STATE MEETINGS: Indiana, Minnesota-Wisconsin

Indiana welcomes new executive director

By Karen L. Willoughby

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (BP) – Because of an excellent staff and a cooperative spirit among pastors and leaders, the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana’s annual Summit Oct. 25 went smoothly, new Executive Director Ryan Strother said.

The day of the meeting, Strother had been on the job less than two weeks as the state convention’s seventh executive director since its founding in 1958.

“We had a great spirit of unity, wonderful fellowship, and a strong desire to cooperate well,” he said. “I’m excited about forging fruitful partnerships between our state convention, our associations, our churches and with SBC entities.”

Indiana’s annual Summit drew 124 messengers from 65 of the state convention’s 450 churches, plus 39 guests, to Highland Lakes Baptist Camp in Martinsville, where Jim Shields is director.

Its theme was “The Next” and its Scripture Philippians 1:5. Business included the budget, election of officers, passage of one resolution, organizational bylaw changes related to Indiana’s executive board, and discussion on a motion to accept a new mission statement, which failed.

“We learned a lot during our charitable discussion,” Strother said. “It will lead to some fine-tuning of a new strategy for the convention, good communication of a renewed mission statement and strategy, and a new presentation of it all to messengers again in the future.”

Messengers also learned Indiana is sending 17 potential church planters to a NAMB assessment. “I’m thrilled about that,” Strother said. “That’s a big deal for a state convention in the Midwest.”

The 2022 budget of $3,685,153, up about $150,000 from last year, includes $2,356,707 in Cooperative Program giving from Indiana churches. Of that amount, 36 percent (for the third year) is allocated for national and international SBC missions and ministry.

“We’re well above our CP giving this year,” Strother said. “We know when we cooperate we’re going to accomplish much more together, not only in our state but worldwide.

“Our average church size is 70 people. They individually probably couldn’t fund a missionary or church plant but when we will pull together we see much more done for the Kingdom.”

Josh Goepfrich, pastor of Hilltop Community Church in Warsaw, was elected president. Jonathan LaFleur, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Terre Haute was elected first vice president. Steve Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg, was elected second vice president. Steve Taylor, pastor of Northeast Park Baptist Church in Evansville was elected recording secretary.

A resolution of appreciation for Highland Lakes Baptist Camp was given for its “gracious hospitality and service to the messengers and guests of this convention.”

Directly after the close of the 2021 Summit, a gathering of 35 leaders from the state convention’s 14 associations brainstormed “best practices and really started to initiate strong connections,” Strother said. “One of my goals is to ensure we’re working well together.”

The next annual Summit of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana is set for Oct. 24-25 at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp in Martinsville. Plans are in place to host a pre-Summit pastors’ conference, which has been on hiatus the last two years.


Minnesota-Wisconsin adopts new vision statement

By Karen Willoughby

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (BP) – “The strength and testimony of tomorrow’s church will be seriously hindered if we do not do a better job of reaching and discipling our children and young people,” says Leo Endel, executive director of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

That was the consensus of churches and leaders across the two-state convention, Endel told Baptist Press, as together they developed a new vision statement: “Inspiring a passion among the MWBC family to glorify Christ in reaching the next generation, mobilizing volunteers, and developing leaders to start and strengthen churches.”

The Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention (MWBC) met Oct. 22-23 at Ebenezer Community Church in the Minneapolis suburb, where Francis Tabla is the pastor of the church he planted 22 years ago. The meeting’s theme was Let Your Light Shine from Matthew 5:16.

The 67 messengers (141 total present) from 47 of the two-state convention’s 180 churches approved the new Vision 2025 statement, budget, new officers and three resolutions.

The 2022 budget of $968,313 is down about 5 percent from 2020, but it’s the “First budget fully funded exclusively by the churches of the Minnesota-Wisconsin Baptist Convention,” Endel said. “[The North American Mission Board] is still making available evangelism grants by request and funding our church plants.”

Again, this year, 36 percent of undesignated offerings – or $182,502 – from MWBC churches is allocated for national SBC coffers, to aid in global missions and ministry.

“The Cooperative Program has allowed new work areas to both receive missions funds and give missions funds for the cause of the Christ,” said Endel, who wrote his doctoral dissertation in 2012 on the Cooperative Program. “CP is the entry point into a comprehensive and efficient strategy for doing missions together to reach to the ends of the earth. It allows even the smallest church to be part of fulfilling Jesus’ Great Commission.”

Bob Stine, pastor of Midvale Baptist Church in Madison, Wis., was elected president. Jonathon Woodyard, a member of Northfield (Minn.) Community Church, was elected first vice president.

Daniel Goba, pastor of Ebenezer Community Church in Bloomington, Minn., was elected second vice president.

Messengers passed two resolutions of appreciation: One to the Ebenezer Community Church for its gracious hospitality; One for Executive Director Leo Endel’s leadership “through these challenging days.”

They also adopted a third resolution of commitment to pray for the salvation of 5.6 million people in Minnesota and the 5.9 million in Wisconsin.

“It was a jubilant celebration of our diversity in a brand-new building,” Endel said. “We were led by a Liberian choir, Hmong praise teams, and celebrated in a magnificent building built by Liberian immigrants. Refugees from Liberia’s civil war came here about 20 years ago and this year worship in a brand-new $10 million building. The MWBC may be the most diverse SBC state convention with 50 percent of our churches being non-Anglo majority churches.”

But the biggest news coming out the meeting, following months of deliberation was that “We must do something significant to reach and disciple the next generation and keep them committed to Jesus,” Endel said. “We heard this from pastors and church leaders, association and state convention staff as well as the [MWBC] Executive Board.

“We need to prepare our children and students with significant discipleship to be able to survive spiritually in a changing culture and hold onto a biblical worldview.”

Toward that end, 41 churches have been planted over the last three years; the goal was 30.

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