BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (BP)–Messengers to the annual meeting of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention challenged each other to be like modern-day Israelites taking the land promised by God despite the giants that make the task look impossible.
“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it!” from Numbers 13:30 was the theme passage for the event, and several speakers used texts from the Old Testament story of the Israelites conquering the inhabitants who lived in their Promised Land.
Messengers were told they need to have that same boldness and confidence in God as they seek to take the Gospel to the people of their two states.
Nathan Ray, pastor of Jacob’s Well on Campus at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, began with a Bible study on Numbers 13-14 called “Failure to Possess the Land.”
Kevin Binkley, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., led a Bible study on Joshua 1, “Preparing to Possess the Land.”
Chris Heng, pastor of Twin Cities Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn., taught from Joshua 3, “The Possession of the Land.”
Mycie Vue, Minnesota-Wisconsin Woman’s Missionary Union president, used Joshua 4:4 as her text as she shared her personal testimony about a Joshua who led her and her people across the Mekong River out of Vietnam.
The meeting’s theme called Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to “Step Up to the Plate, Swing to the Fence.” It was the same theme used for the convention’s state missions offering this year and urged Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to take responsibility for the work in their two states and give it their best effort while trusting God to empower them.
A total of 100 messengers and 74 guests from 44 of the 147 churches and missions affiliated with the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention were registered, and all seven associations were represented.
Meeting Oct. 29-30 in the new sanctuary and renovated facilities of Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn., the messengers came with a positive attitude but realistic assessment of the challenge before them.
In his executive director’s address, using Joshua 6:1-20 as his text, Leo Endel spelled out the challenge: 10.9 million people in the two states and as many as 75 percent of them having no personal relationship with Jesus Christ. From 2000 to 2005, he said, churches of all denominations in Minnesota had seen a 6.1 percent decline in attendance, while those in Wisconsin had experienced a 13.3 percent drop.
Resources for the convention have been hampered by national issues such as high unemployment, financial recession, housing crisis, rising health care costs and uncertainty about retirement funds. In addition, he said, the convention has been negatively affected by the end of funding from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, the tightening of funding from the North American Mission Board, the drop in Cooperative Program and state missions offering receipts, and the uncertainty of missionary funding in the future.
Despite the challenges, Endel said, “Our task hasn’t changed. Our purpose hasn’t changed. Our hope hasn’t changed. In reality, our resources haven’t changed. Because our hope is not in Alpharetta, our hope is not in Nashville, our hope in not in Dallas. Our hope is in the Lord.”
Joshua was challenged to trust the Lord rather than himself and Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists must do the same, Endel said.
“As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, it was all about the Lord,” he said. “The Lord is our resource. The Lord is our strategy. The Lord is our strength. Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!”
Endel announced a Great Commission Task Force composed of the five most recent presidents of the state convention and one representative chosen by each association. The task force will reassess the strategic initiatives of the convention and consider how to respond to “the new realities initiated by the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force which will be implemented by the SBC boards and agencies over the next seven years,” he said.
Members of the task force are: Leo Endel, executive director; Jeff Nettles, current state convention president; past presidents Les Stevens, Shelby Alcott, Larry Faus and Charles Dunning; and associational representatives Nathan Ray, Twin Cities Metro; Chad Cummings, Central; Lisa Wallace, Northern Lakes; Michael Indorf, Pioneer/Western; Steve Brinkman, Lakeland; and Glen Slaats, Bay Lakes.
Messengers adopted a $1,967,513 budget for 2011, 4 percent lower than the current year. The percentage of Cooperative Program receipts to be passed on to national causes increased from 13 to 13.5 percent following the May decision of the Executive Board to add half a percent a year until the figure reaches 50 percent.
The budget anticipates CP gifts from the churches of $496,303, which would be supplemented by $38,124 received through MWBC’s Care and Share State Missions Offering. Outside sources of income include $1,090,795 from NAMB, $69,953 from LifeWay Christian Resources and a $37,000 allocation from Texas Baptists’ Mary Hill Davis State Missions Offering. The other $60,338 would come from interest and designated gifts.
Salary and housing for state staff and associational missionaries remains unchanged for the third year. A line item for director of missions for the newest association, Northern Lakes, was removed from the budget due to the inability to fund the position for the past four years. Church planting was decreased due to a shortfall in the state missions offering; almost all church planting funds budgeted are already committed to existing congregations, Endel said.
Jeff Nettles, pastor of Rolling Hills Church in Platteville, Wis., was reelected president. In his president’s address, Nettles spoke on the sufficiency of the Gospel and the importance of preaching the Word even to the church.
Mike Fahey, pastor of Roseville (Minn.) Baptist Church, was reelected first vice president. Kevin Binkley, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., was reelected second vice president. Bruce Osborn, a member of Crossroads Church in Pewaukee, Wis., was elected recording secretary, and Wes Shemwell, a member of Midvale Baptist Church of Madison, Wis., was elected assistant recording secretary. All officers were elected by acclamation.
Messengers adopted one resolution, thanking Stan McFall, pastor, and Southtown Baptist Church for hosting the event.
Next year’s annual meeting of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention will be Nov. 9-10 at Valley Baptist Church in Appleton, Wis.
David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, newsjournal of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.