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Penn./Jersey Baptists celebrate growth to 300 congregations

BROWNS MILLS, N.J. (BP)–Three hundred Southern Baptists from Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey came Nov. 5-6 to the Philadelphia suburb of Browns Mills to celebrate the growth of their shared ministry.

Coincidentally, the sign hanging in the sanctuary of Korean Baptist Church of New Jersey in Browns Mills, where the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey held its 28th annual meeting, proclaimed boldly in Korean, “The Year of Growth Through Prayer.”

For the first time, the annual meeting included a prayer walk before the third annual “Crossover” door-to-door evangelism event.

Messengers and guests also heard challenging sermons on the nature of faith and conducted “family business” that will impact their work for the next century.

Pat Colladay, pastor of Dallas (Pa.) Baptist Church, who was re-elected state convention president, noted every aspect of BCPSJ life showed increases in the past year, including the number of churches and missions, which are now at 300 and growing by about 10 percent a year; the number of church starts and baptisms; and the number of state convention staff. The convention has a goal of 1,000 congregations by 2011.

As a part of a commitment to growth, Colladay said his congregation has set a goal to begin 16 “new starts” in the next decade, be they churches, Bible study groups or informal fellowships. He said a church always should emphasize “sending more than seating.” He said he sees the role of convention president as a “voice of encouragement” and a “goodwill ambassador” to churches that desire to be heard in state convention planning.

Colladay also noted there are about 11 million spiritually lost people in the region served by the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey.

In the president’s address on Thursday afternoon, Colladay said, “We are people of faith. If we’re going to please God, it’s going to take faith.” He asked the audience to examine the abilities and gifts they have received from God, noting “God always comes to us where we are and with what we have.”

Colladay also noted “whenever we attempt to please God, we will always run into problems” that require a faith response.

Colladay observed from experience “whenever we misuse the gift God has given us, there is a consequence to pay. We need to stop looking at problems and start looking with faith.”

Don Whitney, assistant professor of spiritual formation at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Mo., and former Chicago-area pastor, also addressed the annual meeting theme, “Living By Faith,” with four Bible study messages that amplified Romans 1:17.

“No one begins to live by true faith until they see the true righteousness of God,” Whitney said. The essence of true faith, he said, is not “man’s righteousness elevated [but] God’s righteousness revealed.”

David Waltz, state convention executive director, said he appreciated the annual meeting for the “spirit of celebration and joy” in the preaching, singing, fellowship and the business sessions. He also noted with enthusiasm the “great spirit about what God is doing” among state convention congregations and the “strong attendance” of 205 messengers and 81 guests at the annual meeting.

Describing a trip to South Africa for the Baptist World Alliance and a dream he had while there, Waltz talked about the need for “unity without uniformity” in the life of the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Calling for diversity, he said, “We are no longer a homogenous group. There is power in unity. We have to have room for people who are different.”

Noting denominational politics “has not dominated our agenda,” Waltz said the state convention priority is now and will remain focused on a “lost world that needs to know Jesus.”

To demonstrate commitment to both diversity and evangelism, the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey met its annual meeting for the first time at an ethnic church.

Members of the host Korean Baptist Church of New Jersey prepared a gourmet Korean feast Thursday evening. Sitting on the kitchen floor, some of the women of the church spent hours peeling vegetables in preparation for cooking the dinner. The church choir closed the annual meeting with a worshipful medley of songs.

Also at the annual meeting:
— Todd Cyphers, pastor of Millcreek Community Church, Erie, Pa., was elected first vice president by acclamation, while Stephen Moon, pastor of Korean Baptist Church, Browns Mills, N.J., was elected second vice president on a two-nominee ballot.
— Ed Stetzer, former pastor of Millcreek Community Church and now director of the church planter Nehemiah Project at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was honored as BCPSJ Outstanding Church Planter of the Year.
— Messengers adopted what David Waltz called “a realistic budget” of $2,448,358 for 1999, 7 percent above the current budget. It includes a 0.25 percent-of-budget increase in Cooperative Program giving to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministry, for a 23.75 percentage of an anticipated $712,896 in state CP giving.

The 1999 meeting will be Nov. 4-5 in Temple Baptist Church, York, Pa.