OCEAN CITY, Md. (BP)–Messengers to the 172nd annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware increased the convention’s budget, heard reports from growing churches and passed resolutions opposing embryonic stem cell research and gambling.
With the theme “Engage Tomorrow,” 354 registered messengers and 75 guests from 142 churches gathered at the Ocean City Clarion Resort Nov. 12-13.
Messengers approved an overall budget of $7.1 million for the coming year, an increase of 2.6 percent. Anticipated Cooperative Program giving from churches in the two-state convention is $5.3 million, up 4.6 percent from 2007. Maryland/Delaware Baptists will continue to forward 41 percent of CP receipts to Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries.
Two pastors of BCM/D churches shared testimonies of how God is blessing their ministries and churches. Andy Ehlers, pastor of High Tide Baptist Church in Ocean View, Del., said the church has grown from 70 to 400 people in four years and has baptized about 20 people this year. One-third of those attending are 12 years old and younger. Daryl McCready, pastor of Sonrise Church in Berlin, Md., said in the past five years 254 people have made decisions for Christ and the church has baptized 213 individuals.
Anticipating an upcoming referendum on slot machines in Maryland and Delaware, messengers adopted a resolution opposing the expansion of gambling in their states. The resolution urges the governors and members of Maryland and Delaware General Assemblies to join with citizens in finding ways to strengthen each state’s economy on sound principles.
The resolution also encourages candidates for public office to take a stand in support of Maryland and Delaware families and businesses by pledging to oppose expansion of gambling and to encourage Maryland and Delaware Baptists to contact their governors and state legislators to express their individual opinions on the issue.
Messengers also passed a resolution opposing embryonic stem cell research, saying that “it is God alone who gives and sustains life from the moment of conception.” The resolution urges BCM/D members to give public witness against the destruction of human life in embryonic stem cell research and to publicize their support of adult stem cell research.
Messengers re-elected Rick Hancock, pastor of Dunkirk Baptist Church in Dunkirk, Md., as president; Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., as first vice president; Chris Gudmundsson, pastor of First Baptist Church Dundalk in Baltimore, as second vice president; and Gayle Clifton, pastor of Upper Seneca Baptist Church in Germantown, Md., as recording secretary.
Bob Mackey, director of missions for the Baltimore Baptist Association, expressed gratitude for partnerships in “Embrace Baltimore,” an evangelistic effort enabling churches to reach their communities for Christ. Mackey, executive director of Embrace Baltimore, reiterated the initiative’s goal of sponsoring 150 outreach events and starting 38 new churches in 2008.
Maina Mwuara, a BCM/D missionary for student and children’s evangelism, asked all churches to get involved in an upcoming evangelism conference in March in partnership with WMU to share Christ in Baltimore.
Messengers also voted to revise the BCM/D’s mission statement to read: “The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware will intentionally assist in the starting and strengthening of congregations so that together we can fulfill Jesus’ commands in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8.”
The BCM/D partnership mission team presented a video showing scenes from a recent exploratory mission trip to Asia and encouraged people to pray about supporting missions on that continent.
Messengers watched a presentation regarding www.bcmd.e-quip.net. Sponsored and maintained by the BCM/D, the website offers individuals and churches free video training in a variety of church leadership and ministry roles.
Rick Hancock, president of the convention, preached from 1 Kings 18 about Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Hancock said Elijah did everything according to plan and got favorable results because he didn’t elevate himself. He was obedient, he prayed and the fire fell, Hancock said.
Roy Fish, distinguished professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, preached from 1 Corinthians 9:19, which says, “I become all things to all men that I may by all means save some.” Fish said it takes 44 Southern Baptists a whole year to win someone to Christ, and then half of them can’t be found at the end of the year.
“God’s basic objectives are to win people to Jesus Christ and mature them in the faith,” Fish said, adding that churches have lost their focus. Focus, he said, means single-mindedness, concentration and keeping something at the center of one’s heart.
David Lee, executive director of the BCM/D, preached from Philippians 2:14-18, which says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe.”
“Our job is to shine like stars in midst of darkness,” Lee said, asking how Christians can do that in such a crooked and depraved generation. The common perceptions are that Christianity is old-fashioned, hypocritical and too involved in politics. Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus, he said.
Lee challenged messengers to read the New Testament from beginning to end twice in 2008.
“As you do, build a clear profile of what it means to ‘live like Jesus’ in this generation. Write it down. Commit to make the personal journey to become more like Jesus in the way we live and minister in the world in 2008. Lead your church to become more like Jesus in the way that we live and minister,” Lee said.
Messengers heard reports from the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and GuideStone Financial Resources.
Jack Wilkerson, who recently retired from his position as vice president for business and finance at the SBC’s Executive Committee, told messengers their 4.6 percent increase in Cooperative Program giving ranks the BCM/D among the top 12 conventions in increased giving. Wilkerson noted that BCM/D churches also increased their gifts to the annual Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong missions offerings by 6 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.
Doug Carlson of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission showed a video and said the American culture is out of control.
“If God’s people commit to speaking out, imagine what the world would look like,” he said.
Reporting for LifeWay Christian Resources, Gary Jennings touted Vacation Bible School as one of the best evangelism tools available to churches, saying the summertime effort results in 25 to 28 percent of baptisms each year.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 9-10 in Dover, Del.
Sharon Mager is a writer for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.