CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (BP)–Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, set the tone for the 24th annual meeting of the MWBC early during the first session.
“I don’t think I have ever been to a state convention meeting where we have prayed as much as we are going to pray in the next two days,” Endel said. The theme of the Nov. 9-10 meeting, drawn from Matthew 9:37-38 (NLT), was “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few, so pray.”
After a brief time of singing, each of the three sessions -– Friday afternoon, Friday evening and Saturday morning -– moved into 15 minutes of prayer guided by Scripture and suggestions on a screen at the back of the stage. For a quarter-hour, the room was filled with the silent prayers of the messengers, unaccompanied even by background music.
During his executive director’s message Friday evening, Endel pointed out the three “so’s” in the New Living Translation version of the passage: so great, so few, so pray.
“The harvest is so great,” Endel said, sharing statistics that the world population is at 6.6 billion and will surpass 9 billion by 2043. “These are all people Jesus loves,” he said.
There are 10.5 million people in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he said, and most have not yet trusted Christ. “They’re the people we buy coffee from in the morning. They’re the people in the cubicle next to ours. They’re the people who live down the street.”
Although the harvest is “so great,” the workers are “so few,” Endel said. Many Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists are heavily involved in the harvest, he said, but the number of workers is small in contrast to the many who need to be reached.
The last “so” in the passage is surprising, Endel said. Since the harvest is great and the workers are few, he said, “You would think Jesus would say, ‘Get out there and go,’ but that’s not what He says. He says, ‘Pray.'”
Endel reminded messengers that the first of five strategic initiatives adopted by the convention several years ago was to prepare for spiritual awakening. “How do we do that? Pray,” he said. Although churches try various methods in order to reach people, Endel challenged messengers to pay attention to the passage. “Why not do what Jesus says? Pray.”
A total of 90 messengers from 46 churches were joined by 65 guests for the annual meeting in the one-year-old facilities of Jacob’s Well in Chippewa Falls, Wis. Pastor Paul Berthiaume told “The Jacob’s Well Story” of the church during the Friday afternoon session. The congregation started as a small group in the Berthiaume’s living room, grew to a few hundred while meeting in schools for five years and then experienced a growth explosion when they built facilities on 64 acres of land near a new highway. They now have 1,200 attending worship each weekend and 400 in small groups. “Jacob’s Well has been a miraculous story,” Berthiaume said. “God expects us to put what has been entrusted to work for the Kingdom.”
Messengers were offered and approved one resolution, offering gratitude to Jacob’s Well for hosting the event.
After a brief period of discussion, messengers soundly defeated a constitutional amendment that had been approved on first reading the year before. The amendment would have barred pastors of churches receiving MWBC financial assistance from serving as convention officers or executive board members. The amendment had been proposed by the administrative committee in an effort to avoid possible future conflict of interest in such situations.
Charles Dunning, a member of Valley Baptist Church in Appleton and a past convention president, spoke against the amendment, comparing it to “using a large blunt instrument to solve what I consider to be a theoretical problem” which could better be handled by adding a policy to executive board guidelines.
After the amendment was defeated, Dunning moved that the executive board be instructed to include in its guidelines a policy regarding voting on matters that represent a conflict of interest. Dunning’s motion was approved.
New officers, all elected by acclamation, Les Stevens, pastor of Viola (Minn.) Bible Church, president; Arne Gulbrandsen, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Racine, Wis., first vice president; and Berthiaume, second vice president.
Messengers approved a smaller budget than last year’s, down 1 per cent from $2,183,852 to $2,157,732. The decreased budget is in response to a phase-out of funding from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, from $200,000 in 2006 to no funding in 2011.
From 2007 to 2008, BGCT funding will decrease from $175,000 to $123,719. Endel told messengers that the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board has said it will replace all of the loss of BGCT funding for this year, but he called that “a short-term fix that reminds us that it is imperative that we build our own Cooperative Program base.”
Cooperative Program and designated mission contributions from churches currently fund about 33.6 percent of the MWBC annual budget. The North American Mission Board provides 52.6 percent and BGCT in 2007 will provide about 9 percent, including an anticipated $69,800 gift from BGCT’s Mary Hill Davis mission offering receipts. The rest comes from LifeWay Christian Resources, interest and designated gifts.
The 2008 budget keeps the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts allocated for Southern Baptist causes at 13 percent.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 31-Nov.1 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn.
David Williams is editor of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist, newspaper of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.