Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptists increase budget, focus on outreach
GREEN BAY, Wis. (BP) -- Uniting around a theme and common purpose of "Reaching the Northland," Baptists from Minnesota and Wisconsin gathered for their 36th annual meeting Oct. 25-26 at Highland Crest Baptist Church in Green Bay, Wis.
Jonathan Woodyard, second vice president of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention, set the tone for the meeting with a Bible study on Philippians 1:1-5, emphasizing the themes of joy and partnership that are found throughout that letter and pointing out that MWBC is "a Gospel partnership."
"The partnership is what gives rise to the joy," said Woodyard, who is pastor of Northfield (Minn.) Community Church.
Woodyard said he finds convention and other denominational meetings exciting because he sees them as gatherings of church leaders who are seeking to link arms to accomplish a mission.
"Why do we get together for associational, state and Southern Baptist Convention meetings?" he asked, then answered, "The partnership is for the purpose of an advance of the Gospel."
Messengers once again increased the percentage of Cooperative Program gifts forwarded to the SBC, this time from 35 percent to 36 percent. They approved a 2020 budget of $1,520,175, a 2.3 percent increase over the 2019 budget of $1,486,075.
MWBC anticipates receiving about 38.8 percent of its budget -- $590,000 -- from the churches through the Cooperative Program. Other sources of income include the North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, special missions offerings, designated gifts and interest.
Of the money received through the Cooperative Program, MWBC will forward 36 percent ($212,000) to the Southern Baptist Convention. For several years MWBC has been increasing the percentage forwarded to SBC. The percentage was 35 percent in the current 2019 budget, 32 percent in 2018, 22 percent in 2017, 20 percent in 2016, and 17 percent in 2015.
Ashley Clayton, vice president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, reported to the messengers that through the years MWBC has given more than $15 million through the Cooperative Program.
All current officers were re-elected: president Chris Heng, pastor of TwinCity Hmong Baptist Church in St. Paul, Minn.; first vice president Bob Stine, pastor of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.; second vice president Jonathon Woodyard, pastor of Northfield Community Church in Northfield, Minn.; recording secretary Wes Shemwell, member of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis.; and assistant recording secretary Jim Gress, member of Southtown Baptist Church in Bloomington, Minn.
"Reaching the Northland" was the theme chosen this year to express the specific Gospel advance that is the focus of MWBC. The convention has 204 churches seeking to share Jesus with about 11.5 million people who live in the two states. The "Reaching the Northland" theme was used not only for the annual meeting but also for the 2019 state missions offering.
MWBC's mission is one that requires full participation, said Leo Endel, MWBC executive director. Citing famed coach Vince Lombardi's rule that "every player must go all out on every play," Endel reminded those gathered that "we are all together on God's team.... It's going to take all of us to walk the path the Lord has put in front of us."
Endel encouraged churches to more fully participate in the opportunities and responsibilities of their partnership with their association, state convention and national convention, pointing out that last year:
-- Only 116 of the 204 MWBC churches gave through the Cooperative Program;
-- Only 17 percent participated in the annual state missions offering;
-- Only 16 percent turned in an annual church profile; and
-- Only 40 percent of MWBC pastors have retirement accounts with GuideStone Financial Resources, the others missing out on a matching benefit of $17.50 monthly to their retirement fund from the state convention and another $17.50 from GuideStone for term life insurance.
"The SBC exists to elicit, combine and direct the energies of Baptists for the propagation of the Gospel," Endel said, and MWBC's purpose "is to serve as a means by which affiliated Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist churches may cooperate together in fulfilling the Great Commission." When churches opt out of supporting and cooperating with the state and national conventions and entities they miss out on a major benefit of being Southern Baptist.
Other speakers mentioned opportunities that awaited churches and members because of their relationship with MWBC.
-- Rick Hedger, multiplying churches catalyst with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), reported that he has a list of 65 partnerships that have taken place between MWBC and MBC churches or associations during the past two years. He urged churches and associations to take advantage of the next three years of the five-year partnership. "Our churches want to be on mission," he said. "They want to come here and serve alongside you."
-- Scott Dadam, pastor of River of Life Church in Protage, Wis., reported on the 2019 Hands of Hope event in which his church hosted 75 volunteers from seven MWBC churches. The volunteers did various service projects around the community and also helped Dadam's church with outreach. All MWBC churches are welcome to participate in the annual project.
-- Joshua Whetstine, SEND City missionary for the Twin Cities, reported that 11 new churches were planted during the past year and eight more are already scheduled to plant in 2020. His goal is to see 60 sustainable, indigenous and engaged churches planted during five years.
-- Charles Harvey, director of doctor of ministry program for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, reported that five people in the first MWBC doctoral cohort are expected to graduate and a second cohort will be started soon. This partnership is providing a lower-cost mostly online opportunity for M-W Baptists to earn a seminary doctorate.
-- Penny Reedy, MWBC kids ministry director, promoted MWBC's May 30, 2020, Equip Kids Ministry Conference at the Metropolis Resort and Conference Center in Eau Claire, Wis. The all-day conference is only $29 through the end of the year and hotel rooms are discounted.
-- Dave Wedekind, MWBC disaster relief co-director, said there were four training events and four disaster responses during 2019. He encouraged M-W Baptists to take advantage of the training opportunities in 2020 as well as opportunities to serve as disasters arise.
-- Chris Phillips, associate pastor of children and students at Trinity Baptist in Reedsburg, Wis., and MWBC student ministry director, said, "If we are going to reach the Northlands, we need to reach students." MWBC offers an annual Called Out event that some churches have used as their kick-off event for beginning a new youth group, he said. The 2019 event registered 147 people from 11 churches. He encouraged each MWBC church to consider participating in this annual opportunity.
Other meetings held in conjunction with the MWBC annual meeting brought a synergy to the weekend.
-- Joshua Whetstine led the MWBC church planters meeting on Thursday, which helped bring a large percentage of new planters to the annual meeting.
-- The Pastors' Conference took place on Friday morning with a lecture series by Southeastern Seminary preaching professor Jim Shaddix on decisional preaching. This event was attended by about 50 people.
-- The convention hosted a special luncheon that drew more than 40 pastors' wives to fellowship together around small tables in informal conversation.
-- The MWBC Woman's Missionary Union conducted their annual meeting and elected new officers including Gwendolyn Sutton of Monumental Baptist Church in Milwaukee as their new president. Cindy Vang had served four years in the role.
Next year's annual meeting will be Oct. 3-24 at Ebenezer Community Church in Brooklyn Park, Minn. Jonathan Woodyard will preach the convention sermon. Alternate preacher is Ben Bolin, pastor of Calvary Church in New Prague, Minn.