Reflecting, pointing us to the future
MBC executive director discusses a variety of pressing issues
By Allen Palmeri
October 26, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Going into the 170th annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Oct. 25-27 at First Baptist Church, Raytown, MBC Executive Director David Clippard feels very good about the staff God has led to the Baptist Building.
In a far-ranging interview with The Pathway about the ministry successes and challenges of the past year, Clippard mentioned a number of MBC staffers as evidence that the work of the convention is in good hands.
“God continues to bring us just great, great, quality staff guys,” he said. “I think our biggest asset this last year is the quality of the kind of leadership that He’s bringing us. Everything rises and falls on leadership, and we have guys and gals on this staff that are among some of the finest that you’ll find anywhere in our whole Southern Baptist Convention. I think that’s probably one of the greatest victories God’s given us, because their ministry, partnering with our churches, will make a difference.”
Partnerships that Missouri Baptists have with two countries, Romania and Iraq, are moving forward, Clippard said. Romania “couldn’t be going better” with some pastors making as many as three separate trips there in a year. The Iraq partnership suffered a setback in March when four missionaries were killed, but the survivor of that attack, Carrie McDonnall, is coming to the annual meeting to speak about hope for the future.
“It does not change our resolve to take the Gospel to Iraq, but it does change our strategy,” Clippard said. “We’ve worked out a new strategic plan with the International Mission Board, and for those individuals who want to take the Gospel to the Iraqi people, we have a strategy in place.”
As the partnership with Puerto Rico winds down, Clippard said a new domestic partnership has emerged with Colorado Baptists. Pending convention approval, the agreement will go into effect Jan. 1.
“Lord willing, we hope to see the same thing happen in Colorado that we’re seeing happening in Romania, where a Missouri Baptist church teams with a Colorado church and they go plant a new work in a new city that has no Gospel witness in it,” Clippard said.
One of the positive developments in the area of evangelism is the growth of the State Evangelism Conference. In January 2003, the conference drew 850. Attendance then went up by 50 percent in January 2004 with more than 1,200. Clippard said that 2,000 may attend the next conference.
“I believe it will continue to increase,” he said. “That’s a reflection of the quality of speakers and ministry programs that are being conducted at these meetings.”
A new series produced by MBC Family Ministries Specialist Joe Ulveling on “The Ministry Juggling Act” made its debut in Branson in September, and it has been well received by pastors and their wives, Clippard said.
“Healthy pastors will grow healthy churches,” Clippard said. “If their family is suffering, if their marriage is suffering, then they won’t be able to help others. That was the first of what I hope will be a series of these retreats that ultimately will include every one of our pastors and staff members.”
Also in September, MBC Worship Specialist Bill Shiflett broke new ground by sponsoring a conference with Integrity Media, an international leader in praise and worship music. Shiflett made the conference affordable for the bi-vocational or volunteer worship leaders, who make up most of the supply of music ministers in Missouri Baptist life, to attend a top-notch equipping event, Clippard said.
“The responses I’m getting from that, letters and phone calls, have been an incredible blessing,” Clippard said.
As Monty Hale, MBC leadership development specialist, continued to reach out to the estimated 900 bi-vocational pastors in the convention this year, good things happened, Clippard said. A recent retreat gave about 90 of these men tools to use in their ministries.
“We hope to continue to increase our emphasis on bi-vocational pastors,” Clippard said. “In fact, many new starts in the years ahead may have to be led by bi-vocational men. We want to encourage those men.”
Church planting was another bright spot. In 2003, the MBC set a record with 47 new works. This year, that record was broken in September with 53 church plants. Clippard remained focused on his goal of 100 new churches every year, and Jerry Field, state director of church planting, said momentum is building toward approaching that number in 2005.
Encouraging Missouri Baptists to vote their values has been one of the executive director’s priorities in 2004. Votes cast by citizens seeking to obey the Bible played a part in Missouri overwhelmingly approving a constitutional amendment defending biblical marriage, as well as defeating a proposed casino in Rockaway Beach, near Branson. Clippard said he heard about a radio talk show host in Kansas City who said Missouri Baptists made the difference in the gambling vote.
“I was certainly pleased at the way our people really demonstrated biblical, moral convictions in those things, and I trust they’ll do it again Nov. 2,” Clippard said.
Six days before the general election, Missouri Baptists will get to hear about the Christian values of the men who founded this nation when patriotic author David Barton delivers the final message of the annual meeting. Clippard said it is vital for people to be in the church at that time.
“I believe that on Wednesday they are going to be in for probably one of the greatest American history lessons of their life,” Clippard said. “I know when I had him in my church (Sarasota, Fla., Baptist Church) as a preacher a couple of Sundays when I was out of the pulpit, my people were just awestruck by the Christian heritage our nation had that they’d never really been taught in school. I think it’s a very timely message for us and I believe one that our people will really enjoy.”
Giving through the Cooperative Program (CP) is up, and messengers to the convention will be asked to approve a $16.7 million budget for 2005, an increase of $500,000 from each of the last two approved budgets. One percent of that, or $167,000, is expected to be set aside to promote the CP.
“For a season or two here, maybe a year or two, we’re going to try this in order to help our folks really grasp the significance of that,” Clippard said. “It will benefit. I’m really anticipating that our CP giving will continue to rise as a result of it.”