N.E. Baptists seek next generation, denounce racism

AVON, Mass. (BP) -- How can New England Baptists reach the next generation? Fady Ghobrial, a millennial member of Arabic Baptist Church in Newton, Mass., believes the key is spiritually mentoring young leaders.

Millennials are the most fatherless generation that has ever existed, Ghobrial said in the convention sermon during the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England, with its theme of "Embracing the Future by Reaching the Next Generation."

"We need fathers and coaches to do life with us, mentor us, give us feedback, love us through failure and disappointment, and tell us the things we need to hear and maybe don't necessarily want to hear," Ghobrial said during the Nov. 3-4 BCNE meeting attended by 150 messengers and 55 visitors at Grace Church in Avon, Mass.

Citing examples of young leaders from Scripture and focusing on discipleship as described in 2 Timothy 2:2, Ghobrial concluded with simple ways experienced leaders can reach out to younger leaders: directing them to helpful resources like articles, books or sermons; giving them feedback when they serve; asking how they're really doing; and being ready to listen and pray.

Besides celebrating what God is doing throughout New England, particularly in youth and college ministries, messengers passed a "Resolution on the Evils of Racism" to "denounce and repudiate all and any kind of racism and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil."

The resolution, citing such verses as Acts 17:26, Acts 10:34-35, Galatians 3:27-28, Revelation 5:9 and Revelation 7:9, stated the desire of BCNE churches for "progress in rooting out any remaining forms of intentional or unintentional racism in our midst" while praying that those who advocate or subscribe to racism ideologies will repent and come to know the love of Christ.

Resolutions also were passed to express appreciation to Ernie Beevers, who is retiring from leading the New England branch of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and to Grace Church for hosting the annual meeting.

As one of the New England associations makes tentative plans to merge with the BCNE organizationally and others consider this step, messengers passed a motion to safeguard local church representation on the BCNE board of directors according to geographical location, not associational membership. In the future the board of directors plans to address this issue more permanently by changing the constitution. Another motion was passed to revise the bylaws in order to eliminate bureaucratic layers and streamline organizational work.

Messengers approved a 2018 budget of $3,030,000, a 6.5 percent increase from 2017 in part due to an estimated 16.5 percent increase in Cooperative Program giving from the 366 New England churches, which together have almost 29,000 members.

The budget includes $166,600 allotted to Cooperative Program missions and ministries of the Southern Baptist Convention, representing 17 percent of New England CP giving, an increase of 1 percentage point from last year. For the second year in a row, nearly 100 percent of funds given by churches to the Cooperative Program will be used for mission and ministry. This is possible because overhead and administrative costs are funded through rental income and other sources.

In officer elections, Tim Owens, lead pastor of Mission City Church in Rutland and Castleton, Vt., was elected BCNE president, while Gonzalo Graupera, lead pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Boston in Saugus, Mass., was elected vice president. Sandra Coelho, leadership development director at the BCNE and volunteer staff member at Church of the Vine in Carver, Mass., will continue to serve as clerk.

For the first time in 35 years, the BCNE offered several training sessions in conjunction with the annual meeting, including "Reaching the Next Generation through Social Media," "Reaching the Next Generation through Community Mission Projects," "Reaching the Next Generation through Prayer," "Reaching the Next Generation through Community" and "Reaching the Next Generation through Preschool and Children's Ministry." The sessions were facilitated by guest speakers Jonathan Jordan, Mike Taylor, Tim Smith, Jenni Carter and Maria Brannen of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's groups and faith development department, along with Ricky Smith of the Georgia convention's student groups and faith development department. In addition, David Jackson, BCNE church planting director and strategist, facilitated a session on "Reaching the Next Generation through Preaching" while IMB missionary Jan Johnsonius led a session entitled "Reaching the Next Generation through International Missions."

On the last day of the meeting, the BCNE welcomed Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee. Page participated in a panel at the Cooperative Program breakfast and shared a message from Isaiah 6, encouraging BCNE church leaders to see the Lord, recognize human inadequacy in light of God's adequacy and go out to serve God.

"When people praise the Lord and see the Lord, things happen at church," Page said. "There was a time when this place [New England] brought forth a spiritual awakening. There was a day when Harvard was a place the Gospel was preached. The doorposts shook. The whole place was filled with smoke. Oh God, may it happen again!"

Next year's annual meeting will be Nov. 2-3 at Riverbank Church in White River Junction, Vt., with the theme "Embracing the Future through Church Planting." Sean Sears, pastor of Grace Church in Avon, Mass., will deliver the annual sermon.

Kimber Ross is communications coordinator for the Baptist Convention of New England.
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