By Joseph W. Needham, Ph.D. Chair
A cursory examination of Iowa Southern Baptists over the previous year indicates that the Lord Jesus Christ utilizes the Baptist Convention of Iowa to accomplish various objectives regarding our reaching the Hawkeye State for His glory. The quantity of churches continues to elevate as do the total number of individuals who join the houses of worship. Other statistics appear to suggest that indeed we are by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the Great Commission. Clearly the message of salvation is being received by those without a personal relationship with the Savior. Yet much work remains to be done as the evil one implements his strategies to hinder the Lord’s work. He prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, yet we are empowered with a sober spirit to be on the alert. He attacks with flaming arrows but Christ provides the shield of faith with which to quench those very darts. Hence, the Lord’s work continues unabated.
During the past year the state office continued to experience personnel changes. As our new system of state missions continued in place we have seen several new churches planted and at least one restarted. Hopefully we will see more churches planted around the state where few Baptist or evangelical places of worship exist. Indeed, some churches are located well over 50 miles to the nearest Southern Baptist congregation. Regrettably Iowa has far too many counties and county seats without an evangelical body of believers and that number actually increased this year. Let us pray earnestly that the Lord will use evangelistic strategies implemented over the past years to fulfill this growing need. How blessed we are to work and fellowship with believers who take seriously Jesus words as recorded in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
A brief statistical analysis illustrates a number of areas of continued growth and improvement for which we thank the Lord Jesus. Regrettably many specific figures regarding attendance, Vacation Bible School, mission offerings and other issues were unavailable so the annual report will not include as much information as normal. Nevertheless, the information that I do have is promising. Last year was the first time in five years that our membership grew, and that trend continued as the Lord added 475 members to 12,785. Unfortunately other comparative figures on VBS, baptism, church attendance and Sunday school are unavailable.
Complementing the increased membership is the subsequent growth in giving. Total receipts reached $22,302,304 surpassing 2015 by nearly 5 million dollars. The total mission expenditures elevated from $2,282,301 to $2,435,284. Regrettably a paltry supply of financial figures precludes a comparison of other giving such as the Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and the Hyde State Missions offerings.
Please be aware of the fact that these figures are based on the Annual Church Profile. With incomplete or inaccurate information it is exceptionally challenging for the leadership to plan, budget, allocate resources and perform other tasks to reach the Hawkeye State for the Lord Jesus. Please respond accurately and promptly to the ACP request. The information it contains is more helpful than many realize.
We continue to have fewer pastoral changes than has been the case historically. This is particularly true in regard to those who left the state or resigned their ministry position. Three pastors either relocated to another state or retired; Bob Stout of Quimby, Paul Porter of Van Meter and David Williamson of Dunkerton. Incoming pastors include Noel Gandy who relocated to the restart at Christ Point Church in Shenandoah, Charles Cuffman moved to Quimby, Bruce Walters settled in Van Meter, Andrew McDonald relocated to Bedford and the Muscatine Baptist Chapel called Chris Beasley.
It is with great pleasure to announce several new starts this year. Cottage Grove, led by Andy Norris and Frontier Church shepherded by Cole Deike are both in the Hawkeye State’s largest city. Paragon Church in Grinnell is led by Cody Hinton and Stan Hayek pastors Anthem Church in Columbia, Missouri. Nevertheless, two churches closed their doors, Heartland Baptist in Ida Grove and Fairfield’s Central Baptist.
As we bring the report to a close there are several changes to note. A few of them include the selling of the office building in August. We are now mobile. In January Sandy Guthrie resigned her position as administrative assistant to pursue other opportunities. Her position was filled by Eric Seever who recently left. Mandy Stenberg now works in that capacity. Frank McCrary left his position as Disaster Relief director. David and Jeanne Wedekind now fulfill that responsibility. Bobby Thies resigned her position as business manager but she still works as a consultant regarding the cooperative program receipts.
What a blessing and privilege it is to prepare this annual report for the Baptist Convention of Iowa. Although we face untold opportunities and situations in which to trust Him alone, the Lord Jesus always proves faithful with daily mercies and sufficient grace. His Word remains the unchanging lamp unto our feet and light unto our path. In the mid-nineteenth century my maternal and paternal ancestors settled in this state and many of their descendants remain. God called us here, so let us with renewed vision and purpose continue to fulfill the Great Commission and share the message of salvation to Iowans, residents of “the beautiful land between the rivers.”