Messengers to the 2018 annual meeting of the Baptist Resource Network (BRN) of Pennsylvania/South Jersey heard challenges on “Kingdom Compassion” from Luke 4:18-19, increased their Cooperative Program giving to SBC causes and elected a new slate of officers, among other business.
This year’s meeting, attended by 148 messengers and 89 guests representing 105 of 330 active BRN churches, was held Nov. 1-2 at BRN’s property in York, Pa.
Executive director’s report
In his report to the network, BRN executive director Barry Whitworth recapped the BRN’s 2018 achievements, noting first, “I’d rather know that Jesus is pleased with me because I challenged men to do what is difficult, than have men pleased with me because I encouraged them to do what is easy.”
He reported how the BRN staff has made 4,553 connections with pastors, churches and partners in 2018 to date. That includes more than 500 one-on-one consultations this year with pastors and churches.
In addition, the BRN funded 84 church resource grants for BRN churches and completed a state-of-the-art Training Center, which has been used 29 times this year. Also, 24 new church plants and affiliations began cooperating with the network this year.
Whitworth continued, “Disaster Relief mobilized for 11 deployments and completed more than 150 DR jobs. Our collegiate ministry sent 60 students to Puerto Rico for DR work, and they, along with our church planting group, are looking at the possibility of creating a new ministry and church plant at Bloomsburg University.”
Close also to his heart, Whitworth shared about his involvement in a racial reconciliation coalition that was formed this year in Philadelphia to discuss and begin to solve racial issues “that have divided our culture for far too long.”
This coalition of 12-15 men (African American and Anglo) has organized to reach three goals: education, building relationships that create trust, and service that displays unity.
“We met eight times this year, and one of those times we took a coach bus of 50 people on a field trip to the African American Museum in Washington, D.C.,” Whitworth said. “We’ve been serious about making a difference in this matter, and we will continue to do so, not just in Philly but all across our state convention.”
Whitworth said, “We have much to praise God for what He has done through our churches throughout this year. I rejoice that God is truly at work within His people across our BRN area.”
Before introducing new initiatives for 2019, Whitworth shared a graphic, which reflects the organization’s goal of healthy churches, focusing on healthy leaders, healthy filters (“Kingdom” and “prayer”), healthy behaviors (“missional engagement,” “intentional discipleship” and “leadership development”) and a healthy mission (“reproducing disciples, leaders, new ministries, and new churches”).
To assist in this process, Whitworth said the first initiative of 2019 is the continued expansion of a “home grown” Spiritual Health Assessment tool that helps churches analyze where they are related to the three healthy behaviors.
The second initiative will be an increased focus on these three behaviors. Accordingly, Whitworth shared his estimation that only about a third of BRN churches are missionally engaged; only around 20 percent of the churches have intentional discipleship pathways; and only around 10 percent have leadership development processes/pipelines.
“So, how are we going to raise the bar? Along with using the Spiritual Health Assessment, we’re going to create roundtable discussions and trainings on how we’re going to become stronger in these biblical behaviors,” he said.
Whitworth also pointed to two new initiatives focused on compassion ministries and women’s ministry. He shared his desire to “one day see Compassion Ministry Centers in our major and mid-sized cities” that focus on all four components of compassion ministry: spiritual, emotional, physical and practical. Pastor Chris “Buff” McNickle of Grace Falls Church in Absecon, N.J., will lead this effort.
Additionally, BRN Women, led by Beth Whitworth, will seek to encourage, equip and mobilize women to be on mission for Christ.
Other initiatives include the relaunch of the BRN’s Multiplying Church Centers, which will seek to enhance an indigenous movement of church planting in the region; the formation of an “ethnic discussion cluster” and “millennial forums” to discuss challenges these populations face; and an “Adopt an International Mission” opportunity.
To that end, via Zoom, Whitworth interviewed David and Sarah McNeill, a missionary family serving in Bogota, Colombia, a city of 10 million people in South America. The conversation highlighted ways the BRN family can partner and pray for these International Mission Board missionaries.
“Our team is getting focused and strategic in assisting and encouraging our churches to engage lost-ness, make disciple-makers and develop the next generation of leaders all across Pa./South Jersey,” Whitworth said. “Our greatest days are not behind us; they are in front of us. We must seize this moment for the glory of God and the advancement of His Kingdom.”
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Source: Baptist Press