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WRAP-UP: At 25th meeting, New England Baptists study ‘missional churches’

HARTFORD, Conn. (BP)–The Baptist Convention of New England met for its 25th annual meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Hartford, Conn., with the theme of “Viewing the World with a Missional Heart.

A total of 125 messengers from 56 churches and 38 guests registered for the Nov. 8-10 meeting, hosted by First Baptist Church in Manchester.

The BCNE marked its 25th year by highlighting significant moments from the convention’s history throughout the three-day meeting.

During each session, pastors and laypersons from BCNE churches also shared testimonies of ministry based on Acts 1:8. Testimonies included experiences of church planters, local church community outreach stories, sports ministry, World Changers, overseas trips to Mozambique and disaster relief.

Directors of missions from the seven New England Baptist Associations shared testimonies of what God is doing in each region.

Paul Kim, serving his second term, delivered the president’s address. He began with a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and then shared the importance of pastors and leaders sharing the dreams God gives with the churches. Referring to Genesis 37 and the story of Joseph, Kim encouraged leaders to express, develop and understand God-orchestrated dreams. He also challenged the convention to take greater steps forward in ministry.

Jim Wideman, BCNE executive director, expanded on the meeting’s theme, defining “missional” as thinking and ministering like a missionary. Wideman partnered with his son, who lives overseas, to translate learned missional lessons into lessons the local church can incorporate. Six characteristics of an “ends of the earth” missionary were translated into six characteristics of a missional church.

A missional church, Wideman said:

— focuses not on preferences of members but on reaching a lost world.

— has discovered the key cultural barriers to the Gospel in its community and actively works to overcome them; it does not expect lost people to overcome the church’s cultural barriers.

— is ready to do whatever is necessary to build relationships with lost people in order to eventually present the Gospel.

— has discovered the difference between the foundational truths of the Gospel and cultural interpretations of the Gospel.

— teaches and preaches godliness and sanctification, knowing that the day-to-day living example of its members validates the Gospel message.

— focuses on creating mature disciples, not increasing numbers, budgets and buildings.

“When making disciples is your focus, many things will change. And changing perceptions will not be easy and will not happen quickly,” Wideman said.

Curtis Cook, pastor of Hope Fellowship in Cambridge, Mass., delivered the annual sermon, speaking from Psalm 127:1-2 in describing how the American culture is rooted in the mentality of “I can do it.”

“Has this way of thinking infiltrated our personal lives and ministry?” Cook asked, adding that being self-reliant is God-denying.

A person’s best effort may produce great results for a season, Cook said, but Scripture says those efforts are short-lived.

Cook personalized the battle of self-reliance, which begins for him each morning when he decides whether to spend time with God or charge into the day’s to-do list. Ministers and leaders need to repent of tendencies for self-reliance, he said, noting that when God is the One building the home or ministry, rest is possible because trust is in Him and He will provide everything for His purpose.

Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, contrasted 1 Samuel 17 and 1 Chronicles 20, noting that David believed in giant killing and asked the question, “What gives one the strength and fortitude to kill giants?”

Page said the giants Southern Baptists face are strong and can kill.

“To underestimate the power of the enemy has brought us where we are today. We are in a foreign environment,” he said.

The key, Page said, was David’s faith. When David approached Goliath, he boldly stated, “I come against you in the name of the Lord God Almighty.”

“Fall in love with the Lord all over again. Then New England can become the lighthouse of the Word again,” Page said.

By acclamation, messengers elected Adam Houston, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Epping, N.H., as president and Michael John, pastor of Market Street Baptist Church in Amesbury, Mass., as vice president for a second term. Sandy Coelho, a member of Victory Baptist Church in Rockland, Mass., was re-elected secretary, and Sandy Wideman of Rice Memorial Baptist Church in Northborough, Mass., was re-elected historian.

From an anticipated $792,915 in Cooperative Program giving by the state’s churches, messengers approved a quarter-percent-of-budget increase, to 21.5 percent, to be forwarded to national and international missions and ministries of the SBC. The convention’s overall budget approved for 2008 is $3,007,405, up three percent over the current budget.

Messengers approved four resolutions, including support for First Amendment rights and recognition of the life and service of Paul Gallier, a lay leader and director of the Baptist Foundation, and Robert Brindle, a former pastor and director of missions.

Worship was led by Boston church planter T.J. Odom and the worship team from First Baptist Manchester. Representing the ethnic diversity found in the convention, prayers were offered in Bengali, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Korean.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 13-15 in the Northborough, Mass., area.
Allyson Clark writes for the Baptist Convention of New England.

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  • Allyson Clark