NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — American Baptist Churches of Nebraska celebrated a year of change and anticipated a year of service at the region’s annual conference Sept. 21-23. Meeting at the Sandhills Convention Center in North Platte, ABC of Nebraska focused on the theme, “Spiritually Deep, Missionally Wide,” using Ephesians 3:18-19.
“God is up to something,” Executive Minister Robin Stoops said, pointing to the victories the region had experienced in 2011-12.
Twenty churches participated in Missional Church Learning Experience training, an American Baptist Churches-USA program to train laity and help churches join the missional movement.
Promulgated by Christian leaders such as Reggie McNeal, the movement focuses on people and on ministry outside the church, and is often referred to as a way of living. Most of the 20 congregations already have developed community-based ministry, some short-term and others ongoing, as a result of the training, Stoops said.
Last fall, the region began offering overseas study trips for Nebraska pastors, he said. Four pastors went to Burma (Myanmar) last year, and four were scheduled to go to Bulgaria and Serbia on Sept. 28 to see how the church there is growing.
Stoops reported that, at its August meeting, the region’s board appointed a committee to discuss ways to minister to youth. The board also explored establishing regional mission partner teams to listen to God and try new ministries together, he said.
He added that the region is reworking its process for transitioning pastors and is developing a process for helping churches at risk.
The executive minister noted the closing of the Baptist Congregational Church in York in May. Established in 1873, First Baptist Church in York and the town’s Congregational church merged in the 1930s. The cornerstone from the old First Baptist will be placed in the memorial garden at ABC of Nebraska’s Moses Merrill Camp and Conference Center at Linwood.
Using Ephesians 3:18, Stoops said believers sometimes struggle to grasp God’s love, but they are to grasp God’s love and share it. “The vision for us...is to be people of the Word doing the Word in our communities,” he challenged.
Onnie Drain, president for 2011-12, led a short business session to approve the 2013 budget.
To emphasize the commitment to missional transformation, attendees approved adding “region missionary” to staffers’ titles and commissioned them at the convention.
In addition to Stoops, Greg Mamula serves the region as associate executive minister and MaryBeth Robertson is director of Moses Merrill.
Participants also approved the nominating committee report to name Larry Harvey, pastor of First Baptist Church of Hastings, as president and Karen Denton, a member of First Baptist Church of Beatrice, as vice president for 2012-13. Ernie Denniston and LaVonna Cline were reelected as secretary and treasurer, respectively.