We are Family

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If you’re over 50 the phrase “we are family” might bring the Sister Sledge 1979 pop song to mind. But recent events have reminded me that Baptists really are family. For example, when Jimmy Stewart of the Alaska Baptist Convention received devastating third degree burns in July, he was flown to a Seattle hospital. Upon arrival NWBC persons and pastors were onsite assisting the family with transportation and housing needs. A similar request came when a mission team member from Alabama was flown to a Seattle hospital in September. Staff at the Puget Sound Association responded to a request from his Alabama pastor who knew that his Baptist family in Washington would minister to his church member.

Requests like these are not unusual. Recently a Baptist family member in the south requested that we find an Oregon church to help a friend in crisis, and we did. Another shared that when their child moved from Oregon to Massachusetts they contacted our Baptist family in Boston who helped this young couple move into their apartment.

In August our Northwest Baptist family sent 163 from 32 of our churches to minister to 1,100 family members (missionaries) serving in Asia. Our missionaries depend on us to support them through the Cooperative Program, but they also need their Baptist family to pray for them and join them on their mission field. They invited us to help them in their training retreat because we are their family. Twenty-two of these same missionaries will spend nine days with us in early October, helping us know better how to reach Asian peoples living in the Northwest, among other things (details on our website at http://www.nwbaptist.org).

This summer we received an application from a church that wants to affiliate with the NWBC. This church has a large ministry, with thirteen members attending seminary and several serving in international missions. Their small group ministry includes learning Old Testament Hebrew and others studying biblical theology at a very high level.

So why do they want to affiliate with the NWBC? They are looking for family. They are a church without the extended family that Baptists have. They don’t have associations, conventions, seminaries, mission boards, and a support system beyond their own town. As Baptists, we even have an insurance and retirement system for our pastors (GuideStone).

Like all families, we have our disagreements, crazy uncles, loudmouthed cousins, and dysfunctional branches on the family tree. Sometimes these things frustrate us. But where would we be without our extended family?

In November the NWBC family will gather in Spokane for our annual meeting. We will celebrate what God is doing in our Northwest family with abundant testimonies and worship. Our family will even gather around tables Tuesday, Nov. 15, for a prime rib dinner (details on our website at http://www.nwbaptist.org). It will be a sweet time of fellowship. It is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!

For This, and More, We Give You Thanks

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Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for me. Uniquely American and thoroughly Christian, Thanksgiving was birthed in the hearts of those who needed much. When the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving, they did so at the end of a year in which half of them died. Plymouth Rock received 102 Pilgrims, but by Thanksgiving only 51 were still alive. Still, they feasted for four days with their Native American friends, grateful for what God provided. Then, Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, just days after he delivered the Gettysburg Address on November 19. With the blood of soldiers watering the ground in the North and the South, Lincoln called upon the nation to set aside a day to thank God for His blessings. Remarkable!

As I look forward to Thanksgiving, gratitude fills my heart as I reflect back on collaborative ministry that we enjoy in the Northwest. Consider a few matters for which we can be thankful.

First, rejoice that we reached more people for Christ, and the baptismal waters were stirred more frequently in our churches, than they were the previous year. Pastors and churches are facing great challenges, but your obedience to Christ and labor for Him is changing eternity for thousands of people in the Northwest and the mission fields beyond. Thank God for this!

Second, in the past year new work was started among those speaking English, Nepali, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean, joining almost 30 different languages represented in our NWBC churches. By working together, we have become the most linguistically diverse network of churches in the Northwest. In our annual meeting last week we prayed for Christian Phan, pastor of Agape Baptist Church in Renton (Vietnamese), and Raju Subedi, pastor of International Church in Beaverton (Bhutanese), each of whom is the nationally elected leader of their respective fellowship of churches. It is an honor and a blessing to partner with such men. Among our pastors are those who have led the national Korean fellowship of churches, the national Romanian fellowship of churches, and the national Ukrainian fellowship. Thank God for this!

Third, we ended October at 99.9 percent of budget through the first ten months of 2015. With a strong final two months we could make budget for the first time since 1997. Thank you for your sacrificial generosity to support missions through CP. The very reason for our existence as a convention is to provide our churches the means to collaborate in missions and evangelism, and your faithfulness in giving enables us to do that. In addition, our Sylvia Wilson/Northwest Impact Mission Offering is up 23 percent over last year. You still have two months remaining to donate to Northwest Missions in support of Disaster Relief, Evangelism, Church Planting, and Leadership Development in the Northwest. Thank God for this!

Fourth, at our annual meeting last week in Portland we elected outstanding new leaders. Steve Bryant, a layman from Highland Baptist, Redmond, OR was elected President. Matthew Savage, the pastor of Journey Church, Everett, WA was elected first Vice-president. And Josh Martin, worship pastor of Resonate Church, Pullman, WA was elected second Vice-president. I look forward to working with these fine men. Pastors Dale Jenkins, Bryan Toll, and Frank Johnson each served two years in the aforementioned offices, and they each served us exceptionally well. Thank God for this!

Fifth, regarding your NWBC staff, I am grateful to report that David Gass will join our staff on February 1. You will learn more about David and his family in the next couple of months, but I want to mention him now so that you will lift David and his family up in prayer. Nora is his wife and Parker and Halle are their two children. David will serve in Regions 1 and 2 as a Church Health/Evangelism Catalyst. He will also assist convention-wide with our East Asia mission partnership. For the past 13 years David and his family have served with the IMB in Asia. Some of you have met him at the EA1Day events we have done. David and Nora are two of the returning missionaries that we have been praying for as the IMB reduces staff. David volunteered to leave the IMB and join the NWBC. We thank God that He led the Gass family to the Northwest. They are moving from Taipei, Taiwan.

For these reasons, and many more, we thank our heavenly Father. I trust that each of you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving! It is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest!

Executive Director’s Annual Report for the NWBC, November 2015

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Among the most moving and challenging passages of Scripture are those in which the Apostle Paul speaks personally about his life and ministry. One reason these passages are spiritually and emotionally powerful might be that Paul often wrote from jail. He wrote about his suffering, his fighting “the good fight” and finishing “the race” well.

I have noticed that when Paul speaks personally about his life that he often references the “day of the Lord.” As he served Christ, and when he suffered for his service, never far from his thoughts was the certainty of the coming day when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). He even anticipated that he would “boast in the day of Christ” that he “didn’t run in vain or labor for nothing” (Phil. 2:16).

Paul’s belief that he could labor in such a way as to “boast in the day of Christ” is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. Almost daily we hear new accounts of brothers and sisters giving their lives for Christ in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Occasionally we are privileged to learn that they died boasting of Jesus, praising Jesus, with anticipation that they will soon look into the face of Jesus. As the Bible says, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

If you are able to attend the annual meeting of the NWBC on November 10-11, 2015, I pray that the reports you hear represent a faithfulness to Jesus about which we can boast in the day of Christ. The frontline work of disciple-making, baptizing and teaching believers to obey Christ is the work of each local church. Still, we believe that only through believers and churches working together, supporting one another, cooperating in the great missions task before us, can we accomplish all that we hope to boast about in the day of Christ.

Consider some of what we have accomplished in the Northwest as we have worked together. Together we have engaged new language and ethnic groups through planting churches among Mandarin, Spanish, Korean, Bhutanese, Native-American, African-American and other peoples. More than 130 of our 466 churches worship in a language other than English. Increasingly we are seeing second-generation churches formed. These are churches comprised primarily of ethnic peoples who worship in English. One of the “miracles” of cooperation is seen in the diversity of our convention of churches.

In leadership training we have seen well over 1,000 people participate in various regional and convention-wide training events. This includes over 200 pastors in pastor cluster groups, transitional pastor training, mission and evangelism training, Contextualized Leadership Development (CLD) and other specialized opportunities. The greatest single evangelism ministry of our churches is Vacation Bible School. This year 552 leaders were trained in VBS and hundreds of professions of faith were recorded by our churches.

MY316 Evangelism Training is used by many of our churches, with some of the curriculum now available in Spanish and Korean. The impact of helping each new believer learn how to share their faith, and identify those in their life who are unchurched and most likely lost, is the single most important thing a church can do for a new Christian. Well, it’s difficult to put anything above teaching new Christians to pray and meditate on Scripture, but you get the point. And remember, MY316 Evangelism Resources are available to all of our churches without charge. Your Cooperative Program gifts have already purchased those.

In 2015 many of our churches continued the westward journey until they arrived in East Asia. Our partnership with the IMB has blossomed as Northwesterners travel to faraway places where there are few believers and little access to the gospel. Our IMB leaders have asked the NWBC to bring 200 Northwest Baptist people to serve 1,300 IMB missionaries and their children in Pattaya, Thailand from August 1-10, 2016. What a privilege!

Although the Northwest is not immune to the financial struggles and disappointing evangelistic results of our greater Southern Baptist family, we are thankful that we experienced an increase in baptisms and church attendance last year. From the reports we are receiving, we anticipate experiencing growth in baptisms this year as well. In addition, missions giving through the Cooperative Program saw the largest increase in our history last year, with NWBC churches giving $185,000 more in 2014 over 2013, for a 7.47 percent increase. Through the first nine months in 2015 we are $44,867 ahead of last year, for a 2.27 percent increase. With a strong fourth quarter we could make budget for the first time in almost 20 years.

It is no empty slogan to say that Northwest Baptists serve Christ from our neighborhoods to the nations. Our pastors and churches are engaged in the joyful task of loving their neighbors, blessing their communities as “salt and light,” and sharing the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, we are sending and sustaining missionaries the world over. Many Northwesterners are even joining them on mission in foreign lands.  And increasingly we are serving the nations who have come to us. International students and immigrants from many lands are now our neighbors. For this we are grateful. It truly is a good day to serve the Lord in the Northwest.

As I meditate on Paul’s references to “the day of the Lord,” I am moved to consider that day myself. Will my life and work stand scrutiny on that day? Am I stewarding my witness, gifts and finances in a manner worthy of Christ? As I consider the coming “day,” I am less concerned about the opinions of others and more committed to pleasing Christ, and Him alone if necessary. On “that day” nothing else will matter, which means, in fact, that nothing else really matters today.

Northwest Baptist Convention 2015 Annual Meeting Information

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The 68th Annual Meeting of the Northwest Baptist Convention and Pastor/Layman Conference is only weeks away, November 9-11, 2015.  Our theme is From Your Neighborhood to the Nations and we have wonderful things planned as we celebrate God’s work among us.  Did you know that three of our Northwest pastors lead the national fellowship of their ethnic group?  We plan to hear from these three men.  Others will share testimonies of God’s work where they serve.

Those preaching include Dr. Frank Page, Chief Executive Officer of the SBC; Dr. Jeff Iorg, President of Golden Gate Seminary; Dustin Hall, Kennewick Baptist Church pastor will bring our annual message; and Dale Jenkins, Airway Heights pastor will bring the president’s address.  I am excited about the message God has laid on my heart for the Executive Director’s report (It’s a work in process!).

It is very important that you make certain reservations in advance of the event. The hotel and meeting space are located at 909 N Hayden Island Drive, Portland, Oregon.  Adjacent to the meeting space is the Red Lion Hotel which will be the headquarters hotel.  You may use their toll free number, (800) 733-5466 to make reservations.  Please identify yourself as being a member of our group (NWBC) in order to receive the special negotiated rates.  Reservations must be made by October 29.

Also, on Tuesday evening at 5:00, we will have a special Northwest Missions Banquet in the Red Lion ballroom.  To purchase a ticket please send your non-refundable reservation fee of $25.00 per person to Northwest Baptist Convention, Attn:  Missions Dinner, 3200 NE 109th Ave, Vancouver, WA  98682.  Please make your reservation by October 31.

The Ministry Wives luncheon is at noon on Tuesday.  To purchase a ticket for that please send your non-refundable reservation fee of $25.00 per person to Northwest Baptist Convention, Attn:  Ministry Wives Luncheon, 3200 NE 109th Ave, Vancouver, WA  98682.  Please make your reservation by October 31.

We’re anticipating a tremendous gathering this year, but it won’t be the same without you, so please make plans to attend.  We call it a convention meeting, but really it’s a Northwest Baptist family reunion.   I look forward to seeing the family.