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Penn-Jersey Bapt. exec: ‘Change is coming’

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (BP) –- Messengers to the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey continued moving forward with a growing focus on church health, multiplying congregations and missional living during their annual meeting.

A record 317 messengers from 110 churches — plus nine other churches not yet affiliated with the convention — and at least 58 guests participated in the 43rd annual meeting. For now the convention consists of 387 congregations.

About five years ago, the state convention began using the phrase Baptist Resource Network to refer to how it engages its churches. It’s a partnership with churches in four regions under the umbrella of Healthy Churches, Multiplying Churches and Missional Living.

“The state of our convention is very bright,” said Brian Harrison, pastor of East Shore Baptist Church in Harrisburg and president for the last four years of the state convention’s executive board, during his report to messengers. The meeting was held Nov. 7-8 at Country and Town Baptist Church near Harrisburg.

“It’s a good time to be a Southern Baptist in Pennsylvania/South Jersey,” he added.

With “Awaken” as its theme based on Psalm 17:15, George Tynes, Curtis Conner, and Phil Cockrell and a mass convention choir led annual meeting participants in worship. Other speakers included David Wheeler, of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and Fred Luter Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans.

David Waltz, executive director-treasurer, said it was the first time a sitting SBC president had spoken at The Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey’s annual meeting.

Waltz also introduced the newly redesigned website of Baptist Resource Network (www.brnonline.org) with a new tagline: Fostering Spiritual Transformation.

“We have no choice,” Waltz said in his convention report. “Change is coming.

“We started looking 14 years ago at what a Baptist Resource Network would look like, ahead of the NAMB changes. We have listened, we have made adjustments, and moved forward steadily with you, so that we may help you accomplish what [God] is calling you to do. … The point is, we want to reach out to you, to connect with you.”

The new paradigm involves three teams — Healthy Churches, Multiplying Churches and Missional Living.  Each of them work “together in 3D ministry” — Discover, Develop and Deploy. Consultants from each of the three teams live in the state convention’s four regions: West, Central, Philadelphia and South Jersey.

Waltz spoke of the need to build bridges with others who are committed to fulfilling the Great Commission according to Matthew 28:19-20.

“We can’t afford in the world we live in to be islands,” Waltz said. “My hope is not in our denomination, our leaders, our great staff. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”

During SBC President Fred Luter’s keynote address, Luter shared from Romans 1 a similar “bridge-building” message that focused on the transforming power of the Gospel. Luter listed the cultural woes found in 2 Timothy 3, and asked, “In your BC [Before Christ] days, what did it take to change you?

“I believe somewhere along the line, you heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Luter said.  “Your life and mind was changed because of the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If the Gospel changed your life … why can’t the Gospel do the same for the people around you?

“The Word of God is critical if we are going to impact our culture,” Luter said. “When everything else in life has failed, the Word of God will still be standing. … The only hope for America is the Word of God.”

Luter also spoke during a multi-denominational pastor’s breakfast that approximately 80 black, white, Hispanic and Asian pastors attended. 

During business sessions, a $3,763,399 budget was passed, up from $3,576,998 last year. This includes an anticipated $866,393 given from Pennsylvania/South Jersey churches; $2,065,523 from the North American Mission Board; $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources, $15,170 from LifeWay Campus Ministries, $40,000 from GuideStone Financial Resources, and $42,000 from interest and rental income.

The 2014 budget includes — for the 21st year in a row — a .01 percent increase in Cooperative Program giving that raises the percentage to 25.6 percent. The state convention is on a 94/6 percent split with the SBC’s North American Mission Board. This means that for every $6 spent in NAMB-related ministry areas by the convention, NAMB contributes $94.

Also during the meeting, messengers re-elected Pusey Losch, pastor of Mountain View Community Church of Richland, Pa., as president. Bryan King, pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, was elected first vice president.

Darius Nable, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Cherry Hill, N.J., was elected unopposed as second vice president. The other officers were all re-elected: Kenton Hunt, secretary; Emma Tentarelli, assistant secretary; Fred Boehlke, historian; and Jerry Cowan, parliamentarian.

Next year’s meeting will be held Nov. 6-7 at Delaware Valley Baptist Church in Willingboro, N.J.
Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter @BaptistPress), Facebook Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).