Pennsylvania/South Jersey Baptists issued '10/5 Challenge'

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Messengers to the 2019 annual meeting of the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey heard a challenge for 2020, celebrated 2019 accomplishments, increased their Cooperative Program giving to SBC causes, and elected a new slate of officers, among other business.

In a panel discussion on racial reconciliation moderated by Larry Anderson (center), director of healthy churches for the Baptist Resource Network, participants expressed excitement over a joint effort to reach Strawberry Mansion, an underprivileged neighborhood in Philadelphia.
Photo by Shannon Baker
This year's meeting, attended by 189 messengers and 87 guests representing 107 of 311 active BRN churches (plus a combined reach of nearly 1,000 through its livestream), was held Nov. 7-8 at the Radisson Harrisburg Hotel in Camp Hill, Pa.

Business Session

During a brief business session, messengers approved a $3,012,000 budget, which includes an anticipated $1,168,000 in Cooperative Program receipts from churches; $332,000 in special offerings (Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American missions, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions, state missions and Global Hunger Relief); $1,300,000 from the North American Mission Board (NAMB); and $212,000 in other income. This represents a 0.35 percent increase in total budget.

The budget allocates 30 percent of 2020 CP receipts to SBC national and international missions and ministries, up from 29 percent in 2019 (and from 26.3 percent in 2017). The remaining 70 percent will go toward Pennsylvania/South Jersey missions and ministries. The budget does not include any shared ministry expenses.

Messengers also approved revisions to the current BRN Constitution & Bylaws, which brings the documents up to date with current laws concerning non-profits, streamlines the BRN operations, and clearly articulates that the BRN Policies & Procedures Manual will be the guide for the BRN administrative and operational duties.

Additionally, messengers were presented with a statement in support of the prevention of abuse and for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults that was approved and adopted by the BRN's Executive Board earlier in the year.

This statement encourages all churches affiliated with the BRN to develop and implement plans to prevent abuse of minors and vulnerable adults within the ministries of the church, including being in full compliance with state laws; to educate and raise awareness of the seriousness of abuse within the ministries of the church; to minister and care for those affected by abuse; and to diligently guard those whom God has given them for the purpose of ministry.

Messengers unanimously elected the following 2020 BRN officers: Chris "Buff" McNickle, pastor of Grace Falls Church in Absecon, N.J., president; John Weathersby, pastor of Transcend Church in Harrisburg, Pa., vice president; and Jennifer Musser, community engagement director at ChoiceOne Pregnancy and Sexual Health Resource Centers, and wife of Brian Musser, collegiate minister at Drexel University in Philadelphia, secretary.

Executive Director Report

In his report, BRN executive director Barry Whitworth issued a "10/5 Challenge," urging 50 churches to "step out and get on the move" as the BRN closes out 50 years of ministry and sets the stage for the next 50 years of ministry within Pennsylvania/South Jersey.

Barry Whitworth, executive director of the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, issued a "10/5 Challenge," urging 10 churches to "step out and get on the move" in each of five areas.
Photo by Shannon Baker
In that effort, Whitworth urged 50 BRN churches to become involved in five areas: healthy churches, church multiplication, compassion ministry, collegiate ministry, and international missions.

The 10/5 challenge is "to help inspire churches to move beyond where they are, to become healthier by doing something they've never done before, in order to reach more and more people for Christ," Whitworth said.

Whitworth shared several notable accomplishments from 2019, including advancements in compassion ministry, disaster relief and racial reconciliation.

"Our team works tirelessly, sometimes more hours than they should, only to give their best to serve our churches throughout the BRN," he said, noting the BRN staff has connected with 100 percent of BRN churches, in over 4,800 connections this year.

The BRN also has a new website, www.brnunited.org, as well as continued work among women, ethnic churches, collegiate ministry and more, Whitworth said.

He also reported that Cooperative Program (CP) giving alone was up 13 percent, giving the BRN another record year in missions giving. Nearly $650,000 dollars was given in the most recent SBC fiscal year to CP, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, and the BRN's state missions offering, he said.

"Thank you so much for giving so sacrificially to support these offerings. This giving truly reflects our desire as Baptists to be interdependent of one another, and not independent in how we function and cooperate together," Whitworth affirmed. "I'm praying that 2020, as we celebrate our 50th year of existence, we will see another record year of giving for the cause of expanding the Gospel here, in North America, and all around the world."

Whitworth commended the messengers, who in less than three years' time, have voted to increase Cooperative Program giving to worldwide efforts by 4 percentage points.

Featured Presentations

Pointing to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14ff, George Tynes, pastor of Truth Baptist Church in Philadelphia, exhorted his listeners to be faithful.

"One of the things that God prioritizes ... is that we would be faithful," said Tynes. "What we do matters. What we do counts."

He stressed, "Our witness is important to the world. If our gospel is here, it is here for those who are lost. We are valuable to Him and valuable to His agenda."

Tynes, acknowledging the difficulties ministers face, urged them on, "Now some of you have come here with tears in your eyes. You're going through struggles. You're going through storms; you're going through challenges in your life. It's a test of whether or not you're going to stay. It's a test of whether or not you're going to be faithful."

In his address, NAMB President Kevin Ezell said the best way to reach North America is by planting churches. Even so, referencing Acts 18, he noted the apostle Paul had to be disappointed with the ongoing issues and lackluster results he was encountering as he attempted to start churches.

But he was determined to preach Jesus, said Ezell, comparing Paul's plight to what many of the leaders and pastors in the room were experiencing. Paul was emotionally discouraged, and he was physically exhausted, but his heart was to share Jesus with more people, he said.

In the passage, God speaks through a vision to tell Paul not to be afraid. "When things don't go like what we think, it is scary, but God is telling you to stop being afraid! We are in this together. We don't just want to grow churches; we want to reach a city!"

In another annual meeting segment, Velarde moderated a panel discussion on multiplying churches. There, Kyle Canty, Send Philadelphia missionary, argued that there is no urgency to multiply because Christians "believe we're still in Christendom. There is no eagerness to go after the lost, because we think that nothing is wrong. We think it is good enough that the same people go to church. We need to wake up!"

On the panel, NAMB's Ezell told a story about a pastor who was lamenting that his church was not growing, but he had planted 27 churches in 17 years.

"We must resist the gravitational pull back toward scoring ourselves on our seating capacity instead of our sending capacity," Ezell said. "When we stand before God, He will measure how Kingdom-minded we were."

The 2020 BRN annual meeting, with the theme "Kingdom Vision" based on Revelation 7:9, is scheduled for Nov. 5-6 at the Radisson Hotel in Harrisburg, Pa.

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