Iowa Baptists highlight evangelism, church planting
Keynote speaker Ronnie Floyd, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, exhorted Iowa churches to renew their urgency for evangelism. He pointed out the sharp drop in professions of faith among 12-17-year-olds and challenged Southern Baptist church leaders to embrace the call to reach these next-generation leaders for Christ.
"Dr. Floyd's call to reach the next generation needs to be echoed throughout Iowa," said Tim Lubinus, executive director of the Baptist Convention of Iowa. "The BCI works to strengthen existing churches throughout rural Iowa and plant new churches in strategic locations to ensure all 99 counties have a strong, Gospel-centered church striving to reach the next generation of Iowans."
Seventy-eight messengers from 36 churches attended the BCI annual meeting to celebrate advances in their cooperative work and to conduct annual business.
A highlight of the afternoon session was Ed Gregory's look back at some of his memories from nearly 40 years as an Iowa Baptist, both as a pastor and a convention staff member. With fairly rapid growth in the last five to six years, many do not know the BCI's rich history and the men and women who have invested so much over the years to reach Iowa for Christ and work in cooperation with Baptists across the country and around the world.
Gregory, currently working in pastor and church support in a part-time capacity, was pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Cedar Rapids from 1982-1999 and BCI associate executive director from 1999-2004. He subsequently served as pastor of First Baptist Church of Anchorage, Alaska, from 2004-2014, before returning to Iowa.
Chase Abner, lead church planting catalyst, moderated a panel discussion with church planters Tim Kimberly of Sacred Mission Church in Collins, Nick Reed of CityPoint Church in Urbandale and sending church pastor Todd Stiles of First Family Church in Ankeny. The men shared stories of both the challenges and triumphs of church planting.
"Church planting in Iowa is necessary, exciting and possible," Abner told the messengers, inviting Iowa churches to be actively involved in church planting by teaching the next generation of church planters and becoming a sending church.
Four new church starts in Iowa were announced:
-- LivingStone Church in Corydon led by pastor Joe Dowdy and sent by Cornerstone Community Church in Chariton.
-- Sacred Mission Church in Collins led by pastor Tim Kimberly and sent by Frontline Church in Oklahoma City.
-- Restoration Church in Adel led by pastor Eric Trout and sent by First Family Church in Ankeny.
-- First Family Church in Albia led by pastor Jason Laxon also sent by First Family Church in Ankeny.
"Each of these churches has planters and/or team members who moved from out of state to be on mission in Iowa," Abner noted. "Two of these new churches are from sending churches planting their first church in Iowa.
"We currently have three BCI churches planning to launch new works in 2020 with a focus in the Des Moines metro, Marshalltown and other county seat towns in rural Iowa," Abner added. He also reported early activity on two additional Hispanic church plants in Iowa communities.
Abner closed by asking, "Please pray that God would continue to lead the way as our churches work together to start healthy works led by healthy leaders and families."
A key aspect of strengthening partner churches throughout Iowa is ensuring every church is a safe place for children. Working in partnership with the Caring Well initiative of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the BCI is actively providing training and resources to churches to help protect the most vulnerable among us.
"The Caring Well Initiative is a two-pronged approach to dealing with this age-old problem in our culture," Chris Eller, BCI associate executive director, said of two breakout sessions on the SBC-wide effort. "Yes, we must do all we can do as churches to be safe for children, but we also must recognize that the church should be a refuge of safety for the many abuse survivors who attend our churches."
Other breakout sessions included seminars on worship planning, church communication strategies, leading small churches, the benefits of collaborating with a statewide network and ways to engage in local, national and international missions through the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board.
Elected as officers during the annual meeting were president Jim Parker, pastor of Sojourn Church in Council Bluffs; first vice president Todd Stiles, pastor of First Family Church in Ankeny; second vice president Michael Felkins, pastor of Grand Avenue Baptist Church in Ames; and secretary Jerome Risting, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Mason City. All officers were unopposed and were elected by unanimous vote.
Elected as regional representative Executive Board members were Tim Trudeau, Central Region; Darin Ulmer, Northeast Region; John Tank, Northwest Region; Ricky Rohrig, Southwest Region; and Bob Allen, Southeast Region.
Messengers approved a budget of $1,705,046 for 2020, an increase of 4.86 percent from 2019. It includes $730,000 in anticipated Cooperative Program receipts from BCI churches, an increase of 4.29 percent; $735,000 from the North American Mission Board (plus providing one full-time lead church planting catalyst position); and $76,400 from LifeWay Christian Resources.
The Baptist Convention of Iowa will continue to forward 50 percent of CP 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 100 percent of the Iowa Missions Offering with the balance from reserves and foundation investments. The Iowa Ministry Fund 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.
In the category of Community Transformation, the Iowa Missions Offering is nearing the completion of its fifth year of providing funds to ministries through the Iowa Ministry Fund. The total funds distributed through the IMF will be at $500,000 by the end of the 2019 grant cycle. The convention added one new IMF ministry partner in Prison Fellowship, which is the first ministry partner in the category of "Prison Ministry and Aftercare." One change for 2019 is that 100 percent of the mission offering funds will go toward the IMF (rather than 50 percent as in previous years).
The Baptist Convention of Iowa encompasses 121 churches with more than 17,000 members and attendees 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 2020 annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of Iowa will be Nov. 14 at Grace Church in Des Moines.