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Iowa Baptists note church growth, increased giving

[SLIDESHOW=46467,46468]AMES, Iowa (BP) — The 2017 Baptist Convention of Iowa annual meeting was held in conjunction with a two-day “For the Church” micro conference in partnership with Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Four hundred participants attended the Nov. 3-4 conference, which included featured speakers Jason K. Allen, MBTS president; Jared Wilson, MBTS director of content strategy; Jeff Dodge, lead pastor at Cornerstone Church in Ames; and Rechab Gray, teaching pastor at Cottage Grove Church in Des Moines.

Messengers at the Nov. 4 Iowa annual meeting at Cornerstone Church in Ames totaled 111, with 55 guests, from 51 of the 112 churches in a convention focusing on church planting, church development, community transformation and developing the next generation of Baptist leaders.

Tim Lubinus, BCI executive director, reported that worship attendance in the convention’s churches topped 15,000 each week for the first time, increasing 14 percent for the second year in a row.

Among reports to the convention, two new churches have started so far in 2017. Casa de Gratia began gathering as home Bible studies in February, with church planter Arnaldo Achucarro focusing on reaching Hispanic people in West Des Moines. Life Change Church launched on Oct. 1, with planter Steve Christiansen focusing on reaching the diverse peoples of East Des Moines. Its Sunday services take place on the Iowa State Fairgrounds in the Maytag Building.

BCI continues to partner with the North American Mission Board to provide three church-based church planting catalysts in Iowa. Geoff Safford of New Heights Church in Indianola, Donovan Santamaria of Redeemer Church in Cedar Rapids and Todd Stiles of First Family Church in Ankeny are leading their churches to develop and send church planters toward a goal of each of the churches planting at least one new congregation a year.

Additionally, a growing number of churches are active as supporting churches for Iowa church plants, praying for, providing financially for, and partnering with planters through short-term mission projects. Cornerstone Church in Ames, began a partnership directly with NAMB called The SALT Network. Their focus is to start churches and collegiate ministries in university cities around the Midwest. In 2017 the various churches of the SALT Network worked together to start the Salt City Church in Minneapolis and Wellspring Church in State College, Pa.

New Pastors recognized during the annual meeting included Neal McRae of Crest Baptist Church in Creston; Bob Allen, New Life Church in Davenport; Joey Weber of Stonebridge Church in Boone; and John Harrell, Shiloh Baptist Church in Waterloo.

A budget of $1,651,778 was adopted for 2018 marking an increase of less than 1 percent from 2017 and includes $640,000 in anticipated Cooperative Program receipts from BCI churches, $730,000 from the North American Mission Board (plus providing one full-time lead church planting catalyst position) and $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources.

The Baptist Convention of Iowa will continue to forward 50 percent of CP receipts to SBC missions and ministries, no change this year. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses with the SBC.

In the last five years, BCI churches have increased their Cooperative Program giving by 30 percent. Because of the convention’s decision to increase the percentage of giving to the national SBC entities to 50 percent in 2014, the increased giving has resulted in a projected 223 percent increase in the 2018 budget from five years ago. In addition, the projected BCI office budget is 91 percent lower than it was five years ago after moving to a mobile office strategy.

The budget allocates $100,000 to the Iowa Ministry Fund consisting of 10 percent of BCI Cooperative Program receipts and 50 percent of the Iowa Missions Offering with the balance from reserves and foundation investments. The Iowa Ministry Fund normally distributes $10,000 to a selected ministry organization in each of 10 ministry categories to support organizations and ministries that offer God’s mercy, love and truth to those who are among the most vulnerable across the state.

Messengers voted to change the convention bylaws concerning the Executive Board by changing the number of Executive Board members from four members from each of the five geographic regions to one member from each region, reducing the board from 24 people to nine (one member from each of five regions plus four officers).

Regional representatives elected at the annual meeting were Tom Nesbitt, Central Region; Stephen Wolfe, Northeast Region; Howard Avery, Northwest Region; Tammy Proenneke Southeast Region; and Jim Parker, Southwest Region.

Elected as BCI officers were president, Robert Knight, pastor of New Birth Baptist Church, Ames; first vice president, Jack Owens, Stonebridge Church, Boone; second vice President, Todd Stiles pastor of First Family Church of Ankeny; and secretary, Jerome Risting, Temple Baptist Church, Mason City. All officers ran unopposed this year.

The BCI is offering a new initiative to help its churches review their ministry and develop a plan for the future. A three-day worship called StratOp from the Paterson Center in Fort Collins, Colo., is available to help key church leaders get perspective on the strategic, operational and financial aspects of their church. The workshop will help bring unity to the church when they work together to evaluate their current situation, clarify which direction to head, and develop a customized plan for what to do next.

The 2018 annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa is slated for Nov. 10 at the Hilton Garden Inn in West Des Moines.