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Md./Del. Baptists celebrate 175 years

TOWSON, Md. (BP)–The 175th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware convened with 335 messengers and 109 guests at the Sheraton Baltimore North Hotel in Towson, Md., Nov. 14-16.

With a theme of “Connect 2010: Celebrating 175 years of Great Commission Partnership,” the meeting highlighted the people and events God has used to shape the two-state convention.

Worship was led by Denver and the Mile High Orchestra, which revamped hymns to a big band sound. Other music included the Chinese Mission Choir, a four-church combined choir in native dress singing in their native language.

David Uth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., was the keynote speaker, commending the Maryland/Delaware convention for its diversity. His text was Revelation 7:9-12, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

“You don’t worship because life is good. You worship because God is good. We have a God worth celebrating,” Uth said.

Worship, Uth said, changes the believer’s focus. When the focus is on God and not on the individual, nothing looks big, he said. Worship also is one of the greatest ways to fight spiritual warfare, the pastor added.

In another address, Uth said believers are meant to live on the edge with reckless abandon as they follow Jesus.

“The richest places on earth are cemeteries. Beneath the sod lie dreams never lived out, ideas never acted upon, songs never sung and books never written,” Uth said.

During a presentation on church multiplication, David Jackson, BCM/D missionary, told messengers, “Your Cooperative Program giving and state missions offering translates to more churches, more people being saved, and more saved will lead to more baptized and discipled. Folks, that’s the bottom line. That’s what church planting is all about.”

Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., delivered the president’s message on 2 Chronicles 20, the story of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, crying out to God for help when armies are gathered against him. God intervened, and the enemies perished.

Jehoshaphat was in over his head, Day said.

“We have to watch our pride,” he told messengers. In using our own ingenuity, we might miss what God wants to do. We must be sensitive to His Spirit. “Learn how to pursue God and seek His face,” Day said.

“We know the future will be challenging,” Day said, adding that there will be uncertainty and trials but the battle is God’s.

During the executive director’s address, David Lee reiterated the convention’s mission, which is to start and strengthen churches in the Great Commission task.

“It has been another excellent year of ministry and Kingdom impact,” Lee said, referring to a high number of church plants, reaching more college students and growth in resort ministry.

“Yet, despite our progress, we find ourselves in a quandary. Actually, we face multiple quandaries,” he said. “Different people think differently about different things today. We are caught in the crossfire and at times in the collateral damage of these present cultural, generational and denominational debates.”

Lee said the convention is facing many dilemmas. “Some national convention leaders think that they know how to better reach our area than those of us who live here, some are adamant that we need state conventions and associations more than ever. One group believes more dollars should go from the infrastructure to the International Mission Board, and others believe we need the infrastructure to get the job done.”

Lee also referenced large churches that feel they are better equipped to reach the lost while small churches are feeling intimidated and forced out.

“In a year that we have seen some of our state convention’s most impacting ministry, we stand to potentially lose significant funding from our longtime partner, the North American Mission Board,” Lee said.

No matter what happens, he said, the primary responsibility for reaching Maryland and Delaware rests with the Baptists who live and worship there. Even if the state should lose funding from other sources, he said, “we must still find a way to impact this region.”

Andy Ehlers, pastor of High Tide Church in Dagsboro, Del., delivered the annual sermon. He spoke of the challenges of ministry, such as preaching the funeral of a suicide victim and reaching out to unchurched people.

“It’s challenging and difficult,” he said. “It’s the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Ken Stalls, pastor of South End Baptist Church in Frederick, Md., was elected as the convention’s president. Re-elected as first and second vice president, respectively, were Harold Phillips, pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Md., and James Burcham, pastor of First Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Md. Also re-elected: Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Baptist Church in Germantown, Md., as recording secretary.

Messengers gave a special offering to Embrace Wilmington, a strategic effort to reach Wilmington, Del., with the Gospel message.

The Baptist Foundation in Maryland/Delaware makes an annual contribution to the state convention for starting and strengthening churches. This year the foundation presented a check for $140,000.

Messengers approved a 2011 budget of $6,023,335, down $245,700 from the current year. Anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches in the two-state convention is $4,300,000. Maryland/Delaware Baptists will continue to forward 41 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.

Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware will be Nov. 13-15 at the Clarion Resort in Ocean City, Md.
Based on a report Sharon Mager of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.

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