BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (BP) — With a theme of “Thy Kingdom Come,” messengers to the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention considered how God can use them and their churches to expand His Kingdom on earth, and they voted to increase Cooperative Program giving.
The multiethnic convention met in the just completed facilities of the Minneapolis-area Ebenezer Community Church, a Liberian congregation in Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Frank S. Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, told them that 23 percent of SBC churches “self-identify” as ethnic congregations. The statistic came as no surprise to Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists where 73 of the 191 congregations (38 percent) are ethnic, including Liberian, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Nigerian, Kenyan, Ukranian, Russian, Slavic, Hmong, Laotian, Korean, Hispanic, African American, Native American and Anglo churches.
In addition, MWBC has four multi-ethnic churches, two of which are so diverse that no single ethnic group is a majority.
“The theme of this convention is a prayer,” said Leo Endel, MWBC executive director, referring to the words “Thy Kingdom Come” which are taken from the Lord’s Prayer or Model Prayer which Jesus taught to His disciples in Matthew 6. “This is a prayer for our lives to be aligned with God’s Kingdom purposes.”
There are three ways to see the phrase, Endel said. The ethical interpretation calls us to “keep growing,” to live our lives according to Jesus’ teachings. The evangelistic interpretation challenges us to “keep going,” to be involved in the expansion of God’s Kingdom by sharing the good news with others. The eschatological interpretation reminds us to “keep longing,” to focus on the fact that Jesus is coming again.
“The church must maintain a Kingdom focus,” Endel said.
“Jesus mentions the church once or twice, but 84 times He mentions the Kingdom,” Endel said. “It’s bigger than any of our churches. It includes all that God is doing. We are to be about the King’s business.”
Steve Melvin, MWBC church starting catalyst, reported during the Oct. 28-29 meeting how church planting is impacting the Kingdom. Currently there are 44 church planters receiving Church Growth Assistance funds from the state convention. Also working in the area of church planting in Minnesota-Wisconsin are four church planting catalysts and a Send City missionary. There were nine new starts in 2016.
Preaching from 1 Samuel 3:1-10, the story of the boy Samuel’s call by God, Page assured the messengers that “God knows your name and God knows where you are.”
Sometimes in ministry, he said, pastors and their families may feel alone and isolated.
“Some of you serve in obscure places and you may think, ‘No one knows where we are up here.’ But God knows where you are,” Page said.
“Learn to say every day, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening,'” Page said. “Then you will know like Samuel knew that God knows your name and God knows where you are.”
During his address to the convention, MWBC President Jackie Hill preached on Haggai 2:3-9 in which the prophet spoke of the temple’s former glory, present glory and future glory. Hill then compared that to our view of the church — the way things were, the way things are and the way things will be.
“It’s important for us to look back, to recognize what God has done and to see where we need to grow,” Hill said, “but it’s not OK to reside there. If we live in the past, we won’t be any good for the present.
“The church exists today,” Hill said. “We don’t live in yesterday and we don’t live in tomorrow. We live in today. We need to long for and desire the Kingdom to come, but we can only live in the present.”
Hill challenged the messengers: “So, church, let’s long for the Kingdom. Let’s look back to all the Lord has done. And let’s live for Him in the present.”
Phil Smith of the enrollment and credentials committee reported they registered 55 guests and 99 messengers from 46 churches for a total attendance of 154, which he said was up about 20 percent over last year’s attendance.
Messengers demonstrated their Kingdom commitment by once again increasing the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to SBC causes, this time from 20 percent to 22 percent. They approved a 2017 budget of $1,352,291, a 3.4 percent increase over the 2016 budget of $1,308,056.
MWBC anticipates receiving about 35 percent of its budget — $470,000 — from the churches through the Cooperative Program. Other sources of income include the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, special missions offerings and interest.
Messengers amended the constitution by approving on second reading a recommendation to add the following two sentences to the article on membership: “The preferred method to join the MWBC is to be recognized as a cooperating Baptist church with one of the associations affiliated with the MWBC and the SBC. Otherwise, churches may apply directly to the MWBC.”
Messengers gave a Saturday (Oct. 29) morning offering of $1,360 which will be split with half going toward MWBC’s state missions offering and the other half going to Ebenezer Community Church’s project of building a library in Liberia. They also gave $2,006 to Minnesota-Wisconsin Woman’s Missionary Union, members of which provided on Oct. 28 a “donations encouraged” home-cooked dinner featuring Mexican, African, Asian and American fare.
Elected as officers of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention were president, Hill (re-elected, having assumed the position of president upon the resignation of Paul Fries who moved to Tennessee to become a director of missions), pastor, Roseville (Minn.) Baptist Church; vice president, Tony Gulbrandsen, pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Racine, Wis.; second vice president, Chris Heng, pastor, TwinCity Hmong Baptist Church, St. Paul, Minn.; recording secretary, Wes Shemwell (re-elected), member, Brown Deer (Wis.) Baptist Church; and assistant recording secretary, Jim Gress (re-elected), member, Southtown Baptist Church, Bloomington, Minn.
Upon recommendation of the arrangements committee, messengers set the 2018 meeting for Oct. 26-27 at Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.
The 2017 annual meeting will be Oct. 27-28 at Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Greenfield, Wis. The annual sermon will be delivered by Ken Steele, pastor of Transformation Church in Sun Prairie, Wis. Alternate is Daniel Goba, pastor of Ebenezer Community Church in Bloomington, Minn.