Minn.-Wis. Baptists cope with phasing out BGCT assistance

DULUTH, Minn. (BP)--A 50-year partnership with Texas Baptists was the main focus of the 23rd annual meeting of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention as messengers celebrated the past and committed to give their best in order to meet the challenge as financial support from Texas phases out over the next four years.

Leo Endel, the convention’s executive director, cast the vision, challenging Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists to “give God our best,” reaching goals in 10 key areas that will enable them to continue reaching the people of their states despite the loss of outside funding from the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Meeting Nov. 3-4 at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Suites in Duluth, Minn., 81 messengers from 30 churches were joined by 43 visitors.

The BGCT agreed in 1956 to form a new association composed of seven Southern Baptist churches that had been started in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The association became a fellowship in 1967 and a two-state convention in 1983. Since 1956, the BGCT has continued a partnership with the MWBC, contributing leadership, training, pastors, mission teams and as much as $200,000 a year.

Those funds have been multiplied through the MWBC’s 80/20 matching relationship with the North American Mission Board, with NAMB providing $8 for every $2 spent by the MWBC in certain areas, such as evangelism and new work. But earlier this year the BGCT notified the MWBC that the contributions will be reduced each year and end in 2010.

“We never had a partnership that long with anybody [else],” Charles Wade, executive director of the BGCT, told messengers. “We want to continue to be friends. We’re changing a bit our financial relationship and I know that will be a difficult thing for you, but I also believe it will be a good thing for you. It’s time.”

Shelby Alcott, president of the MWBC, echoed Wade’s sentiment.

“It’s time we stand on our own two feet,” Alcott said.

Alcott urged messengers to challenge their churches to increase the percentage they give through the Cooperative Program, something he promised he would encourage his own church to do.

MWBC leaders said the mood of the meeting was upbeat and positive as messengers voiced gratitude for the help from Texas and also expressed readiness to move beyond financial dependence.

Endel, preaching from Acts 26:12-19, said the life of Paul is “a tremendous example for those of us in new work areas,” as Paul was “one who knew what it was like to give your all and to give your best.” Endel identified 10 things that could happen by 2010 if Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists would give their best. The goals are:

-- 200 churches, a net increase of about 10 churches each year.

-- 1,465 baptisms, stepping up by 10 percent each year from the current 1,000.

-- 650 pastors and leaders “on a leadership development journey” through a variety of training opportunities.

-- 40 percent of churches characterized as “growing” compared to the current 30 percent. Growth is defined as averaging 5 percent annual growth in membership over five years.

-- Financial stability of the convention, which stands to lose “if nothing changes,” as much as $700,000 a year through a declining trend in Cooperative Program giving from the churches and the loss of BGCT financial support.

-- Two regional prayer meetings each year to pray for spiritual awakening.

-- Establishment of a Kingdom Connections Network, “a physical and virtual network connecting resources and opportunities.”

-- A missions advocate in every church to keep the church aware of the activities and needs of international missionaries from Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists.

-- 50 percent of churches taking a mission trip, up from 25 out of 157 churches currently.

-- 10 percent growth in weekly worship attendance, from 9,324 in 2006 to 13,650 in 2010.

Messengers officially affirmed the vision cast by Endel. One of three resolutions approved by messengers encouraged each association, church and pastor “to work diligently to further the realization of this vision in their own setting” and that each “personally commit to ‘DO OUR BEST’ in all our efforts to that end.”

An overall budget of $2.1 million was approved for 2007, which is about 1.25 percent lower than the current budget. As in recent years, Cooperative Program gifts received from churches -- an anticipated amount of $505,630 in 2007 -- will be divided 13/87, with 13 percent passed on to Southern Baptist Convention ministries and 87 percent kept for MWBC ministries.

In other business, two constitutional amendments, approved on first reading, would prohibit “vocational ministers of churches receiving assistance through the convention” from serving as officers or as members of the Executive Board. To take effect, the amendments must be approved on second reading at next year’s annual meeting. About 20 pastors currently receive church growth assistance funds from the state convention.

All convention officers were re-elected by acclamation: Shelby Alcott, a member of Layton Avenue Baptist Church in Greenfield, Wis., president; Les Stevens, a member of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rochester, Minn., first vice president; Arne Gulbrandsen, pastor of New Beginnings Church in Racine, Wis., second vice president; and Wes Shemwell, a member of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis., recording secretary.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 9-10 at Jacob’s Well Church in Eau Claire, Wis.


Download Story