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STATE MEETINGS: Pennsylvania-South Jersey, Colorado


Baptist Resource Network meeting emphasizes missions, love

By Macala Mays/Baptist Resource Network

HARRISBURG, Pa., (BP) – Placing a focus on showing the love of Christ and reaching the next generation, the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey appropriately kicked off its annual Accelerate Conference with 246 attendees – 132 messengers and 114 guests – worshiping to music led by students from Messiah University’s SEVEN. 

Throughout the conference, the BRN’s executive board addressed business matters, guests attended engaging breakout sessions and pastors were urged by main session speaker and North American Mission Board (NAMB) Next Gen Director Shane Pruitt to share the Gospel with the next generation. 

Business Session

Prior to the conference getting underway, the BRN executive board held its 52nd annual business session at 9 a.m. Oct. 4, at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel in Harrisburg, Pa.

The outgoing board president, Bryan McClelland, opened the business session with prayer, followed by his annual report.  

McClelland brought positive news to messengers, reporting that the network’s Cooperative Program giving received from churches is ahead of this same period from last year. He also noted that the BRN’s most recent financial audit was successfully completed with a great report and all expense areas in 2022 are operating below budget.

During the business session, messengers approved a BRN budget of $2,189,750 for the upcoming fiscal year, which is a $50,000 increase from last year’s budget. For 2023, the network intends to send 62.7 percent of its income toward missions and ministry (the Cooperative Program, special offerings, church servicing and resourcing) and only 37.3 percent toward personnel and operations.  

During his annual Executive Director address, Dr. Barry Whitworth encouraged urgency in reaching neighbors with the Gospel.

These numbers represent a 1.3 percent increase in Cooperative Program receipts from churches as well a 1-point increase in Cooperative Program giving beyond Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Under the new budget, 32 percent (rather than 31 percent) will be forwarded for national and international Baptist causes. 

In response to these increases, McClelland said, “We are people of faith, and as we’re planning, we want to plan as people of faith.”

Messengers electing Brian King, lead pastor of Ezekiel Baptist Church in Philadelphia, as new president of the BRN executive board. King has previously served the BRN as convention president and has served on several SBC committees. Currently, he is a trustee for GuideStone Financial Resources. Upon his election, King led messengers in prayer to close out the business session. 

After the business session, BRN Executive Director Barry Whitworth reminded conference guests what Accelerate is all about.

“Accelerate is designed to help encourage and motivate pastors and churches to move forward in the mission God has called them to do,” he said. 

“My greatest hope for the BRN is that we are a resource to help accelerate Kingdom movement amongst our churches.”

Messengers also heard from Charles E. Grant Jr., executive director of Black Church Relations and Mobilization for the Southern Baptist Conference Executive Committee, and NAMB Replant Specialist, East Region, David Jackson.

Read the full story here.

Colorado Baptists celebrate church planting

By Karen L. Willoughby

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (BP) – The Colorado Baptist General Convention took its next steps in advancing the Gospel at its recent annual meeting.

With a theme of “Don’t Give Up” and scripture of Do not grow weary in well-doing from Galatians 6:9-10, the 67th annual meeting of the state convention Oct. 10-11 drew 153 messengers from 71 of Colorado’s 374 Southern Baptist churches to a hotel in Copper Mountain.

The mountain’s base, which sits 9,700 feet above sea level, provided a fitting metaphor both for the step-by-step difficulty of reaching people with an ingrained independent mindset, and of the goal: advancing God’s kingdom and toiling up the 12,313-foot summit.

“We’re hearing a lot about isolation,” Michael Proud Jr. told Baptist Press. He returned to Colorado, his home state, from California when he arrived at last year’s annual meeting as CBGC’s newly-elected executive director.

“The people here, many didn’t grow up in church,” Proud said. “Most don’t have any idea what church is about. [Christians coming here] have to build relationships, trust and authenticity. What you believe in has to be what you live.”

Among the many reports given by Colorado leaders and SBC entities was an announcement from the Executive Board that CBGC’s “Abuse” link is now active on the “Resources” page of the convention’s website: coloradobaptists.org.

“We were working on a sex abuse protocol prior to the Guidepost Solutions’ report,” Proud said. “We launched in May a resource for functional abuse training, reporting and victim care all connected. This includes training in how to prevent sex abuse, how, who and what to report and ways to care for victims.”

Another point of information to the messengers: The sale of the CGBC’s Ponderosa Baptist Retreat and Conference Center fell through when the potential buyer was unable to acquire funding.

Lead Church Planting Catalyst Frank Cornelius told messengers, “We are greatly encouraged, having seen great interest in church planting this year. We are currently working with well over 100 men who are exploring a call to plant in Colorado.” 

About the 53 planters already in ministry throughout Colorado, “What we are seeing is our church planters digging deep into evangelism pools in their communities, finding those broken and shattered by sin, and helping them find life and hope in Christ,” Cornelius said.

Among stories the church planters related to the lead catalyst, “Two planters reported baptizing people who were formerly part of a cult. Two other planters reported marriages being restored because the couples gave their lives to Christ. Others talked about people who were initially resistant to Gospel finding life in Christ.”

Evangelism is only half their job.

“Right now, our church planters are intentionally discipling almost 1,000 people,” Cornelius continued. “By focusing on discipleship, these planters are building a group of leaders for the future.”

Three resolutions of gratitude were approved by messengers: to Copper Mountain for its hospitality; to Steve Hoekstra, who retired in July after 41 years ministering in Colorado, most recently as director of the state convention’s Western Slope Office; and to Doug Lohrey, retiring with 25 years’ service at the state convention, most recently as chief financial officer as well as president of the Baptist Foundation of Colorado. 

In other business, a $2,607,171 budget for 2023 passed unanimously, up $114,466 from the 2022 budget. Cooperative Program giving from Colorado churches in 2023 is anticipated to be $740,170, up $23 from last year’s $740,147. Of that total, 35 percent – $259,059.50 – will be forwarded to national and international Southern Baptist missions and ministries, and $481,110.50 will stay in Colorado.

“The Cooperative Program is what allows us to be a part of a greater Gospel impact all around the world,” Proud said. “What we do through the Cooperative Program no one church can do alone. We’re better together.” 

President Mark Spence, pastor of The Avenue in Aurora, was re-elected to a second one-year term, as was first vice president Greg Teel, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Delta. Jack Jarrett was elected as second vice president. He is pastor of Garden Ranch Baptist Church in Colorado Springs.

“It’s been an amazing year,” the executive director said. “We’ve established regional directors to work with men serving in associational areas. This gives us someone on the field who can connect with pastors and connect churches together, to be able to respond quickly to church needs.”

The state convention also developed “Next Steps” in 2022. The two-step process involves vision framing and vision planning, assisted as needed by CBGC’s four regional directors, also known as Next Step guides.

“Knowing your next best steps will improve communication, increase involvement, and help create momentum in advancing the Gospel,” Director of Convention Strategies Rick Ackerman explained in his report. “If you are unsure of what your next best step is, we are equipped and ready to help with that too.”

Colorado’s next annual meeting is set for Oct. 9-10, 2023, at Revive Church in Arvada.

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