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Penn/Jersey Baptists focus on 11 million who are lost

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (BP)–Working together to start new ministries to reach the 11 million non-Christians in Pennsylvania-South Jersey dominated the two-state Baptist convention’s 27th annual meeting, Nov. 6-7 at the Genetti Hotel, Williamsport, Pa.
“Start Something New” was the meeting’s theme and the focus of reports, messages and business actions.
The 215 registered messengers approved a 1998 budget of $2,289,886, an increase of about 8 percent over projected income for 1997. The budget includes anticipated Cooperative Program giving of $665,758 from the convention’s 258 churches and chapels, 23.5 percent of which will be allocated for Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries, a .25 percent-of- budget increase over the current year.
Executive board President Tom Schenk, pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, McMurray, Pa., said the board, in its pre-convention meeting, set aside $10,000 in seed money to begin foundation work in the state. The board also extended a call to Roderick Conerly as coordinator of new church extension director for the 27,500-member state convention. He is presently awaiting the approval of the North American Mission Board.
“I believe our convention shines like a star in a very dark world,” Schenk said.
Convention President George Sanders, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church, Altoona, Pa., called on Penn-Jersey Baptists to “work together to win the world to Christ … and follow in the footsteps of Jesus, wherever that takes us.”
Andrew Lee, director of theological education for Northeast Baptist School of Ministry, said during one of four Bible studies, “the church is the new thing God has started. Because of that, we can go out and start new things.”
With a goal of increasing the number of churches and missions by 10 percent or 25, messengers learned a total of 28 new works were started in the last year. Churches registered a 34 percent increase in baptisms, Executive Director David Waltz reported, while calling “flat” Cooperative Program receipts for the year a concern.
“We can’t be complacent. We can’t wait. We must press on,” Waltz said in his report. “I’m convinced we can do more if we work together.”
In addition to an emphasis on reaching people by starting new churches, Waltz said the convention is “now catching a vision of being a missions-sending people,” citing a new partnership project to the Deccani people of India and a commitment to other international projects by individuals and churches in the Penn-Jersey Convention.
Johnny Pons, campus minister at Penn State University since 1990, compared Southern Baptists on the campus of 40,000 students to a “minnow in the ocean.”
However, he said at Penn State and other campuses this fall, “all of a sudden God is giving us the fulfillment of some of our dreams. It’s God’s grace. He’s done it. He’s brought us people. He’s brought us new workers.”
Tina Choi, director of ministries for the Philadelphia Baptist Association, said 23 churches have been involved in soup kitchen ministries in the past year. Children initially reached through after-school programs are now attending churches with their parents. The use of social work interns, holiday ministries and ministries to foster children also are being conducted through the association.
“We are doing great things in Philadelphia, but we need to do more,” Choi said. She predicted churches in the association would reach the Southern Baptist Convention goal of 75 percent of all churches being involved in community ministries.
David McCoy, pastor of Nippenose Bible Fellowship in Oval, Pa., said in the last year he has become pastor of a new church, been ordained, conducted his first baptisms and his first funerals. Of the three people who made professions of faith through the church, two have died.
“If one soul is won for his kingdom, then everything is worthwhile,” McCoy said.
In the convention sermon, Doug Pilot, director of missions for the Conemaugh Valley Baptist Association, attributed the unity in the state convention to the priority of reaching people for Christ.
“We have decided it’s more important to share the spirit of Christ. We’ve decided that lost people need to hear the gospel,” Pilot said. “I believe God has put together a melting pot so we can show real servanthood.”
In other business, messengers adopted without debate a resolution urging prayer for persecuted Christians around the world and calling on government officials to speak out for the cause of religious liberty. Other resolutions expressed gratitude to the hotel and Williamsport churches for hospitality and recognized the contributions of Jim and Ruth Ward, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in York, Pa., for 30 years of service in the convention.
In a ballot for convention president with two nominees, Pat Colladay, pastor of Dallas (Pa.) Baptist Church, was elected. Elected by acclamation were Jimmie Knox, pastor of Chambersburg Baptist Church, first vice president, and John Morris, pastor of West Hills Baptist Church, Coraopolis, Pa., second vice president.
The 1998 convention meeting will be Nov. 5-6 at Korean Baptist Church, Brown Mills, N.J.
–30– 11/24/97 Ohio Baptists sharpen student ministry focus
DAYTON, Ohio (BP)–In an effort to align student ministries with the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio’s overall goal of reaching a million people for Christ by 2020, messengers adopted a report from its Baptist Student Union study committee during their Nov. 5-7 annual meeting at Far Hills Baptist Church in Dayton.
Messengers approved report recommendations that included:
— a new name, Baptist Collegiate Ministry.
— a new expression of purpose centering around reaching collegiate communities for Christ and church membership;
— a new location, housed under the convention’s evangelism/church growth ministries area, effective Jan. 1.
— a new strategy — to reach every collegiate community in Ohio.
Ron Mitchell, pastor of First Baptist Church, Huber Heights, presided as president of the convention and was elected to serve as president for the next year. Mitchell became president when Steve Hopkins, a Columbus-area pastor who had been elected president at the 1996 annual meeting, became the convention’s director of Bible teaching/leadership ministries and vacated the presidency.
Other officers elected, also by acclamation, were first vice president, Denny McKenzie, pastor of Austintown Baptist Church in the Youngstown area and second vice president during the past year, and second vice president, Michael Smith, a Columbus attorney who has served as president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. He also is education director at First Baptist Church, Pickerington.
A 1998 budget of $6,856,170 was adopted, a 5.25 percent increase over the current year, including anticipated Cooperative Program gifts from the convention’s 610 churches and missions of $4,171,928. Forty percent of CP funds will continue to be designated to go to the Southern Baptist Cooperative Program causes beyond Ohio.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 4-6 at Dublin Baptist Church in the Columbus area.

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  • Linda Lawson