Body of Christ
2019 National Association of Free Will Baptists | July 21-24 | Cincinnati, OH
Big Change in the Buckeye State
As 4,416 Free Will Baptists converged in Cincinnati, Ohio, July 21-24, for the fifth National Convention in the Buckeye state, change was in the air. On Tuesday, July 22, at 2:18 p.m., delegates unanimously elected Dr. Edward E. Moody, Jr. (pictured below, right) as the tenth executive secretary in the association’s 84-year history. Moody follows Executive Secretary Keith Burden (below, left), who will retire in September after serving the denomination for 17 years.
Moody, a North Carolina native, has pastored Tippett’s Chapel FWB Church in Clayton, North Carolina, since 2000 and leaves his role as professor of counselor education and associate dean of the School of Education at North Carolina Central University, where he has served since 1995. Moody holds a Ph.D. in counselor education from North Carolina State University, an M.A. in clinical psychology from Middle Tennessee State University, and a B.A. in pastoral training from Welch College. A prolific author, Moody has authored Surviving Culture, First Aid for Emotional Hurts: Helping People Through Difficult Times, and the First Aid for Your Emotional Hurts training series, along with numerous professional journal and magazine articles.
Other personnel changes, though less obvious, also will affect the face of the convention in years to come. Debbie Burden, convention registration coordinator since 2013, will also retire in September. During Debbie’s final year as coordinator, more than 3,000 people pre-registered for the convention, and onsite registration went quickly and efficiently, staffed by interns and volunteers working under Debbie’s leadership. Debbie commented on her years in the role: “It’s been a pleasure to serve as coordinator the last six years. Anna Fox will be the new coordinator, and I expect a seamless transition to her leadership as I enjoy retirement years with my family in Oklahoma.” As Anna Fox learned her new role in Cincinnati, Lauren Riggs took her place as exhibit hall coordinator.
In spite of this “fruit basket turnover” making change the norm in 2019, the things that make the convention unique remained the same: outreach, worship, and the orderly business of the denomination.
Saturday, July 20, at 9:00 a.m., 79 Impact volunteers gathered at two Free Will Baptist churches near Cincinnati. Forty volunteers (some as young as age seven) painted Sunday School classrooms and the auditorium ceiling, cut and removed overgrown brush and trees, laid waterlines, and cleaned and repaired the church sign at Ambassador FWB Church. The remaining 39 volunteers braved the heat and humidity to distribute information about Lighthouse FWB Church to the community near the church. After the day of outreach was completed, multiple church members expressed their desire to serve with Impact in coming years.
Throughout the week, Serve the City volunteers worked many hours in projects around the city including ministry to the homeless, volunteering for various local outreach organizations, and donating to the annual blood drive. At least one person was saved as a result of this annual effort of the Vertical Three Conference.
Powerful music, Scripture, and preaching characterized worship in Cincinnati. Music Coordinator Kevin Justice (below) and the Music Commission planned a series of unforgettable services featuring a large convention choir, an orchestral ensemble, and a wide variety of talented individuals, families, and groups who shared their gifts. Kevin Denton, worship leader
at Faith FWB Church in Goldsboro, North Carolina, guided the congregation into worship, and throughout the conference, sermons explored passages surrounding the theme Lifted Up.
On Sunday morning, Paul Keener (OH), long-time manager of Ambassador Bible Bookstore, taught Sunday School using D6 curriculum before Dr. Timothy Eaton, president of Randall University preached on Lifting Up Our Eyes for Help from Psalm 121:1. Sunday evening, retiring U.S. Army chaplain (COL) Terry Austin spoke from Hebrews 12:12, challenging listeners to “lift up them hands” again and again—a resounding cry from the 30-year preacher in uniform to lift our own hands, raise the hands of other believers, and seek out and lift the hands of the oppressed.
Daniel Edwards, pastor of Faith FWB Church in Chandler, Indiana, shared a powerful message Monday on Lifting up the Son of Man from John 3:14 and John 12:32. On Tuesday, Tom Dooley, pastor of New Road FWB Church in Austintown, Ohio, preached on Lifting Up the Promise of Christ’s Return, drawing from Luke 21:28 and encouraging listeners to “look up for the Lord’s coming.” Diego Cueva, pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Casa De Dios in Woodbridge, Virginia, concluded the convention during the Wednesday missions service by challenging the congregation to Lift Up Your Eyes to the Harvest from John 4:35.
This year’s worship services were peppered with special presentations. After welcoming delegates to the state Monday evening, Mark Price (pictured above with Keith and Debbie Burden), Ohio state moderator, presented Executive Secretary Keith Burden and his wife Debbie two white oak rocking chairs handmade by an Amish craftsman. Price offered the beautiful gift on behalf of Ohio Free Will Baptists to recognize the Burdens’ diligent service and to congratulate them on retirement. The congregation rose to its feet in an enthusiastic ovation for the couple.
During the Wednesday night service, Moderator Tim York and members of the Executive Committee also honored Keith and Debbie Burden for their faithful service to the denomination, announcing a reception will be held in the couple’s honor during the 2020 convention in the Burden’s home state of Oklahoma. For the second time during the week, delegates rose with a spontaneous and lengthy ovation for the couple.
General Board. On Monday, July 22, the General Board heard reports from nine national agencies and four commissions as Moderator Tim York guided board members through a three-hour, 37-minute meeting. The board approved a flood of recommendations, including a recommendation from the Executive Committee naming Dr. Edward E. Moody, Jr. as the candidate for executive secretary; a recommendation to approve the 2020 denominational budget of $30.6 million; a recommendation for the 2026 convention to be held in Charleston, West Virginia; and a recommendation to grant an extension to the committee studying procedures and discipline of board members. Delegates later approved all recommendations during the business session.
Clerk Randy Bryant additionally read the names of 19 appointments to national committees: Credentials (5), Nominating (6), Resolutions (5), and Obituary Committee (2). Moderator Tim York appointed Dr. Sarah Bracey (TN) and Eric Thomsen (TN) to the Denominational Research Committee formed in 2018.
During Tuesday and Wednesday business sessions, delegates approved reports from the following departments:
Auditor Terry Hill noted a financial turnaround of more than $1.6 million for the Executive Office over the last 17 years, noting, “At Keith Burden’s first convention in Tampa, Florida, in 2003, I explained what the word insolvency meant after a number of years with substantial convention losses. Under Keith’s leadership, the organizations under his responsibility report a combined cash balance of $1,554,000, and stored net assets of $1,662,000. I applaud Keith for his accomplishments.”
Keith Burden delivered his final report as executive secretary, noting his gratefulness for the office’s solid financial picture, a result of the generosity of Free Will Baptists. He reported that giving is up again in 2019. Burden applauded the ongoing success of ONE Magazine, pointing to the magazine as an important denominational milestone. As convention expenses continue to rise, he pointed to the 2020 increase in church fees as an important source of relief for convention funding.
Burden thanked the denomination for the privilege of serving as executive secretary and expressed his excitement about Eddie Moody's election as his successor. He thanked his wife and family for their help and support during his time in office and concluded by thanking his staff, noting, “They have become more than coworkers; they are my friends.”
President Matt Pinson reported improved finances and celebrated the largest fall enrollment in 34 years. He attributed the explosive growth to the new “branding” of the college (new name and campus), the obvious atmosphere of spiritual formation on campus, and continuing improvement in academic excellence. This improvement, he suggested, is reflected in a consistent rise among college rankings.
“It’s an exciting time to be at Welch,” Pinson stated, pointing to several goals for the near future: elimination of existing construction debt; increased enrollment that will result in additional residential construction on campus; construction of a new student services building and a thousand-seat auditorium; and a growing slate of undergraduate and master’s degree programs, including a residential, on-campus Master of Divinity undergirded by substantial scholarships and financial aid.
“We believe education at Welch is more than just classroom learning,” Pinson concluded. “Our students have the opportunity to become an integral part of a Christian community of faith and learning.” He called on listeners to pray, support the college financially, and point students toward the school. He honored Dr. Eddie Moody for his work on the Welch College Board of Trustees. Pinson also announced the release of a new book, The Apologetics of Leroy Forlines, that explores select writings of F. Leroy Forlines regarding apologetics and the knowledge of God.
CFO Michael Lytle shared an up-and-down financial picture for Randall House since 2015, noting “roller coaster” finances are not unusual in the publishing industry. The financial report revealed a deficit in 2018, and Lytle identified a decrease in curriculum sales as the primary reason for that deficit. To meet the financial challenges, Randall House presented a $200,000 reduction in the 2020 budget.
While CEO Ron Hunter (above) acknowledged the financial challenges, he also reminded listeners Randall House operates on sales rather than contributions, unlike other denominational departments. He shared a 17-year trend indicating while Randall House is currently experiencing a dip in revenue, total sales have grown from $2.2 million in 2002 to $4.5 million in 2018, with a general upward trend.
Hunter challenged listeners not to be people who talk about problems but people who solve problems. With this in mind, Randall House is solving problems by lowering the cost of student devotional guides; offering all D6 products on a subscription, per-person basis for $2.80 per month; and releasing a new, free tool—an attendance chart to help measure not only Sunday School attendance, but also gospel conversations and daily devotions.
Hunter announced the release of three new titles: How We Get Our English Bible by Robert E. Picirilli, Helping Hurting Pastors by Eddie Moody, and Fight by Jon Forrest. He also celebrated the completion of the final volume in the Randall House Bible Commentary series: Luke, written by Thomas Marberry.
General Director Clint Morgan told listeners, “At IM, we are on a mission that is not about here but about there; not about us but about them; not about clinging to but letting go; not about getting but about giving; not about staying but about going; not about IM but all about the great I Am.”
He thanked supporters for the prayer, encouragement, volunteer hours, and financial support that make it possible for IM to stay on mission. He compared IM to a sailboat encountering shifting winds, fair winds, and head winds in its ministry journey. No matter what winds IM encounters, Morgan emphasized the organization refuses “to be blown off course.”
He pointed to new destinations the IM leadership team has charted: broadening the Free Will Baptist footprint in India, a strategic focus on the nones, developing more international church planting teams, and ministering to immigrants and refugees. These destinations are important, Morgan concluded, because “if we do not know to which port we are sailing, no wind is favorable.”
Morgan celebrated important milestones in 2018, as 527 people accepted Christ, and 1,044 people were baptized in overseas ministries. He applauded the faithfulness of missionaries, with over 25% of the Free Will Baptist missionary force now serving on the field for more than 20 years. He highlighted four categories in which Free Will Baptists can engage in missions: IM career missionaries; IM international field missionaries (currently 12 with IM); IM missionary interns who expedite career missionary status through two-year internships on an international field; and IM missionary appointees. Finally, Morgan celebrated nine new candidates and two returning missionaries approved during the board’s spring meeting.
Director Elizabeth Hodges (pictured, below) underscored the mission of WNAC: to help each woman fulfill her God-given roles in the Great Commission at home, in her church, community, and around the world. Hodges asked for prayer as her department develops and carries out new strategies to move forward as a department, maintaining all current ministries, while also broadening the reach and focus of the department.
She noted most, if not all, Free Will Baptist churches have a women’s ministry seeking to meet the needs of women in the church. Because WNAC’s mission is the same, she asked: “What can we learn from your women’s ministry, and how can WNAC help, encourage, and strengthen Free Will Baptist women?”
Hodges shared the development of denominational women’s ministry over the decades, from missionary support and the Steward Provision Closet to youth training and events, national and international educational scholarships, and publishing Treasure devotional guide, which will move online in 2020. Many previous Bible studies are already available in digital format at wnac.org.
Hodges celebrated $450,000 given to missions and ministry causes in 2018, noting, “God has been faithful to bless our efforts, proving again and again that ‘little is much when God is in it.’”
Hodges explained that moving forward, WNAC will partner with all Free Will Baptist women’s ministries, whether members of WNAC or not. “How can we help your women?” she repeated in conclusion. “What can we learn from them? How can we serve together to accomplish more for the Kingdom?”
Free Will Baptist Foundation
Director David Brown noted Free Will Baptists have been involved in difficult ministry through difficult times since the day the denomination was founded. This was true for his department in 2018. The department reported a decrease of 3% in total assets, a direct result of chaotic fourth-quarter stock market corrections. Brown reported total assets down by $3.5 million in 2018, only the fourth decrease in the Foundation’s 27-year history.
Despite the downturn in assets, Money Management Trusts increased, and the Foundation received $800,000 in new planned gifts. Brown celebrated the contrasting financial picture during the first six months of 2019, with an increase in assets of more than $7 million and total assets exceeding $80 million for the first time.
The quick financial turnaround allowed the department to continue offering grants in 2019, distributing $500,000 to 22 Free Will Baptists ministries. Brown noted, “While it is the intent of the Foundation to make $500,000 in grants every year, market conditions could affect our ability to do so.” He observed many organizations that received grants in 2018 experienced an additional spike in donations—the result of excitement generated by the influx of grant funds.
Brown promised listeners as the culture grows darker and ministry becomes more daunting, dangerous, and unpopular, the Foundation stands ready to help Free Will Baptists fight the darkness by providing financial assistance. He honored outgoing board members Donnie Miles (SC); Wendell Walley (CA), who served as both vice-chairman and chairman of the board; and Keith Burden (TN).
North American Ministries
During his first report in 2014, North American Ministries Director David Crowe (who had been on the job less than a month) reported a $1.3 million deficit—$500,000 in the general fund and $800,000 in assets in the Church Extension Loan Fund (CELF). Five years later, Crowe reported a significant financial turnaround. CELF finished $454,000 in the black in 2018, and the trend continues into 2019. The same improvement is reflected in the general fund, allowing overall ministries of NAM to finish $301,000 in the black in 2018.
Crowe celebrated the ongoing work of church planters, with 45 families in 31 active church plants. Church planters are experiencing larger launch attendance, and more salvation decisions and baptisms than in previous years. Five Hispanic families oversee 52 Spanish-speaking church plants across the nation, giving the department a total of 83 church plants. Crowe announced a 2020 Power Conference for Spanish speakers, May 25-26, in Nashville, Tennessee. The conference will explore a unified vision for Hispanics.
Master’s Men, now a division of NAM, continues heading up denominational disaster response, producing Direction Bible Studies, hosting sports fellowship events, leading Impact, coordinating convention ushering, and restoring and maintaining the Ridge Church in New Durham, New Hampshire.
The Free Will Baptist chaplain’s program continues to expand, with nine military chaplains in the army, navy, army national guard, and reserves. Four additional chaplains are gaining education and experience to join the military chaplaincy, while other chaplains are endorsed by NAM as hospital chaplains, law enforcement chaplains, and one chaplain serving the Secret Service. Crowe announced that recently retired chaplain Terry Austin will assist director of chaplain support Kerry Steedley with the growing program.
Crowe introduced Fresh Wind, a new department of NAM dedicated to church revitalization resources including coursework and recorded class sessions for pastors to use in training church leaders and the congregation, anywhere, anytime. Materials should be available in early 2020.
CH (COL) Kerry Steedley, director of chaplain support, honored CH (COL) Terry Austin and his wife Mona for more than 30 years in the chaplaincy, describing Austin as a “soldier’s chaplain, but more important, a soldier’s soul winner.” Dr. Brad Ransom honored church planters Tom and Pam Jones and Jenna and Nate Altom for leading Keystone FWB Church, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, to self-supporting status.
Board of Retirement
Director John Brummitt celebrated the 50th anniversary of their retirement plan under the direction of the Board of Retirement. From 1969 to 2019, the plan has grown to nearly $70 million in assets. Brummitt noted that growth continues at a near-record pace, and 2018 was a good year for the board, though investments fell off during a fourth-quarter market correction, affecting reporting numbers. Brummitt announced the upcoming Re:Invest conference, October 17-19, in Nashville, Tennessee, part of the department's new emphasis on financial training.
Brummitt strongly encouraged Free Will Baptists to move away from the idea that contributing $10-15 a month is sufficient to prepare for a lengthy retirement. Instead, he urged careful calculation of the amount needed to provide a sufficient monthly retirement income.
“The Lord has truly blessed our office over the past 50 years,” Brummitt concluded. “And, we continue to help our participants accumulate assets and draw upon those assets during their golden years. Our office will strive to continue what has happened in the last 50 years….We want to help you prepare for your future ministry.”
Following the report, the department honored longtime board member Rick Cason (GA) for his service.
Commissions and Committees
Historical Commission. The Historical Commission continues to focus efforts on developing an archive of well-organized historical materials at Welch College, producing historical books and pamphlets, and expanding the digital collection at www.FWBHistory.com. Commission Secretary Eric Thomsen appealed to listeners for donations of historical items, stating: “I’m convinced attics, hall closets, and church storage rooms across the nation are filled with dusty boxes of Free Will Baptist records and materials. Please don’t discard those valuable resources. We want them.”
Music Commission. Chairman Doug Little identified 2018 as a year of waiting as the Music Commission develops a new website filled with resources designed for part-time and volunteer worship leaders. Little honored the memory of Ted Wilbanks, longtime member of the Music Commission, who died earlier this year.
Media Commission. Marc Neppl thanked FWB Foundation and North American Ministries for helping underwrite the cost of live-streaming the 2019 convention. The commission also thanked the Executive Office for its help in developing a social media presence, increasing followers and engagement in social media activity.
Commission for Theological Integrity. Chairman Matt Pinson thanked the denomination for its support throughout the commission’s 60-year history. He announced the upcoming release of the latest issue of Integrity: Theological Journal and announced October 28-29 as the dates for the 2019 Theological Symposium, to be held on the campus of Welch College. He encouraged reading the regularly updated articles and reviews on: www.fwbtheology.com.
Denominational Research Committee. Chairman Danny Baer reported that the initial research effort from the Denominational Research Committee compiled survey responses from 639 senior pastors on a variety of topics with fascinating results. Survey findings can be viewed at www.nafwb.org/research.
In other business, delegates resolved to stand for life and against abortion; to research the feasibility of establishing term limits for annually elected general officers; and to extend profound gratitude to Keith Burden for his leadership, and his family for their support and sacrifice.
Convention at a Glance
NAFWB Attendees – 3,701
Vertical Three – 3,299
Total Attendees – 4,416*
*Note: Many attendees register
for both conventions.
Sunday School, July 21
Paul Keener (OH)
Sunday Morning, July 21
Tim Eaton (OK)
Sunday Evening, July 21
CH (COL) Terry Austin
Monday Evening, July 22
Daniel Edwards (IN)
Tuesday Evening, July 23
Tom Dooley (OH)
Wednesday Evening, July 24
Diego Cueva (VA)
Executive Office - $830,450
FWB Foundation - $2,469,000
(includes Master's Men) - $5,000,000
IM, Inc. - $7,500,000
Retirement - $673,800
Randall House - $4,780,200
Welch College – $9,122,524
WNAC - $235,500
Theological Commission - $6,000
Historical Commission - $5,885
Media Commission - $5,308
Music Commission - $5,800
Total – $30,634,467
Elected in 2019
Jeff Jones (NC)
Frank Webster (MO)
Frank Wiley (OK)
Casey Cariker (OK)
Darren Walker (NC)
Board of Retirement
Lance Boyer (MO)
Don Myers (MI)
Randy Wilson (OK)
Brent Patrick (VA)
Hubert Stafford (GA)
Corey Minter (TN)
2024 - Thomas Marberry (OK)
2024 - Robert Picirilli (TN)
2021 - Joshua Riggs (OK)
2024 - Kevin Justice (NC)
2024 - Josh Owens (TN)
David Taylor (AR)
Danny Williams (AL)
David Shores (IL)
Moderator: Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator: William Smith (GA)
Clerk: Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk: Ernie Lewis (IL)
Eric Thomsen, Hannah Driggers,
Deborah St. Lawrence, Phyllis York
Vertical Three: Lauren Biggs
Abigail Fawbush, Eric Thomsen,
Sydney Walker, Rodney Yerby