The Friday evening session was mostly celebrative. Conference minister Ike Bergen reported that the Conference had grown 4.4% in the past year (to 14,806 members), and that attendance at care groups had increased 17.8%.
One aspect of the Conference's growth was the acceptance of East Ridge Community Church into the Conference. The year-old church plant in east Maple Ridge has 35 members and attendance of 60-70.
Another aspect of growth was evident in the testimony of Soo Loh. She described her call first to salvation in Hong Kong six years ago and then to ministry preparation. She is now attending Regent College and serving in Pacific Grace Chinese MB Church in Vancouver. The theme of her testimony was: "We serve only by grace."
The Executive Board report (it was the only board reporting that evening) was generally positive except for some concern over the number of churches without senior pastors.
The roll call of churches revealed moderate representation from most churches. It also gave assistant moderator an opportunity to award chocolate bars to the longest serving senior pastor (Bob Friesen in Broadway, Chilliwack), the most recently appointed senior pastor (Reg Toews in Greendale, Chilliwack), the senior pastor who had begun his ministry most recently (Steve Berg in South Abbotsford), the only single senior pastor (Tim Unruh in Whistler, although he is now engaged) and conference minister Ike Bergen.
Ike and Shirley Bergen presented roses to the pastors' spouses. They gave a flowering plant to Jackie Glavind, who has served as secretary in the Conference office for six years and is leaving to begin a career as a mother.
Friday evening, in the first of two messages, he discussed the repeated cycle in Acts of a local church serving as the foundation to send out mission teams, which in turn establish more local churches. He described the five gifts needed to keep the cycle continuing: apostles (who boldly go into new areas), prophets (who listen well and are thus able to advise the apostles), evangelists (who are able to discern when "fruit is ripe"), pastors (who provide care) and teachers (who teach truth). The local church, he said, should not see itself as the centre of God's activity; rather, the unsaved should be at the centre, and each local church should see itself as one of many churches and movements cooperating to reach them.
On Saturday morning, George talked about the necessity of having a vision for growth, and then talked of obstacles to such a vision: a calendar too full to allow time for growth; a desire for growth only to balance the budget; a desire for a golden age in the past; and a church limited to the gifts of only the pastor. George urged pastors to share their shepherd's crooks with others, training lay people to do ministry and giving them responsibility, particularly for small groups. He promoted a video series called Nine Facets of Small Group Leaders and a "debriefing tool" (a questionnaire which pastors can use to help small group leaders analyze how they are doing and make adjustments).
The convention business was transacted in a single session after lunch, as each board gave a short report.
The Board of Church Extension presented its vision "to intentionally reach unchurched people of British Columbia for Christ by establishing self-supporting, reproducing churches". Board member Geoff Neufeld said that 2% of the new members at established churches tend to be converts from unchurched backgrounds, but 30% of new members at church plants come from unchurched backgrounds.
BOCE Director James Nikkel then introduced several BOCE church planters. Among them were David and Sharmila McLauren, who lead the Indo-Canadian Community Church in Surrey. The three-year-old church is targetted toward second-generation Indo-Canadians, and 75% of the 30 attenders are non-Christians. Six became Christians in 1996, and three so far in 1997.
The Board of Church Ministries report focussed on two items:
* the summer ministry youth teams which are sent out by established churches to lead children's programs in small and beginning churches.
* a "Safe Place Handbook", guidelines intended to improve supervision of those who work with minors in order to prevent abuse. The handbook is recommended for use in the churches by the Board of Church Ministries and the Executive Council, but for legal reasons was not officially made policy by the convention.
The Board of Family Ministries report focussed on the workshops it sponsors on marriage and family themes.
The Board of Camping Ministries
presented a folder and encouraged attendance at some seminars it is sponsoring to help churches and groups plan retreats.
Columbia Bible Camp Board chair John H. Redekop thanked outgoing director Henry Esau and welcomed new director Harry Edwards (see MBH, April 4). Redekop also reported that plans for building a retreat centre at Columbia are on indefinite hold due to zoning complications.
The Pines Bible Camp director Gene Krahn reported briefly on expanded use of the camp and plans for expanded facilities.
Gardom Lake Bible Camp director Will Born reported two incidents: a camp at which the speaker invited those from broken homes to come for healing prayer and a third of the campers came forward; and the baptism of a staff member at the camp in cooperation with Armstrong Bible Chapel. Born also presided over the annual draw for Gardom Lake T-shirts.
The Board of Pastoral Ministries report highlighted two board responsibilities. First, board member and pastor Rick Hall introduced the board's new "Ministry Assessment Instrument", a series of four questionnaires designed to help churches evaluate their pastors and programs. Hall said the evaluation of his own ministry and that of his church using the instrument had been a positive experience.
The Board has the responsibility to approve candidates for licensing and ordination. Among those approved in 1996 was John Koo, who is an associate pastor for Korean ministry at Willingdon Church in Burnaby. Koo described his conversion in Korea, when he realized that God loved him as he loved his daughter. He noted that in the course of the ordination process, he had read the book The Power of the Lamb. This had convinced him not only that the Mennonite peace position was possible in Korea but that it is the only solution for that country.
The Board of Management reported that it is preparing a suggested salary grid for pastors.
Bob Friesen was re-elected as moderator. Peter Nikkel of Panorama Community Church replaces Mark Burch as assistant moderator, Peter Enns of Bakerview replaces John Lenzmann as secretary, and John Neufeld of Bakerview was elected as member-at-large on the Executive Council, replacing Pete Unrau.
The only other item of business that required a vote was approval of the 1998 budget. This also generated the only comment from the floor: Walter Unger of Bakerview commented that nine churches had contributed no money to the Conference in 1996 and that this indicated a spiritual problem that should be addressed by the Board.
The Conference budget year coincides with the calendar year. In 1996, contributions from the churches were $1,082,540, about $109,000 less than budgetted. However, the Conference still finished the year with a tiny surplus because some boards underspent their budgets and because $85,000 rather than the budgetted $135,000 was put into the capital reserve. The 1997 budget, approved at last year's convention, calls for little increase from the 1996 budget, with the churches expected to contribute $1,200,000 to a $1,206,000 total budget. The 1998 budget, approved at this year's convention, holds the budget at $1,206,000. The norm that churches are expected to contribute to the Conference will remain at $104 per member for the third year in a row.
The Columbia Bible College chorale, under the direction of Rudy Baerg, sang several songs on the eve of their departure for a ministry and learning tour in Europe. Baerg, who is retiring this year, was recognized for his 29 years of service as music instructor.
Nelson Boschman was introduced as a new half-time worship instructor at Columbia.
In honour of Columbia's 60th anniversary, John Redekop and Garth Klassen reported on Columbia's past, student body president Paul Wicki and instructor Ken Esau reported on Columbia's present, and president Walter Unger reported on Columbia's future.
The Board of Church Extension made several presentations:
* A group from the new Maranatha Christian Fellowship in Coquitlam presented several Indonesian-style dances.
* Director James Nikkel presented a Board goal of increasing the number of churches in the Conference from the present 82 to 100 by the year 2000.
* Pastor Vong Luangkhamdeng of the Surrey Lao Christian MB Church reported that that congregation includes six cultures. The church baptized four people in 1996, hopes for 10 converts in 1997, has numerous involvements in the community (including a Lao school, a soccer team, and Vong's work as an RCMP and government translator) and has started a daughter work in Maple Ridge.
* Samir Youssef reported on the Arabic Evangelical Church, which meets in New Westminster but also has Bible studies in Abbotsford, Surrey and Seattle, Wash. In addition, Youssef reaches Arabs in Muslim countries through a radio and periodical ministry.
* A film highlighted Garden Valley Community Church in Kelowna. The congregation has baptized 23 converts in its first year-and-a-half and now has attendance of 200.
* Dan and Berni Warkentin, formerly pastor couple at Parkland Community Church in Yorkton, Sask., were introduced as the new church planters for Pitt Meadows. This work is being restarted after a group BOCE was working with last year decided to go a different direction. The Warkentins began work April 29, and will begin door-to-door surveys shortly. They hope to establish a Bible study within a month and have a core group within three months. An offering was taken at the banquet to cover start-up costs for the new church.
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