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Penn-Jersey Baptists celebrate missions

BUSHKILL, Pa. (BP)–With the theme “‘Til the Whole World Knows,” the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey at Fernwood Hotel & Resort in Bushkill, Pa., Nov. 5-6 was marked by a tribute to the work of international missionaries.

Peter Yanes, the convention’s president, emphasized in his address the urgent need to lead people to Christ. He recounted how a Southern Baptist missionary funded by the Cooperative Program moved to his hometown in the Philippines in 1972 and shared the Gospel with his family.

Yanes said immigrants to the United States need to hear about Jesus before American culture eclipses their receptivity to the Gospel. If such immigrants are reached for Christ, he said, they’ll likely share the Gospel in their native countries as they return to visit family.

Roger “Sing” Oldham, vice president for convention relations at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, led a Bible study session on prayer, noting that God is pleased to change circumstances based on pleas made through intercession. When believers are faithful to pray for the lost, he said, God will provide a harvest.

R. Philip Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., preached from Romans 10 and said righteousness is not found in morality, tradition or religion but in Jesus.

Ted Johnson, director of the Penn-Jersey convention’s church strengthening division, delivered the convention sermon on the need to disciple church members, giving practical suggestions.

David Waltz, the convention’s executive director, pointed to statistics that show Christianity in America is in decline. He quoted David Dockery, who has cited an “Americanization of Christianity rather than a Christianization of America.”

Waltz used passages from Amos, Hosea, Micah and Isaiah to remind messengers that God is not pleased with meaningless worship. What He wants, Waltz said, is for believers to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly” with their God. Waltz said the kind of churches many messengers grew up with will not likely reach a new generation for Christ.

“I see a God who is still on His throne who is the God of the impossible who can transform a broken, sinful people and make them new, who can take a sinful, broken, self-centered church that is only concerned about its own institutional survival and transform it into a missional body of Christ that transforms its community — and I am filled with hope,” Waltz said.

John Gblah, pastor of Agape International Baptist Church, a new Liberian congregation, told messengers he accepted Christ because International Mission Board workers shared the Gospel with him in Liberia. A celebration of missions during the annual meeting included worship followed by reports on missions partnerships.

A total of 115 messengers representing 61 churches as well as 160 guests attended the annual meeting, which was hosted by the Northeast Pennsylvania Baptist Association. The Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania-South Jersey has 400 churches and missions with more than 56,000 members.

Yanes, a member of International Bible Church in Upper Darby, Pa., was re-elected president of the convention; Kim Grueser, pastor of Pittsburgh Baptist Church in Pittsburgh, was elected first vice president; and Bob Lindsay, pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Windber, Pa., second vice president; Doug Lesher, a member of Thompsontown Baptist Church in Thompsontown, Pa., recording secretary; and Fred Boehlke, a member of Trinity Baptist Church in Philadelphia, historian. All officers were elected by acclamation.

Messengers approved a 2010 budget of $3,507,748, a slight increase over the current year’s budget of $3,456,828. From $910,668 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Pennsylvania and New Jersey churches, the convention will forward 25.2 percent to national and international missions and ministries, a .1 percent increase.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 4-5 at Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
Based on a report by Fanny Grote of the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey.

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