The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio took place in Cuyahoga, OH outside of Cleveland on November 14-15, 2022. There were two hundred messengers, many of who are pastors. Dr. Ray Umphrey of Briggs Road Baptist Church was the president and will serve in the same role next year alongside Dr. Jeremy Westbrook the Executive Director.
Dr. Westbrook shared his vision for the SCBO and the accompanying budget for the 2023 year. There were a few dissensions and some questions. The tenor of the meeting was very good and encouraging.
Nothing was more encouraging than the Pastor’s Conference. Brian Croft with Practical Shepherding began the conference. His story is remarkable. He pastored one church for seventeen years. When he left, there were seventy-five members and a yearly budget of $110,000. You might think that is not enough. He’d tell you that isn’t the full story. The full story is thirty-two families are serving overseas as missionaries or as pastors who were sent out from that church! Allistair Begg finished off the conference. He challenged us to follow the church growth plan from Acts 9. It is simply this: edify the church and watch it multiply.
Throughout the Pastor’s Conference and the Convention, The Jason Lovins Band lead us in worship. They did a great job of leading us with songs old and new. In full honesty, most of them were new to me because I didn’t grow up hearing old hymns. His testimony is incredible. They recently released a song and music video about it.
Some things I found hopeful at the SCBO:
The not-so-good news is the SCBO has only met budget 3 out of the last 20 years. The hopeful side comes as 2022 looks to be a year in the black. This is without taking into account the sale of Seneca Lake or the three-year grant from the North American Mission Board.
The SCBO presented a good paper as a response to the Sex Abuse Task Force and the report of the Southern Baptist Convention. The report had good definitions, practices, and procedures to follow. Compiling this information at each level is helpful for churches.
The SCBO budget has money earmarked for ethnic churches. In the county where I live, our school system has over twenty languages represented. There are only one or two churches that target these languages. There are more languages in the entire state and having money dedicated to their work is good.
The partnership in Florida will allow states to work together. Dr. Westbrook wants to see SCBO walk alongside Florida Baptists and their work with One More Child. One More Child is a ministry helping churches and their members with foster care and adoption. I’m very familiar with the ministry having grown up in Florida. It will be a welcome here in Ohio.
Dr. Westbrook wants to focus on the pastors of the churches in Ohio. This is part of the regional catalyst system. Instead of centralizing all ministries in Columbus, he has hired people who are geographically spread out around the state for better connection. He shared about the prayer ministry of Bill Elliff. He was emotional when sharing about it. Bill Elliff will come to Columbus to train the SCBO staff and the Associational Missional Strategists (the new name for the DOMs).
The Send Luncheon was a hit. We got some massive sandwiches from Panera and some nice coffee cups, a NAMB staple. What was better though was hearing from three guys who have used NAMB to plant a church. We heard of a revitalization/campus method that plans to be autonomous. We heard from a seasoned church planter who is planting a second church. The last one was a Nepali church planter who took a night off of work to attend and share how NAMB is helping them.
Some challenges ahead for the SCBO:
Financially, the SCBO is in a good place. However, the SCBO does not present any financial statements to the convention. The SBC and most churches will give a balance sheet so people know what is in the accounts. Since the SCBO does not do this, it is hard for anyone to know what is going on financially. There is a financial committee that sees what is going on but this same committee allowed for the budget to only be met 3 out of the last twenty years.
The SCBO and NAMB partnership is a very good thing for Ohio Baptists, if your church is new or if it is dying. Dr. Westbrook wants to address the established churches. Out of the 700+ churches in the SCBO, many are established churches so connecting with and equipping them is paramount. Dr. Westbrook is a church planter and those in the catalyst positions are focused on church plants. This is a good thing but there is a need to assist churches that are already here.
The IMB had a fantastic video with Dr. Paul Chitwood. He said, “Missions is why we came together and why we stay together.” The problem is the video was right after lunch and before the worship. There were maybe only 15% of the people there and almost not SCBO staff. I look to suggest a time that we will combine the NAMB luncheon and highlight the IMB missionaries who came from SCBO churches. We could also make this part of the regular meeting and have the pastors stand who have missionaries from their churches.
The SCBO was a great time. Things are on the move in Ohio. Better days are ahead. There is a great past and the future is very bright.