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Iowa Baptists commit additional $1M to discipleship, church planting, missions

Adam Bailey, church planter and lead pastor of Multiply Church in West Des Moines, preaches at its "re-launch" service May 2. Through a recently-adopted expansion plan, the Baptist Convention of Iowa is preparing to train more church planters in the state along with increase efforts in discipleship and missions. Photo courtesy of BCI

ANKENY, Iowa (BP) – A plan approved July 8 by the executive board of the Baptist Convention of Iowa earmarks an additional $1 million beyond its regular budget over the next three years toward discipleship, church planting and missional efforts.

Called an “expanded vision plan,” it is set to begin Oct. 1 and build on a similar effort begun three years ago after the executive board’s fall meeting. BCI Executive Director-Treasurer Tim Lubinus said the plan aims to expand Iowa Baptists’ Gospel impact, and it stemmed from a money issue – having too much of it.

“It started to come together after a financial report,” said Lubinus, who has been in his role since March 2014. “Our executive board was not comfortable with the amount of funds we had. Currently we send 60 percent of our budget to the Cooperative Program, and this year we’re launching another initiative to give an additional 10 percent to strategic ministries in our state.”

Lubinus listed crisis pregnancy centers as an example of such a ministry and said recipients will be determined out of 10 categories and given $10,000 from the state convention toward their work.

Lubinus credited the excess in funds to a combination of the generosity of BCI churches as well as tight budgeting, sound investments and cutting expenses at the state level. Previously allocated funds were held back if there were concerns over a receiving ministry’s veracity.

“Even though amounts were designated, we didn’t spend them unless we felt really good about a ministry,” he said. “In the end we still gave a lot of money away, but all of our balances remained higher.”

In 2018, the first year of the initial plan, BCI messengers approved a 2019 budget of $1.6 million and then increased it to $1.7 million for 2020. At last year’s annual meeting, messengers approved a lowered budget of $1.53 million for 2021 that reflected COVID-19’s impact. At the same time, however, Iowa Baptists voted to increase the amount of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded from the state convention to the SBC Executive Committee by 10 percent.

Iowa’s commitment to CP, Lubinus said, is probably the reason about a half-dozen churches outside the state have chosen to partner with his state convention.

The recently adopted plan calls for Iowa Baptists to focus on three specific tasks:

  • Multiply disciples
  • Multiply churches
  • Multiply mission

Scholarships and reimbursements for pastors and church leaders seeking training opportunities will be provided, and the main goal is reaching and discipling the next generation. Summer youth programs will go toward developing high school students as well scholarships in worldview training for high school seniors. A retirement benefit of $20 per month through Guidestone Retirement will also benefit pastors.

The BCI’s church planting efforts will complement infrastructure already put in place by the North American Mission Board, Lubinus said.

“NAMB’s systems are so refined and their assessment, coaching and support systems so great that we don’t have a process specifically for that. The missing piece is getting more church planters into the pipeline, and we’re wanting to do that,” he said.

This will come through inviting BCI churches to become church planter “incubators.” The state convention will provide resources for qualifying churches toward creating full-time staff positions designed to train church planters. BCI will invest $200,000 over the next 36 months toward assessment and support for four Iowa church planters.

The plan’s missions emphasis will centralize around encouraging churches and leaders to participate in missions both locally and globally. In addition, increased funding will go toward the International Mission Board as well as other global agencies. Scholarships will also be provided for pastors going on short-term mission trips in order to increase churches’ awareness and involvement in missions.

The plan will also support international ministries that send near-cultural church planters.

“We are grateful that the IMB sends North Americans to nearly every country,” Lubinus said. “However, in addition we would like to come alongside of mission-minded churches from other countries and help them to develop cross-cultural training and sending entities so that they can reach their near-culture neighbors.”

Lubinus said that even though the expanded vision plan wasn’t built upon Vision 2025, the goals definitely line up. The idea of local church multiplication is a key function in both plans, he said, as is developing churches and new leaders along with reaching the next generation. International missions and cross-cultural relationships are also important.

“We’re aligned because we’re aligned with the goals of the SBC,” Lubinus said. “We’ve come to the same conclusions on these matters.”