Are you hearing the buzz? More and more ABC people in our congregations and regions are these days infusing some new and exciting language into their conversations. These conversations are found around a few key issues: that the Spirit is at work among us and seems to be taking ABC into new places; that we need to find new ways of dealing with the contemporary challenges facing our congregations; that our ABC organizations seem to be coming together to work more effectively in advancing God’s work among our congregations and in our regions. And are you also hearing the buzz that God is opening up some new financial doors to help us undergird the cost of this time of renewal?
Yes, friends, ABCUSA can boldly and humbly and thankfully share some good news that a growing list of generous donors from across the country, together with our ABC ministry partners, have joined in the financial journey because they have grasped the vision of Transformed by the Spirit (TbyS). It is a vision of renewal that provides a way for our ABC congregations to work together in a discernment process to help ABC reclaim our heritage as pioneers and to be reshaped by participating in a discovery process to follow the voice and leading of the Spirit. One of our Executive Ministers, Robin Stoops, ABC of Nebraska, commented on a particular impact of TbyS in his region. In working on a ministry project with a group of persons, he noticed that the group began falling back into the old school kind of negative thinking regarding infrastructure issues. But, “the introduction of TbyS into the conversation unleashed a whole new burst of energy, resulting in an exciting paradigm shift. The group reframed its approach,” said Rev. Stoops, “and its energy is now focused on capturing the ministry potential of our people, not on the matter of construction and buildings. It was refreshing to experience this shift to a more positive focus.”
Truth be told, ABC has not been engaged in a financial campaign since the 1980s, and when we attempted to conduct another one in early 2003 the recommendation of the consultants was “no campaign because of the current Baptist culture.” Our faithful God continued to walk with us through the years, and guided us across that long wilderness. Today a fresh wind of the Spirit is blowing, and ABC people from across the country are encouraging us financially even beyond our expectations. A retired ABC pastor became so excited with the TbyS initiative that he offered a valuable suggestion (and we are taking him up on it) to reach out to retired executives and pastors of key churches and ask them for a gift of $500. We are experiencing the formation of a new culture of philanthropy that is beginning to help ABC live into its God-given mission.
Let’s be more specific. Two years ago, we set a total goal of raising $800,000 to sustain the TbyS initiative through the June 2013 Mission Summit/Biennial in Overland Park, Kansas. Our four national partners (ABCUSA, ABHMS, IM and MMBB – together with AB Women’s Ministries) seeded their commitment with a combined financial investment of $205,000 as a base for raising the goal. This generosity was in itself a most tangible display of unity. About MMBB’s contribution, Executive Director Sumner Grant, said, “God is doing a new thing in our midst. I am excited to be part of it.”
Last December one donor responded to a solicitation with a gift of $50,000. Other donors have heard the good news about the progress being made through Transformed by the Spirit and have sent additional contributions. These contributions added generously to the end-of-the-year expected and unexpected gifts we received. Money is talk$ng, and the financial momentum is growing as TbyS is helping us to fund and become more intentional, strategic and committed to assisting ABC congregations become vital communities of faith and witness.
Another way to look at the blessings and excitement inspired by TbyS is the cost benefits to the denomination. At least 29 ABC regions (from a total of 33) have joined together in this denomination-wide journey. Many of our key ABC leaders have become trained as coaches, team leaders and group facilitators. Some of our congregations have already begun testing new insights and specific activities that are transforming them. They are also finding ways to connect with the emerging generations among them and to look with new eyes at the cultural and ethnic changes in their communities. In Oregon, for example, the ministry of discipleship is taking center stage around the issue of congregations becoming more effective through intentional reconnection with the communities where they live. Through the process of working with a coach, interviews, various readings and connecting with other churches, they are beginning to discern the relationship between a faith community and the particular needs of surrounding neighborhoods. The kind of pastoral leadership necessary to be successful in these areas is also emerging as vital components on the journey. Yes, money is talk$ng!
Ultimately, we seek to seed TbyS in the soil of every congregation engaged in this discernment process of empowerment. It is our hope that seeds will fall on good ground and take root, and vibrant, missional congregations will emerge and grow as strong fruit-bearing trees in their communities. As of this writing, our Fundraising Team can report that 79 individual donors and 7 churches, regions or groups have pledged a total of $302,121. They have given to date a total of $191,541. Their generosity is talking! Praise God from whom all blessings flow! We are passionate about this task and excited about God’s work among us through TbyS. We worship a God of transformation and invite you to join us and become one of the donors whose financial support becomes part of the new language of hope and renewal in our American Baptist family as we serve as the hands and feet of Christ.
The ABCUSA Fundraising Team
January 31, 2013