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The Word Has It
“Strengthen me according to Your word,” Psalm 119:28
MARBC State Representative
November's Word: “Striving”
“Discerning the Times and Seasons” was the theme of 65th annual conference of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches. The conference was held October 22-24, 2007, on the beautiful campus of Lake Ann Baptist Camp near Traverse City, Michigan. The location for this year's conference allowed for a retreat-like atmosphere. Tuesday afternoon included free-time for attendees to take a color tour of the area and to be involved in other activities.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Renald Showers, who serves in the Church Ministries Division of Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc. Dr. Showers shared four timely messages that addressed critical issues related to the Middle East. His messages were: “Israel and God,” “Israel and the Abrahamic Covenant,” “Israel and Jerusalem,” and “Israel and Islam.” Dr. Shower's conference messages and Ken Floyd's Tuesday morning challenge to the MARBC are now available for online listening or to download at the MARBC website, www.marbc.net.
The Apostle Paul shares this challenge with the Philippian church in Philippians 1:27 – “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The word “striving” is a good word to describe the activity that should define our partnership as a fellowship of churches, especially when it is further defined by the phrase “for the faith of the gospel.” This has defined us as a group for over 65 years. The following is my first year ministry report to the MARBC messengers, submitted at the annual conference.
The ministry of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches is clearly articulated through its mission and vision statements.
MARBC Mission: The MARBC, compelled by the Word of God to reflect the glory and grace of Jesus Christ, exists to foster the mutual unity, partnership, and enrichment of our churches.
MARBC Vision Statement: We are the MARBC, an association of autonomous local congregations with a commitment to stand together for the Faith and thereby impact our world with the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. This commitment requires cooperation among us in the planting, nurturing, and strengthening of local churches.
Church strengthening: providing resources and opportunities to all MARBC churches.
Church nurturing: providing assistance and support to MARBC churches in need.
Church planting: conceiving and birthing new MARBC churches.
Sharon and I have sought to faithfully fulfill the purposes of these two statements during our first year of serving the Lord Jesus Christ through ministry to the churches and servants of the Michigan Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
When the Council of 15 asked me last year to prayerfully consider the ministry of State Representative I shared these goals as a part of my vision for leading this state fellowship:
Connect with the next generation of pastors and church leaders. This will be critical to the health of our churches and the MARBC.
Work with the C-15 to help make the MARBC more stable and effective by developing a network of encouragement through the C-15 to pastors and churches in their region.
Effectively minister to our churches and pastors in the regional fellowships by offering quality “mini-conferences” that are unique to a particular region. We could more effectively minister to our churches and brother pastors by offering conferences and seminars that fit with their unique settings.
Bring a sense of “One Accord” to our fellowship by promoting regular prayer initiatives in the state.
Review ways in which we can encourage the youth and youth ministries of our churches through special events and co-operative endeavors.
Establish quality church planting initiatives with effective strategies and funding.
Encourage a greater connectedness and camaraderie between area churches and pastors through mission and church-planting consortiums. Since many of our churches are smaller in size, I would like to encourage them to maximize their potential and lift their vision through co-operative partnerships.
Serve as a resource person, connecting pastors with materials, ideas, and other pastors / leaders to help them minister more effectively.
Evaluate the ministry effectiveness of the Baptist Testimony and seek to improve its utilization.
Effectively utilize the MARBC website. This includes the posting of resources and materials, links to other ministries, publicity of MARBC ministries and events, on-line registration, etc.
Use the position of state representative to write articles for publication that deal with leadership issues, practical ministry ideas, and encouragement for particular needs.
We thank the Council of 15 and the MARBC for the wonderful welcome that you have extended to us this year. We were overwhelmed by your encouragement at last October's installation service. Your assistance in establishing a new office and helping us prepare for our new ministry are greatly appreciated. After spending two months transitioning into a new office setting and being capably mentored by Maynard and Ann Belt to assume our new ministry responsibilities, we began aggressively ministering in January.
Our first year goal was to be exposed to every region of the state fellowship and to the varying ministry settings that are germane to our state. We also sought to become acquainted with ministers and ministries in our state that are complementary to ours in order to discover ways in which we can both encourage and partner with them. This year we logged over 22,000 miles in our travels to almost 100 church campuses for speaking ministry, consultations, and special ministry occasions. This included two weeks of ministry surveying in the Upper Peninsula in August. Consulting with local church search committees, interviewing prospective pastors, and preparing resume packets also involved much time investment. We attended two ministry seminars to help us be more effective in ministering to a diverse group of churches. There were also opportunities to speak at conferences and seminars.
Overall, the churches of our state are pastored by godly men of good vision and great commitment. They minister in many diverse locations and settings that demand spiritual fortitude, cultural awareness, and longevity. With these demands, these pastors and their churches need the benefits of a proactive, healthy fellowship to undergird and come alongside them. The MARBC must respond with a strategic vision to meet these needs and to insure the long term success of these ministries and the perpetuation of our fellowship's values and mission.
We have also observed some difficult ministry settings. While each is unique in its own context, it can be observed that in many of these situations the problems are self-perpetuating and cyclical. We will seek creative ways to break these faulty cycles and see them replaced with Biblically healthy solutions. This will include seminars and materials related to conflict resolution, church leadership development, and the introduction of pastoral candidates equipped to lead with Biblical and proactive methods.
I look forward to working with the Council of 15 in 2008 to put into motion “The CPR Initiative.” The three basic qualities of the initiative: caring, praying, and resourcing, will each need attention and development. We would enjoy coming to your church to help you cast vision regarding the importance of the MARBC network and your participation in CPR. Materials explaining this important new ministry for the churches of our state are available upon request from the MARBC office. (You are encouraged to visit the MARBC website to listen to the Tuesday morning message from the Annual Conference, which includes information regarding CPR. A downloadable CPR brochure in PDF format is also available on the website.
Remember that our ministry is designed to be one of encouragement and assistance to ministry leaders and their churches. We do not force ourselves on any church, nor do we solicit meetings. We come by invitation of the pastor and church. We are available for speaking ministry, consultations, seminars, and strategic planning. We charge no fees and do not require a minimum honorarium. The ministry of the state representative and the MARBC fellowship is supported by the love offerings, honorariums, mileage reimbursements, and regular giving of the churches and individual supporters. Our ministry is available to any ministry large or small. We welcome your invitation to assist you in your ministry.
In conclusion, let us thank you for the privilege of representing and serving you as a fellowship of churches. Our first year has been both a blessing and an encouragement. We see great days of potential for our fellowship and encourage your participation with us. We welcome your calls and assure you of our prayers on your behalf.
We look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead as we seek to honor Christ through the implementation of our mission and vision. Christ has declared that He will build His church (Matthew 16:18). He will bless those who with one mind strive together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
You have His Word on it! (KEF)
Additional MARBC Conference Highlights
Conference main sessions included wonderful worship that was led by Pastor Mark Cizauskas (West Cannon Baptist Church, Belmont). Pastor Nathan Pierpont (Northeastern Baptist Church, Kalamazoo) and Pastor Mark Warren (Highland Hills Baptist Church, Grand Rapids) were the instrumentalists. Special music was provided by pastors and pastors' wives from MARBC churches.
We are grateful for the ministry of Mrs. Anne Harduk, First Baptist Church, Alto, who led children's sessions during the conference.
Council of 15 – The following men were elected by conference messengers to join the Council of 15 for a 3-year term (2008-2010): Bill Blount, Fellowship Baptist Church, East China; Jim Hill, Bible Baptist Church, Ishpeming; and Mark Cizauskas, West Cannon Baptist Church, Belmont.
Council of 15 officers for 2008 are: Chairman, Bob McNeil (Shelby Road, Shelby); Vice Chairman, Jim Howard (First, Cedar Springs); Secretary, Jeff Burr (Forest Hills, Grand Rapids); and Treasurer, Mark Cizauskas (West Cannon, Belmont).
Returning council members are: Jack Dowden (Emmanuel, Flint), Rob Laing (First, Rochester), Mike Eleveld (Berean, Portage), Greg Carlson (First, Allegan), Hal Jankusky (Northwest, Jackson), Jim Kester (First, Oxford), Steve Ayers (Faith, Benzonia), Mark Sterken (Shelby Road, Shelby), and Scott Farrell (Calvary, Evart).