HARRISBURG, Pa. (BP) — When David Waltz began leading Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists in 1993, he committed to the position temporarily, only until a replacement could be found.
“I did agree to be acting director until they could find someone who could really do the job,” he said at the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey 2015 annual meeting. “During those months, I began to feel a very strong sense of God’s call — that He wanted me to take the position — and I discovered I liked the job and felt like I fit in many ways.”
Upon his retirement 23 years later in March 2016, Waltz will leave as the longest-tenured executive director in the BRN’s 45-year history.
Waltz recalled inheriting a financially struggling state convention that spanned two states, several hundred churches and thousands of congregants.
“Some of the things I loved to do were plan, strategize and problem solve,” Waltz said. “I loved thinking through budgets and how money could be used to maximize our goals, and I loved saving money and investing it in our churches.”
He told BRN churches they had helped him become a better leader.
“You can’t have a leader without followers, and you have been faithful followers. You have helped me be a better leader,” he said. “The thing I’ve loved the most is the chance to make a difference.”
Waltz brought focus to the BRN — then the Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey — by concentrating on a two-pronged strategy of strengthening existing churches and starting new congregations throughout the region.
In time, the convention began to stabilize as new churches came on board to partner with the growing network and other state conventions invested in the work God was doing in the region.
But growth wasn’t without risks.
Having acquired a Harrisburg office building under Waltz’s predecessor, the BRN was able to expand further by adding both the nearby Volunteer House and the Mission House to host mission teams and care for missionaries on furlough.
Another hallmark of Waltz’s leadership is evidenced in the cooperative spirit he has fostered among participating churches.
Each of the annual budgets approved during his tenure included an increase in the funds the BRN would send to the Cooperative Program.
“Every single budget has proposed an increase in the amount of money we send, and not one time has anyone said ‘No, we shouldn’t give an increase,'” he said. “I’m proud of that vision of wanting to give beyond ourselves so that others might hear (the Gospel).”
With a 35 percent increase in the number of churches giving to the Cooperative Program over the last decade, the BRN reported nearly 80 percent of its churches give to the CP.
Waltz formulated and implemented a new regional structure to the convention and state staff.
In 2005, he proposed the idea of a new convention layout broken down into four regions to help streamline and decentralize leadership to allow staff to be closer to those on the field.
“The BRN is another example of risk taking,” he said. “After years of planning and dialogue, we were able to launch out and make it work, and Pennsylvania/South Jersey has been on the leading edge of changes national leaders are just beginning to consider.”