[SLIDESHOW=49519,49520,49521] HAVERHILL, Mass. (BP) — “Church planting is the natural consequence of intimacy with God,” Tanner Turley, a church planter based in greater Boston, noted during a testimony at the Baptist Convention of New England’s 36th annual meeting.
The Nov. 2-3 sessions were held at First Baptist Church in Haverhill, Mass., which was founded before the Revolutionary War. Two hundred twenty-one messengers and 103 guests were in attendance for fellowship, worship, extended prayer, business and celebrating what God is doing by “Embracing the Future Through Church Planting.”
Sean Sears, pastor of Grace Church in Avon, Mass., preached the opening sermon, “God Says Plant!” Sears shared his experience as an “accidental” church planter who felt burdened for the lost in his hometown and saw the need for a Gospel-centered church several years ago. Grace Church now averages 1,600 in worship, making it one of New England’s largest Baptist churches, baptizing 154 people last year.
“The closer you get to Jesus, the more you love those who are farthest from him,” Sears said.
BCNE President Tim Owens, in his address, expanded on several reasons today’s culture requires the planting of churches. In ministering to a culture that is broken, hungry for hope and desperately needing direction, Owens challenged church leaders to have the same compassion for the lost that Christ has.
“Our culture needs us to go, not just expect them to come,” Owens said.
Terry Dorsett, in his executive director’s report, echoed this challenge, encouraging New England Baptists to do something specific to help plant a church next year, whether praying, giving, serving on a mission team or meeting another need.
“Church planting is hard work,” Dorsett said. “But if we do it in the power of the Spirit and for the glory of God, it pays off.”
Gary Knighton, pastor of Faith Fellowship Church in Hartford, Ct., preached the closing sermon, “Why the Gospel Demands Multi-Ethnic Church Planting.” Knighton reminded leaders that the Holy Spirit planted a multi-cultural multi-ethnic church in the book of Acts, and today’s church plays a part in creating the multi-ethnic beauty to come in heaven by creating a multi-ethnic body today.
“The world can love people who look like them. [But] the church has to exceed the world in love,” Knighton said.
Messengers passed a “Resolution on the Evil of Antisemitism” in response to the recent murders of 11 Jewish people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
The resolution, citing such verses as Romans 11:24, Romans 15:7, Jeremiah 31:3, Deuteronomy 7:7-8, Genesis 12:3 and Romans 1:16, stated that BCNE churches “decry antisemitism as a heinous sin against the Jewish people and God Himself.” The resolution concluded with a commitment to educate church members to better understand and reach out to Jewish friends while praying for the salvation of the Jewish people.
After the resolution passed, Mitch Forman, vice president of U.S. outreach for Chosen People Ministries, led a traditional kaddish for mourning and a prayer for the salvation of the Jewish people.
An additional resolution was passed to thank First Baptist Church of Haverhill, Mass. for hosting the meeting.
Awards, budget, other business
The convention’s Robert Brindle Church Planting Award for 2018 was awarded to Celebration Church, a bilingual Portuguese church in Charlestown, Mass. Although the church is not yet 10 years old and only has about 150 in attendance, they have been involved in 23 church plants in the last decade.
“Ethnics are much more than a mission field,” pastor Joe Souza said. “God is raising us up to be a mission force.”
The Ray Allen Evangelism Award for 2018 was presented to pastor James Thomasson of MeetingHouse Church in Middleborough, Mass. This 12-year-old church, with only about 160 in attendance, has helped plant four churches, helped replant and revitalize two congregations and last year baptized 39.
Messengers adopted proposed changes to the BCNE constitution and bylaws to safeguard local church representation in response to two New England associations merging with the BCNE organizationally and a third association making plans to merge. Other changes to the constitution and bylaws included updating terminology, including changing the title of messengers to representatives.
Messengers also approved a 2019 budget of $3,841,289, an increase of more than 26 percent due in part to the restructuring of some associations and in part to record in BCNE churches’ contributions to the Cooperative Program, which are expected to increase by more than 35 percent.
The budget includes $237,276 allotted to Cooperative Program missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, representing 18 percent of New England CP giving, an increase of 1 percentage point from last year. This dollar amount also represents a 43 percent increase over the dollar amount that was given to SBC missions last year.
In addition, for the third year in a row, nearly 100 percent of funds given to the Cooperative Program will be used for missions and ministry to the 361 BCNE churches, their 27,565 members — and beyond. This is possible because overhead and administrative costs are funded through rental income and other sources.
Unanimously reelected as BCNE officers are Tim Owens, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland, Castleton and Bennington, Vt., as president; Gonzalo Graupera, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Boston in Saugus, Mass., vice president; and Sandra Coelho, BCNE leadership development director and volunteer staff member at Church of the Vine in Carver, Mass., as clerk.
For the second year, the annual meeting offered several training sessions in conjunction with the annual meeting: “The Future of Church Planting” led by David Jackson, BCNE church planting director and strategist; “The Future of WMU/Missions Training,” Doris Opoku, WMU president in New England; “The Future of Communications,” Kimber Huff, BCNE communications coordinator; “The Future of Ethnic Ministry, Lierte Soares, pastor of Precision Valley Baptist Church in Springfield, Vt., and Framingham Baptist Church in Framingham, Mass.; and “The Future of Mission Networks Like the BCNE,” Terry Dorsett, BCNE executive director.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 1-2, 2019, at Twin City Baptist Church in Fitchburg, Mass. SBC President J.D. Greear is tentatively scheduled to deliver the annual sermon with Wes Pastor, pastor of Christ Memorial Church in Williston, Vt., as the alternate.