Pa./S. Jersey increases CP, eyes future
This year's meeting, attended by 148 messengers and 89 guests representing 105 of 330 active BRN churches, was held Nov. 1-2 at BRN's property in York, Pa.
Executive director's report
In his report to the network, BRN executive director Barry Whitworth recapped the BRN's 2018 achievements, noting first, "I'd rather know that Jesus is pleased with me because I challenged men to do what is difficult, than have men pleased with me because I encouraged them to do what is easy."
He reported how the BRN staff has made 4,553 connections with pastors, churches and partners in 2018 to date. That includes more than 500 one-on-one consultations this year with pastors and churches.
In addition, the BRN funded 84 church resource grants for BRN churches and completed a state-of-the-art Training Center, which has been used 29 times this year. Also, 24 new church plants and affiliations began cooperating with the network this year.
Whitworth continued, "Disaster Relief mobilized for 11 deployments and completed more than 150 DR jobs. Our collegiate ministry sent 60 students to Puerto Rico for DR work, and they, along with our church planting group, are looking at the possibility of creating a new ministry and church plant at Bloomsburg University."
Close also to his heart, Whitworth shared about his involvement in a racial reconciliation coalition that was formed this year in Philadelphia to discuss and begin to solve racial issues "that have divided our culture for far too long."
This coalition of 12-15 men (African American and Anglo) has organized to reach three goals: education, building relationships that create trust, and service that displays unity.
"We met eight times this year, and one of those times we took a coach bus of 50 people on a field trip to the African American Museum in Washington, D.C.," Whitworth said. "We've been serious about making a difference in this matter, and we will continue to do so, not just in Philly but all across our state convention."
Whitworth said, "We have much to praise God for what He has done through our churches throughout this year. I rejoice that God is truly at work within His people across our BRN area."
Before introducing new initiatives for 2019, Whitworth shared a graphic, which reflects the organization's goal of healthy churches, focusing on healthy leaders, healthy filters ("Kingdom" and "prayer"), healthy behaviors ("missional engagement," "intentional discipleship" and "leadership development") and a healthy mission ("reproducing disciples, leaders, new ministries, and new churches").
To assist in this process, Whitworth said the first initiative of 2019 is the continued expansion of a "home grown" Spiritual Health Assessment tool that helps churches analyze where they are related to the three healthy behaviors.
The second initiative will be an increased focus on these three behaviors. Accordingly, Whitworth shared his estimation that only about a third of BRN churches are missionally engaged; only around 20 percent of the churches have intentional discipleship pathways; and only around 10 percent have leadership development processes/pipelines.
"So, how are we going to raise the bar? Along with using the Spiritual Health Assessment, we're going to create roundtable discussions and trainings on how we're going to become stronger in these biblical behaviors," he said.
Whitworth also pointed to two new initiatives focused on compassion ministries and women's ministry. He shared his desire to "one day see Compassion Ministry Centers in our major and mid-sized cities" that focus on all four components of compassion ministry: spiritual, emotional, physical and practical. Pastor Chris "Buff" McNickle of Grace Falls Church in Absecon, N.J., will lead this effort.
Additionally, BRN Women, led by Beth Whitworth, will seek to encourage, equip and mobilize women to be on mission for Christ.
Other initiatives include the relaunch of the BRN's Multiplying Church Centers, which will seek to enhance an indigenous movement of church planting in the region; the formation of an "ethnic discussion cluster" and "millennial forums" to discuss challenges these populations face; and an "Adopt an International Mission" opportunity.
To that end, via Zoom, Whitworth interviewed David and Sarah McNeill, a missionary family serving in Bogota, Colombia, a city of 10 million people in South America. The conversation highlighted ways the BRN family can partner and pray for these International Mission Board missionaries.
"Our team is getting focused and strategic in assisting and encouraging our churches to engage lost-ness, make disciple-makers and develop the next generation of leaders all across Pa./South Jersey," Whitworth said. "Our greatest days are not behind us; they are in front of us. We must seize this moment for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom."
Don Wilton, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, S.C., and president of the Encouraging Word television ministry, served as the featured preacher for all three annual meeting sessions. He reminded his listeners that "being Kingdom-minded people begins with who we are."
He pointed to Moses, who in Hebrews 11:24-27, settled several issues in his life (who he belonged to, what he had to overcome, what he needed to leave and what he needed to do) in order to be a good minister for the Lord. "Moses, at his day and age, had a deep, profound sense concerning this incredible God before whom He bowed," Wilton said.
Kevin Roberts, outgoing BRN president and pastor of Community Baptist Church in Charleroi, Pa., examined the behaviors of healthy churches through the lens of Matthew 29:18-20 and Acts 1:8. "Missional engagement is a mandate," he said. The Great Commission "didn't say go to school, take a course ... It said, 'Go!'" Later, Roberts said, "Leadership is not a seminary degree. It is a willingness of heart."
Adam Sewell, pastor of The Well Church in Pittsburgh, preached the annual convention sermon. Pointing to Mark 8:1-3, he said, "True compassion is felt when we are close to the hurting." He urged listeners to engage their neighborhoods. "Compassion ministry is not just ministry to the poor ... The world around us is hurting; we need to take time to invest in people."
During a brief business session, messengers approved a $3,001,600 budget, which includes an anticipated $1,150,000 in Cooperative Program receipts from churches; $330,000 in special offerings (Annie Armstrong, Lottie Moon, State Missions, and Global Hunger Relief); $1,300,000 from the North American Mission Board; and $221,600 in other income. This represents a 0.96 percent increase in total budget.
The budget allocates 29 percent of 2019 CP receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries, up from 27.5 percent in 2018 and 26.3 percent in 2017. The remaining 71 percent will go toward Pennsylvania/South Jersey missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses.
"This marks the largest CP giving year in the 48 years of our convention," Whitworth said. "... God-willing, I'd love for us to hit the 30 percent mark before our 50th year celebration" in 2019.
John Weathersby, pastor of Transcend Church in Harrisburg, Pa., and chairman of the BRN Budget & Finance Committee, reported the BRN received $61,775 more from churches for the first three quarters of 2018 than was received over the same period in 2017. Moreover, Pennsylvania/South Jersey giving to the national Cooperative Program increased by 36.84 percent over the previous fiscal year.
More than half of the budget (50.1 percent or $1,501,900) will go to service and resource churches within the network.
Messengers unanimously elected the following 2019 BRN officers: George Tynes, pastor of Truth Baptist Church, Philadelphia, president; Jerry Cowan, pastor of Valley Baptist Church, Middletown, Pa., first vice president; and Charles Levi Martin, pastor of Unity Fellowship Baptist Church, Willingboro, N.J., second vice president.
Messengers also learned of new partnerships with Alliance Defending Freedom, Financial Peace University and RightNow Media.
The 2018 Constitution & Bylaws Committee reported working most of the year on revisions to the BRN's governing documents. The committee made revisions to square the BRN's constitution and bylaws with current laws concerning nonprofits, revisions to streamline BRN operations and revisions to articulate when the BRN Policies & Procedures Manual will be the guide for the BRN administrative and operational duties.
The committee presented the proposed changes to the Executive Board, which endorsed them, and to messengers, who were given opportunity to ask questions during a breakout session. Messengers will vote on the proposed constitution and bylaws amendments at the network's 2019 annual meeting.
The 2019 BRN annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8-9 at the Radisson Hotel in Harrisburg, Pa.