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Mich. Baptists approve strategic plan

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
WARREN, Mich. (BP) -- Messengers to the 54th annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan approved a new strategic plan for refocusing and restructuring the convention for greater effectiveness in the future.

A total of 223 messengers and 48 guests from 13 of 15 of the state's associations and 91 of 293 congregations gathered at Warren Woods Baptist Church in Warren Oct. 25-26.

The plan set forth by the Future Focus Team includes a new vision statement, "Partners in Advancing God's Kingdom," and a new mission statement, "Doing whatever it takes to see lives transformed for Christ through Starting, Strengthening and Mobilizing Churches."

Also, messengers approved new bylaws to support the future structure and focus of the convention. A revised constitution was presented for consideration at next year's annual meeting.

"Our primary objective is to resource the vision of our churches to be more effective in reaching the unreached in their communities," Bobby Gilstrap, the convention's executive director, said. "We want to be partners in advancing God's Kingdom through our cooperating churches."

Michigan Baptists plan to operate in a new way in a new day, Gilstrap said.

"Our refocusing as a convention of churches has tremendous implications on our ability to effectively reach our state for Christ. I am so excited about where God is leading our convention of churches in the future," he said.

Bert Spann, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Saline and a member of the Future Focus Team, told Baptist Press Michigan Baptists have reached a crucial juncture.

"We will either stand up and start walking on our own two feet and follow where we see the Lord at work or we will hold someone else's hand and let them lead us," Spann said. "I believe we are making the right decisions to see Baptist work in Michigan thrive as a people who are set to serve Christ with vigor."


Wayne Parker, pastor of Merriman Road Baptist Church in Garden City and a member of the Future Focus Team, said, "Everyone knows that Michigan's economy is terrible. Our unemployment is among the highest in the nation, leaving people searching for answers. I believe that these issues are overshadowed by the real issue: Lostness. Our vote to adopt a new strategy says that Michigan Southern Baptists see these things not as problems but as an opportunity."

During the annual meeting, the convention highlighted partnerships that began during the past year:

-- The Arkansas Baptist News for the redesign of the Baptist Beacon.

-- The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma's camp ministry for two consultants who are working with Michigan Baptists' Bambi Lake Conference Center.

-- The Missouri Baptist Convention for support of the new Michigan Church Planter Assessment Center.

-- The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma for providing the Michigan Southern Baptist Foundation with marketing materials, church loans, estate and trust planning, online planning tools and more.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, preached during the closing session of the annual meeting as part of an ongoing partnership between the two state conventions.

The convention's first vice president, Larry Allen, pastor of Warren Woods, noted in introducing Lance that Alabama Baptists are providing a $25,000 gift to assist Michigan Baptists during difficult economic times.


"We are so grateful for the financial gift," Gilstrap said, "and even more thankful for the ministry Alabama Baptists have shared with us in these recent years of our mission partnership."

In a video, Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, spoke on the "1% Challenge," asking Michigan Baptist churches to consider giving an additional 1 percent of their receipts to missions through the Cooperative Program. A special penny offering was collected to symbolize the added 1 percent-of-receipts.

Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $2,822,598, down from $3 million this year. The budget includes $1,340,022 in anticipated Cooperative Program giving from Michigan churches and a return to forwarding 30.5 percent of CP receipts for national and international missions and ministries. The percentage had been reduced to 25 percent for 2011.

The new budget for the first time implements shared ministry items while eliminating three of 10 staff positions and reinstating cuts to retiree benefits and staff annuity benefits that were made for 2011.

In other business, messengers voted to designate the first Sunday in June as Disaster Relief Sunday.

Roscoe Belton, pastor of Middlebelt Baptist Church in Inkster, was reelected president. The convention's other officers for the coming year are: Allen of Warren Woods, first vice president; Fred Hubbs Jr., worship leader at Bethel Baptist Church in Niles, second vice president; and Jimmy Jones, pastor of First Baptist Church in Trenton, recording secretary.


"The highlight of the final session of the annual meeting was hearing pastors' testimonies," Gilstrap said. "We heard how God was blessing several of our new congregations and about the transformation occurring in established churches. As our convention of churches strives to work together to reach our state for Christ, hearing the victory stories was so encouraging."

Next year's annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan will be Nov. 8-9 at Monroe Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe.

Based on reporting by the Baptist Convention of Michigan staff.

Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press

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