor at the time of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Edwards. Vera invited him to attend church where he was then saved.

“I couldn’t stay out of the Word,” Finif recounted. Under the mentorship of Vera and another Colorado pastor, Ron Rogers, Finif was discipled and discovered his role in ministry, which began in the youth group in Edwards and led to an adult Sunday school leadership role in Leadville. Eventually, he became pastor in Fairplay.

God led Finif to begin Wednesday night and Sunday night Bible studies and activities at the Fairplay church. And when he took the youth group to Super Summer statewide youth camp, they caught a vision of what God intends for them to be in their local school.

“But God’s not done yet,” Finif said. “He’s called me to Hartsel, where a Bible study has already been started. And when we’re done there, he wants us in Como.

“As a kid, I was a throwaway; society thought I was useless,” Finif said. “But God took all that and, as he molds us, he leaves his fingerprints all over us. He’s not done yet.”

Brett Crimmel, church planter and pastor of the The Church at the Crossing in Parker, shared how God is growing his cell group-based church and testified that he’s proud to be a Baptist.

“I’m proud for what we stand for, but not what we’re known for,” Crimmel said, acknowledging the centrality of God’s Word as a unifying trait of Southern Baptists while allowing for diversity in worship styles and preaching styles.

“I serve a God who’s new each day,” he said.

Crimmel recounted a very religious childhood, with involvement in local churches and ministries. But it was after college and after marriage that he fully gave his life to Christ. And it was in seminary that God laid on his heart a passion for reaching non-churched young adults. It was that passion for church planting and young adults that led Crimmel to Colorado to plant a new kind of church in Parker.

“Our church isn’t a community that happens to have small groups. It’s a small group-based church that also has community gatherings,” he said. “It’s built on simplicity rather than programs. Outside of the small group, there is no church life.”

David Samples, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Windsor, shared how that once-declining church has been revitalized.

“In 1999, we were ready to be wherever God wanted me and my family to be,” he said. “And we prayed that God would make it clear to us.”

Meanwhile, God was working to prepare the Cornerstone church in Windsor.

“Cornerstone had struggled for many years,” Samples said. “One thing that changed the church was an intentional interim pastor who took the church through a process of examining everything about themselves.”

When Samples came on board as pastor, he was given a book containing details of the examination that helped him understand the people and other aspects of the church. God then used Samples to refocus the church and revitalize its ministry in the community.

“Worship is a vital portion of our church’s ministry,” he said. “Prayer is important. And we preach the Scriptures. We believe in fellowship, building the unity of the body.”

Under Samples’ leadership, the church’s deacons have taken on increased ministry, with a fresh zeal for discipleship, service, evangelism and education.

In another testimony, Mike McCarthy shared how God used many Colorado pastors and church planters to eventually lead him to become a church planter in Colorado.

McCarthy was saved as a child and even surrendered his life to ministry at age 13.

“But two years later, I shut that door because of the hypocritical, lying and cheating folks I saw in church,” he said.

He married, started a family and enjoyed a successful business career.

“All along the way, God allowed me to achieve my dreams and goals,” McCarthy said. “But all along the way, as I got them, I was bored. I wanted to do something that would make a difference.”

When his daughter in college approached him about a summer missions assignment in Colorado, he agreed under the condition that he could drive her to the state and return at the end of the summer to pick her up.

Upon his arrival in Colorado, McCarthy was to meet up with his uncle, Veryl Henderson, the CBGC’s church planting division director, but Henderson was unable to make it.

“Veryl stranded me at Ponderosa,” McCarthy recounted. “So instead I got to spend time with Steve Hammond, the pastor my daughter would be working for in Estes Park. I got to meet pastors Stan Felder and Frank Cornelius. I bonded with these guys.”

For the first time in his life, McCarthy heard the term “church planter” as Felder told him about the need for a pastor at Holyoke.

“It was the most audibly I’ve ever heard God speak, except for age 13 when I surrendered my life to ministry,” McCarthy said. “God said, ‘I’ve given you 25 years to achieve your goals. Now it’s my turn.'”

Two months later, McCarthy and his family moved to Holyoke.

“That first Sunday, we had nine people. And we were four of them,” he said. “Three of the others were from Sterling. Only two people from Holyoke were there.”

This past summer, the church reached a high attendance of 87 and now averages 60 in worship.

“Sixty-five children and adults have accepted Christ over the last two years,” he said. “More than 25 have been baptized into our church. Many are attending other churches, but that’s okay. It’s all kingdom work.

“It’s the most difficult and challenging thing I’ve ever done, but the most rewarding,” McCarthy said.

The business to surface at the annual meeting involved such matters as approving budgets for 2002 and election of officers. On all items, voting took place quickly with little or no discussion, as messengers seemed anxious to return to times of worship, prayer and fellowship.

Messengers approved a 2002 budget of almost $4.5 million. Almost $2 million is expected to be given by Colorado’s Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program, a 7.4 percent increase over 2001. Twenty-nine percent of that, or $578,109, will continue to be sent on to the Southern Baptist Convention world mission causes through the Cooperative Program.

Among resolutions approved by messengers were ones condemning acts of terrorism; affirming the authority of Scripture in preaching and teaching; appreciating Tammy Cookson for her work as interim director of Colorado’s women’s missions and ministries department; and affirming the executive director search committee.

Jim Sheets, pastor of Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Byers, and the convention’s first vice president, was elected convention president over Ron Clement, pastor of First Baptist Church, Black Forest. Sheets succeeds Rick Lewis, senior associate pastor of Riverside Baptist Church, Denver, who was in his second term as president and was not eligible for re-election.

Tobey Williams, of Colorado Springs and the convention’s second vice president, was elected by acclamation as first vice president.

Clement then was elected second vice president after over Dan Sanders, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pagosa Springs.

In the annual sermon, Rich Peterson, pastor of University Hills Baptist Church in Denver, challenged messengers to be servant leaders.

“We will not see the church grow in Colorado until there’s a resurgence in servant leadership,” he said, using Jesus as a model.

“Servant leaders seek to embody the spirit and attitude of the greatest servant leader of all time, Jesus Christ,” he said.

Peterson noted the need for “knowing the difference between one’s position and one’s task.” He also pointed out that Colorado will never see God-given revival “as long as secular standards of success overshadow biblical ones.”

In the final session of the meeting, recently retired pastor Davis Cooper looked back at his 26 years of ministry in Colorado and challenged messengers to listen to the voice of God as they look ahead to the CBGC’s coming years.

“What would’ve happened in my life if I hadn’t listened to the voice of God?” Cooper asked. “And what would’ve happened to Elijah if he thought the only way God could speak to him was the way he did before?”

Using the story of Elijah and Jezebel as his text, Cooper pointed out that a defeated Elijah was hiding as far from God as he could. “If Elijah hadn’t gone out to listen to God, he would’ve missed the greatest thing God ever said to him,” Cooper said.

“False assumptions can make us quit listening to the voice of God,” he said. “And you’re in the business of hearing and doing what God says.”

Though he’s retiring, Cooper said he is still quite excited about the future of the church in Colorado. “If we use yesterday as the way God has to do it tomorrow, we’re going to miss God,” he said. “God never changes. But he also never repeats Himself. If he did, we’d fall in love with the repetition and quit listening to God.”

Cooper warned against “taking what the experts are doing and squashing it down on the laity.

“Anything that is a copycat of what someone else is doing has death written all over it,” he said.

He reminded messengers that restoration, renewal and revival would only happen when people listen to God. “And how do we listen to God?” he asked. “We focus on him and we never, never, never, never give up on him.”

The 2002 annual meeting will be Oct. 22-23 at Vista Grande Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. This year’s meeting was held the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort and hosted by Trinity Baptist Church in Vail.

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  • Allen Spencer