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August-September 2016


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2016 National Convention Review

Milestone Meeting in the Midwest

When delegates gathered at the first Free Will Baptist “national convention” in 1935 they surely never imagined that 80 years later, the convention choir would be larger than the attendance at that first meeting…not to mention live-streamed services or online pre-registration.

Yet today’s Free Will Baptists have more in common with those early denominational pioneers than it might seem. Despite the dramatic changes the denomination (and the world) has seen in the past eight decades, Free Will Baptists remain true to their core values and theology, preach the Word faithfully, and continue to take the gospel to those who have never heard.

The faithful example set by those early Free Will Baptists has continued down through the generations. In spite of challenges and changes, the words of this year’s theme hymn echo the sentiment of Free Will Baptists through the intervening decades: “Our God will not be moved; our God will never change; our God will reign forevermore!”


Ready for Revival

This year’s convention theme, “The Path to Revival,” centered around 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

Convention worship kicked off with Sunday School taught by Ben Evans, deacon and Bible study teacher at Calvary Fellowship FWB Church near St. Louis, Missouri.


Wayne Miracle, pastor of New Life Fellowship in Statesboro, Georgia, preached on “The Problem Reviewed” during the Sunday morning service, explaining the historical context of the passage and preparing congregants for the rest of the week’s messages.

Cory Thompson, pastor of First FWB Church in Poteau, Oklahoma, followed on Sunday evening with “The People Responsible,” examining the phrase, my people, which are called by my name from the convention’s theme verse.

Monday evening, Brad Ryan (below), pastor of Ina FWB Church in Illinois, preached from the phrase, humble themselves and pray, “The Prerequisite Required.”


On Tuesday evening, Richard Robinson, pastor of Thayer FWB Church in Thayer, Missouri, delivered “The Prescription Recommended,” exhorting the congregation to seek the Lord’s face and repent.

During the Wednesday evening missions service, Marc Neppl, church planter and pastor of Restore FWB Church in Portsmouth, Virginia, preached on “The Promise Revealed,” inviting the congregation to embrace the healing God offers. He concluded the convention by challenging listeners to engage and disciple a rising generation of Free Will Baptist leaders.

Each service throughout the week built upon the ones before, with enthusiastic congregational singing led by the Convention Choir and Orchestra, under the guidance of Convention Music Coordinator Kevin Justice and Orchestra Director Joshua Riggs. Numerous talented individuals, families, and groups shared their voices and instruments as they joined the congregation in worship.


Meeting Moments

The 2016 convention was marked by many remarkable moments—firsts, milestones, and out-of-the-ordinary events that changed the complexion of the meeting.

Perhaps most notable was a prayer rally that replaced the annual preaching conference. In keeping with the revival theme, both laypeople and ministers led prayers for everything from evangelism and ministry to national concerns, denominational leadership, and current events. Men, women, and entire families huddled in groups, and the ballroom filled with voices interceding on behalf of the denomination, pastors, missionaries, and the nation.


Impact (annual outreach emphasis) celebrated its tenth year with three exciting events on the Saturday before the convention. Eighteen volunteers (above) from Mississippi, Illinois, Tennessee, and Oklahoma joined members of LifePoint FWB Church at the Harvesters warehouse to sort and pack nearly 12,000 pounds of food. At Victory FWB Church (Kansas City), 30 volunteers provided food and fun activities for 150 visitors, four of whom returned to visit the church the following morning.

Central FWB Church (Grandview) sponsored a community carnival with inflatables and games. Local departments provided police cars and fire trucks, and the church honored first responders. Approximately 200 enthusiastic residents attended the fair. “It’s great that race has no boundaries in the love of Christ!” remarked Rob Stottlemyre, chief of Grandview Fire Department, after watching the church interact with the community.

From practical ministry and apologetics to preparing for college and confronting cultural issues, 88 seminars and panel discussions provided something for every convention goer. North American Ministries, Welch College, WNAC, Engage Leadership Network, the Music and Media Commissions provided the practical sessions.

In an especially poignant convention moment, North American Ministries acknowledged a record number of military chaplains attending the convention. These chaplains joined Kerry Steedley, director of chaplain support, onstage to honor recently retired chaplain David Trogdon, who received the prestigious Legion of Merit Award presented by the White House for exceptional performance. Trogdon told delegates, “I thank God, my family, and Free Will Baptists for the opportunity to go into all the world to serve and pastor those who lay down their lives for freedom.” Steedley also honored David’s wife Connie for her years of support and service to military men and women.



The Commission for Theological Integrity honored the influence of Leroy Forlines (pictured above) with the release of The Promise of Arminian Theology: Essays in Honor of F. Leroy Forlines. Matt Bracey, one of the book’s authors and editors noted, “Leroy Forlines is a man who shaped the Free Will Baptist denomination and its theology. His contributions offer hope and promise for our future. We are indebted to him and grateful for him, and we honor him with this book.”

The Media Commission worked in tandem with the Executive Office to promote Check-in for a Cause. The campaign used Facebook check-ins to provide Bibles for Kazakhstan—one for every five check-ins. Nearly 6,000 people checked in throughout the week, with 3.3 million impressions (the number of times check-ins were viewed) on Facebook. A special thanks goes to both Free Will Baptist Foundation and International Missions for their partnership in this exciting campaign.


Down to Business


General Board

On Monday, July 18, the General Board heard reports from nine national agencies and four commissions as Moderator Tim York guided board members through a four-hour, 19-minute meeting. The board approved several recommendations including a 2017 denominational budget of nearly $26 million, an Executive Committee recommendation that the 2021 convention be held July 18-21, in Memphis, Tennessee, and a change to the By-Laws to bring the annual obituary report under the responsibility of the Executive Office.

Clerk Randy Bryant read the names of 19 appointments to national committees: Credentials (5), Nominating (7), 2017 Resolutions (5), and Obituary Committee (2).

During Tuesday and Wednesday business sessions, delegates heard, discussed (sometimes at great length), and approved the following reports from national departments:


Executive Office

Executive Secretary Keith Burden acknowledged 2015 was a year of significant change and challenges as the office continues to adjust to steadily declining, and in some cases, inadequate financial resources after a 24% drop in Together Way giving over the past decade. In addition, the evolving meeting planning industry has forced the office to rethink and retool the annual convention. Despite these financial concerns, Burden thanked faithful supporters for their generosity.

He pointed to achievements reached this year: the production of ONE Magazine, which continues to thrive, reaching 55,000 families nationwide; an update to the Treatise; the development and implementation of the Rekindle program for restoring church health; and the production of a training DVD to help churches prepare for and react to emergencies.


Burden reminded listeners, “In a world of constant change, we follow a changeless Savior and preach the eternal Word. The future of our churches and denomination rests squarely on these unalterable facts.” He urged his listeners to pray for wisdom in leadership and for churches to develop a heart for giving. In closing, he honored Tim Campbell (AR; pictured above) for serving four terms—12 years—on the Executive Committee.


Free Will Baptist Foundation

Foundation Director David Brown noted a loss of more than $150,000 in 2015 due to late-year market transactions and expenses related to the estate-planning ministry (an expected loss to be corrected by operational adjustments). On the positive side, Brown pointed to an increase of $1.4 million in assets and a $6 million net positive in Money Management Trusts.

He cheerfully informed delegates the first half of 2016 “looks really good,” with total assets up almost $8 million, nearing $72 million. This increase is especially impressive considering a $1.7 million withdrawal by Welch College to fund construction of the new campus. Based on current projections, the Foundation will not only enjoy record-setting increases in 2016, but will make grants available to Free Will Baptist ministries again next year.

The department hired Tim York in early 2016 as a part-time, estate planning field representative for Kentucky and West Virginia, with an additional representative to be hired in 2017. The Foundation set up 430 new estate plans in 2015, bringing the total to 991 through the end of the year, with 280 new estate plans already established in 2016. An estimated $13.3 million has been promised to Free Will Baptist ministries as a result, and Brown projects $75 million in bequests established in the next ten years.


Board of Retirement

During his report to convention delegates, first-year director John Brummitt noted this was a year of transition for the department. Following the change in leadership after director Ray Lewis retired in December 2015 (only the third director in the board’s 47-year history), the department hired two new staff members: Joshua Eidson, accounting administrator, and Chris Compton, communications officer. These new team members were instrumental in re-launching the website (, improving reporting procedures, and advancing financial education and resources.

Despite a downturn in the market during the last quarter of 2015 (resulting in a negative annual return), Brummitt reported normal growth for the board in 2015, with 57 new enrollees, $2.6 million in contributions, and operational expenses well under budget. He urged listeners not to delay in saving for retirement, but to start immediately, because the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term sacrifices.


North American Ministries

Director David Crowe told delegates, “North American Ministries has many exciting things to report.” Fifty-three families are planting churches in 25 states (not including 42 Hispanic church plants). Crowe honored five churches for reaching self-supporting status during the past year and announced four new church plants in 2016, and four planned in 2017. He celebrated the work in Portsmouth, Virginia, where 264 attended the launch service, with an average of 100 in attendance. Crowe rejoiced that three new churches—two in Arizona and one in Tennessee—are averaging more than 200 in worship weekly.

The church revitalization program continues to expand and thrive under the direction of Jim McComas while Master’s Men, under the leadership of Ken Akers, remains busy with disaster relief, outreach events, construction projects, and sports fellowship. Free Will Baptist chaplain ministry continues to be a vital outreach to military men and women.

Crowe also reported that the second Power Conference, held in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, May 30-31, was well attended and well received. He announced the conference will return to Branson, Missouri, in May 2017, to explore the theme, “Founded in the Past; Faithful to the Present; Focused on the Future.”

He noted significant setbacks in the department’s financial report, primarily related to doubtful and devaluated accounts in the Church Extension Loan Fund (CELF). He explained that significant steps have been taken in CELF operations to account for these losses, with good results. Crowe thanked Free Will Baptists for their continuing generous support of the department—$4.3 million in 2015—and thanked his staff for their “servant spirit, commitment, and excellent work.”


International Missions

Clint Morgan, director of Free Will Baptist International Missions, pointed to several important decisions made by the IM Board this year: Joel and Lydie Teague (France), Chris and Tori Sargent (Spain), and Doug and Miriam Bishop (Japan) were approved as career missionaries. Daniel Reeves was appointed to a two-year internship in France, and the Mission formed strategic partnerships with Village of Hope Uganda and Jungle Kids for Christ (Ecuador).

Most notably, however, the board made the decision to return to a designated funding system. A general funding system was instituted in 2008 to get missionaries on the field more quickly, prevent them from being recalled due to red accounts, to avoid them being held stateside to raise funds, and to fully fund partnerships with mature fields. The decision to return to designated funding was made after analysis revealed that not only were these goals not achieved, but IM also experienced a cumulative loss of approximately $7.6 million in donations since 2008. As a result, in 2015, IM made the difficult decision to reduce personnel and reduce field budgets drastically.

Rather than continue a system that obviously was not working, the board voted to return to designated giving. Morgan urged pastors and leaders to open their churches to missionaries, teach their people the needs of the world, model obedient giving, and pour support into missionaries and ministries they are led to support. CFO Rob Conley echoed his plea, stating: “I want to be abundantly clear…the funding method is not the issue. Our singular financial objective is to maximize missionaries’ ability to share the gospel, win souls, disciple believers, and see vibrant churches growing. Free Will Baptist International Missions is not a funding system. We exist to labor with the body of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission.”

Morgan thanked churches for participating in the World Missions Offering (WMO) and challenged every Free Will Baptist church to participate in 2017. Through the end of June, 2016 gifts totaled $421,159, roughly $60,000 lower than 2015. He noted that the changes to funding affect the allocation of WMO funds. The money will now go to strategic partners—mature fields such as India, Panama, Cuba, Cote d’Ivoire, and a few like-minded organizations with which IM has a strong theological affinity and ministry focus. Remaining funds will be directed to the general fund.

He praised God for milestones reached in 2015—1,031 new converts, 1,112 baptisms, and 26 new churches—and shared five goals to reach by 2020: 1) increase cash reserves to 20%; 2) increase donor churches from 1,116 to 1,339; 3) increase the number of missionaries from 74 to 89; 4) increase international believers from 27,371 to 32,845; and 5) increase new Free Will Baptist churches from 867 to 1,040.


Morgan presented plaques to board member Tom McCullough and outgoing board Chairman Danny Williams for their years of dedicated ministry. He honored missionary Mirial Gainer for 40 years of work in Japan and presented a plaque to Carlisle Hanna (pictured above, left, with Clint Morgan) longest-tenured IM missionary, for 65 years of service to God and India.


Women Nationally Active for Christ

Director Elizabeth Hodges noted that 2015 was a historical year for the organization, with two regional conferences for 12- to 18-year-old girls, their mothers, and their youth leaders. Both conferences ministered to 114 girls and 95 moms and youth leaders from 11 states and 36 churches. She announced the 2016 Shine! conference to be held November 12, 2016, at Heritage FWB Church, Columbus, Ohio. Visit to register.   

WNAC established the International Student Scholarship in 2015 to assist foreign students studying at a Free Will Baptist college in the United States. The first scholarship was awarded to Keren Delgado, a freshman at Welch College. The Pursell Foreign Student Scholarship was awarded to four pastoral students in southern India while Wisehart Scholarships were awarded to Allison Lewis (Welch); Courtney Anderson (Randall); and Tori Jefferis (Southeastern).

WNAC members also gave $505,200 to missions and ministry causes in 2015, along with $44,700 to the Steward Provision Closet. They raised $17,000 to help underwrite the cost of a national retreat for Free Will Baptist women in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, making it possible for Ivorian women to meet in a retreat center for the first time. Hodges noted that WNAC will help underwrite a Cuban national retreat in 2017, raising $12,000 for 400 Cuban ladies. Representatives from WNAC will travel to Cuba to attend the retreat.

In closing, Hodges announced “Praising Him” as the WNAC theme for the coming year, as women turn to the Psalms for strength and encouragement.


Welch College

President Matt Pinson noted that Welch College celebrates 75 years of ministry in 2017. Yet the mission of the college remains unchanged: to educate leaders to serve Christ, His Church, and His world through biblical thought and life.

The college continues to receive high reviews for excellence from both outgoing students and accrediting and evaluating organizations. Pinson emphatically declared this reflects the truth “that an emphasis on community and spiritual formation need not be divorced from academic excellence.” He noted that while the college continues to offer 40 programs of study, 65% of male students are ministers.

He described 2015-2016 as a “banner year” for the college, with the sale and transition of the campus, increased enrollment, and a healthy financial picture. The Building on the Legacy relocation campaign has already raised $8 million dollars, with $6.5 million in cash received. Pinson announced a new goal of $14.4 million, which will allow the college to build a chapel and be debt free in five years.

He celebrated the start of a new master’s degree program in 2016, the M.A. in Theology and Ministry, with students enrolled from across the country. He introduced a new book recently published by the college: Sexuality, Gender, and the Church. The volume is now available for purchase:

Pinson honored two outgoing Welch College board members—Billy Hanna (GA), who served from 2001 to 2016, and Chairman Terry Pierce (MS), who served from 2002 to 2016.


Randall House Publications

Director Ron Hunter acknowledged a significant financial shortfall—$322,000 in 2014 and $455,000 in 2015—for a total loss of $777,000. According to CFO Michael Lytle, these losses result from the cost of producing a new line of curriculum, losses from Vertical Three events, depreciation, and ordering habits of some churches. The shortfall has been addressed by sharp budget adjustments ($600,000 in 2016) and reduction in staff.

Citing a recent LifeWay study, Hunter described the losses as a reflection of the health of the church-at-large, with only 13% of churches reporting an increase in giving since the economic recession. He cited a trend in the reduction of denominational publishing (38% fewer employees since 2000). In comparison, Randall House has only dropped by one employee during that same time frame.

What is the answer to the funding dilemma? Hunter showed how 10-20% of the churches can affect a $150,000 to $300,000 dollar loss when one or a combination of the following occur: not ordering summer curriculum, ordering from multiple publishers, and not ordering at-home student pieces. He reminded delegates that Randall House has five major initiatives: 1) book publishing; 2) Vertical Three Conference; 3) the D6 Conference; 4) training; and 5) all curriculum.

He warned listeners that while Randall House has taken steps to alleviate the financial strain, without the support of the denomination, the publisher faces difficult decisions. Hunter further challenged the denomination to identify one goal everyone could rally around while still valuing our diversity. He suggested that goal might be the health of Free Will Baptist churches. Nearly 50% of his report discussed the urgency needed for change denomination-wide and revealed a few consequences should it not occur. To read a copy of his transcript, download it at

He celebrated the ongoing expansion of D6, from growing numbers in the U.S. to Norway, France, India, Malaysia, and the Philippines. These international conferences require little investment on the part of Randall House but have expanded the ministry’s impact globally. In closing, Hunter honored outgoing board members Tim Eaton (2004-2016) and current chairman Tim Owen (2002-2016).



The Music Commission continues its ongoing partnership with the Executive Office to provide music for the national convention, according to Doug Little, commission chairman. During the past year, the group also explored the feasibility of a hymnbook project, offered workshops at the convention, and began work toward a website to be launched later this year. The commission is also working to identify rising musicians in churches and colleges across the denomination.

The Media Commission continues its focus of providing live streaming from the national convention, according to Travis Penn, chairman. That role expanded this year to include directors’ reports from the business session. The commission is exploring the possibility of live streaming the services translated into Spanish next year. The commission has also placed a greater emphasis on outreach through social media and provided workshops at the national convention. The group also partnered with the Executive Office to promote Check-ins for a Cause, a Facebook funding program that will result in Bibles printed in the Kazakh language.

The Historical Commission noted the passing of Jack Williams, member of the commission for nearly 40 years. During his time on the board, Jack contributed to many important historical projects including The 50-Year Record, History of the Free Will Baptist State Associations, and the Free Will Baptist Heritage Series of pamphlets. In 2015-2016, the commission continued its push to develop a comprehensive Free Will Baptist digital collection by processing, scanning, and posting state and district minutes. The collection may be accessed at or at At its March 2016 meeting, the commission also renewed its decision to help furnish the new historical room at Welch College.

The Commission for Theological Integrity sponsored the nineteenth annual Theological Symposium, October 26-27, 2015, according to chairman Matt Pinson. The 2016 Symposium will meet October 24-25, at Welch College in Nashville, Tennessee, with the theme, “The Theological Legacy of F. Leroy. Forlines.” Papers are currently being accepted for consideration. The commission presented the latest issue of Integrity: A Journal of Christian Thought, available at  This website continues to expand, with regular theological articles and regular news about commission events and resources.

In other business, delegates passed resolutions affirming biblical gender identity, reaffirming the denomination’s stand against alcohol and addictive substances, and thanking the Missouri State Association for hosting the convention.


2016 Convention Overview

Board members – 59
Local church delegates – 47
NAFWB attendees – 2,585
Ordained deacons – 91
Ordained ministers – 471
State delegates – 52
NYC – 3,186
Total Attendees* 4,192
*Note: Many attendees register for both conventions.

Sunday Morning, July 19
Sunday School: Ben Evans (MO)

Sunday Morning, July 19
Wayne Miracle (GA)

Sunday Evening, July 19
Cory Thompson (OK)

Monday Evening, July 20
Brad Ryan (IL)

Tuesday Evening, July 21
Richard Robinson (MO)

Wednesday Evening, July 22
Marc Neppl (VA)

Live Streaming
National Association
Total Visitors – 6,328
Unique Visitors – 3,895

2017 Budgets
Executive Office - $787,650
FWB Foundation - $1,273,600
Home Missions - $5,000,000
International Missions - $6,900,000
Retirement - $568,900
Randall House - $4,797,500
Welch College – $6,278,713
WNAC - $266,000
Theological Commission - $8,100
Historical Commission - $5,045
Media Commission - $5,200
Music Commission - $4,775
Total – $25,895,483

Elected in 2016
Welch College - 2022
Michael Armstrong (OH)
Brad Ryan (IL)
Wayne Miracle (GA)

International Missions - 2022
Cameron Lane (AR)
Will Harmon (AR)
Rodney Yerby (AL)

Randall House - 2022
Darin Gibbs (NC)
Timothy York (NY)
Jay Baines (VA)

WNAC - 2022
Pam Hackett (SC)
Jonda Patton (KY)
Lee Ann Wilfong (MO)

Theological Commission 2021
W. Jackson Watts (MO)

Historical Commission
2017 – Willie Martin (GA)
2021 – Jeff Cockrell (TN)

Music Commission 2021
Donnie Burke (CO)

Media Commission 2021
Daniel Edwards (IN)

Executive Committee - 2019
David Taylor (AR)
Danny Williams (AL)
David Shores (IL)

General Officers
Moderator: Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator: William Smith (GA)
Clerk: Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk: Ernie Lewis (IL)

The following boards did not elect members in 2016: Home Missions, Board of Retirement, and Free Will Baptist Foundation.


Convention Coverage Team

General editor: Eric Thomsen
Copy editor: Emily Faison
Worship: Deborah St. Lawrence
Exhibits: Sara Poston
NYC: Brandon Roysden         
WNAC: Phyllis York
Photographer: Rodney Yerby
Download photos:







©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists