Iowa Baptists cast vision for 'Reaching Iowa'
Keynote speaker Wes Searcy, president of Next Worldwide, urged messengers to pursue authenticity and accountability in their leadership roles and to become "World Christians." What does it mean to be a "world Christian"? Searcy challenged messengers to focus on their ministries and what God is doing in Iowa, but also to keep their eyes toward all "ethne" at the same time. Searcy asked messengers, "Are you ready to surrender to God whatever he asks of you?"
BCI Executive Director Tim Lubinus announced that BCI churches increased weekly attendance 50 percent over the last five years and that BCI churches baptized more than 1,000 people over the last year. Lubinus stated that Cooperative Program giving has been strong, with a 400 percent increase over the last five years, from $99,000 in 2013 to $401,000 in the year ending Sept. 30, 2018.
Lubinus also reported on staff changes this year to increase BCI impact in supporting pastors, developing pastor peer learning groups, communication systems, communication support for churches and BCI organizational support. Kari Minter joined the BCI staff this year as planter spouse care advocate to encourage and support church planter's wives.
Lubinus informed messengers about a new initiative in overseas ministry through the Daniel Project. The goal of the Daniel Project is to recruit, train, and send near-culture Christians to engage in evangelism and church planting in difficult areas, predominantly in Central Asia. The new initiative invites Iowa pastors and church leaders on a one-week vision trip and to support the ministry as a church partner with monthly giving.
Chase Abner, lead church planting catalyst told the messengers, "I always say that church planting in Iowa is necessary, exciting and possible, but we need local churches to see that the next generation of planting leaders are sitting in their pews today."
Abner also noted that BCI churches have started 18 new churches together over the past five years but that there is still much work to be done. Abner challenged local churches to "raise up the next generation of church planting leaders."
The Executive Board approved a grant at the September board meeting to use a significant portion of BCI reserves for new projects in developing new leaders as church planters in the state. The projects would support and encourage pastors and help better mobilize and support cross-cultural missionaries sent from BCI affiliated churches.
BCI pastor and church support staff members Ed Gregory and Chris McRae shared about the many programs and initiatives for supporting existing churches. Gregory and McRae stated that along with church planting team leader Chase Abner they try to make sure that every church affiliated with the BCI has regular, meaningful connection with the state office. Additional facilitators with specialized skills and gifting have volunteered to assist with supporting existing churches and church leaders.
Another initiative to support pastors was the addition of a bi-vocational pastors retreat. Shannon Smith, with the Bi-Vocational and Small Church Leadership Network, led a group of pastors and their wives to examine some of the issues unique to pastoring in rural Iowa while holding down a full-time job outside of the church. Gregory and McRae mentioned that they are planning to host a similar retreat for this group uniquely challenged group again next fall.
Breakout sessions offered during the Annual Meeting included the following:
-- International Mission Board representatives Jeremy P. and Scott P. gave an overview of the work of the IMB and the Baptist Global Response.
-- North American Mission Board representative Bob Burton shared information about the new NAMB church planting pipeline, a development resource for the local church to discover and develop church planting teams.
-- Lifeway Christian Resources representative Greg Jackson introduced the new Daily Discipleship Guides as a tool for the local church.
-- BCI Planter Spouse Care Advocate Kari Minter shared with pastors' wives about staying focused on their own spiritual health as they walk through ministry with their husbands.
-- John Mark Yeats from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary called on attendees to stretch their minds in personal study and exercising their minds to love God. Yeats offered practical strategies for broadening and deepening a believer's reading, ministry and personal discipleship.
-- Hispanic Church Planting Catalyst Israel Becerra hosted a meeting of Hispanic pastors, church planters and lay leaders.
Officers elected at the annual meeting were President Jim Parker, pastor of Sojourn Church, Council Bluffs; First Vice President Todd Stiles, pastor of First Family Church, Ankeny; Second Vice President Michael Felkins, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church, Ames; and Secretary Jerome Risting, Temple Baptist Church, Mason City. All officers ran unopposed this year and were elected by unanimous vote.
Regional representative Executive Board members elected at the annual meeting were Tom Nesbitt, Central Region; Ken Livingston, Northeast Region; John Tank, Northwest Region; Ricky Rohrig, Southwest Region; and Bob Allen, Southeast Region.
Messengers approved a budget of $1,625,962 for 2019 marking an increase of 3.79 percent from 2018. The budget includes $700,000, an increase of 8.57 percent from 2018, in anticipated Cooperative Program receipts from BCI churches, $730,000 from the North American Mission Board (plus providing one full-time lead church planting catalyst position) and $75,400 from LifeWay Christian Resources.
The BCI will continue to forward 50 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to SBC missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses with the SBC.
The budget allocates $100,000 to the Iowa Ministry Fund consisting of 10 percent of BCI Cooperative Program receipts and 50 percent of the Iowa Missions Offering with the balance from reserves and foundation investments. The Iowa Ministry Fund normally distributes $10,000 to a selected ministry organization in each of 10 ministry categories to support organizations and ministries that offer God's mercy, love and truth to those who are among the most vulnerable across the state.
The BCI is 113 like-minded churches with more than 13,000 members who have organized together for greater ministry impact, focusing in the areas of church planting, church development and community transformation. The BCI pools resources for extending ministry into new areas and population segments within Iowa and around the world, provides mutual support, and develops the next generation of Baptist leaders.
The 2019 annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa will be held on Nov. 2 at a location yet to be determined.