Politics, and a
For Such a Time as This | NAFWB | June 20-21, 2020
Sporting 30 six-foot tables with a single General Board member seated at each, the 84th session of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, July 20-21, painted a far different picture than the usual one of thousands of people crowded into a convention center or arena. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the cancelation of an in-person convention didn’t prevent those thousands from coming together for online worship, business, training, and even fellowship from a distance.
Photo: Board of Retirement Director John Brummitt and his family join the convention from their Middle Tennessee home.
During the Monday evening service, Moderator Tim York spoke on “The Foundation of Discipleship” (Matthew 7:24-29); Tuesday, Executive Secretary Edward E. Moody, Jr. challenged listeners to “Be These: Salt and Light” (Matthew 5-6). Under the guidance of Kevin Justice and the Music Commission, a team of musicians led worship for both services, highlighted by a virtual convention choir comprised of talented vocalists from across the denomination belting out “Say Amen!” The Tuesday evening missionary service included a video featuring Free Will Baptist church planters and missionaries. An online offering was divided between North American Ministries and IM, Inc.
In addition to worship services, the online convention offered nine seminars from national agencies and eight seminars for the Spanish-speaking audience. Vertical Three took events online with worship services and activities at verticalthree.com. The CTS Ministry Expo Showcase on Facebook gave participants an opportunity to post their Bible memorization, music, and art entries. Even the annual IMPACT outreach continued. Volunteers across the denomination participated in IMPACT Hometown during the weeks leading up to the convention, making a difference in their own cities and communities as local guidelines allowed.
On Monday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 21, in a special extended session, 29 members of the General Board gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, to do business for the National Association, while another five board members joined via Zoom. Executive Secretary Eddie Moody reflected on these unprecedented proceedings:
“For the first time in the 85-year history of the National Association, we were unable to meet in person. Thankfully, our forefathers anticipated the possibility of a situation like this when they crafted Section 13 of our denominational Constitution:
‘Should necessity arise from war, or pestilence, or any cause which prevents a regular meeting of the National Association, whether such a condition is of a local or general condition, then the General Board shall be privileged to call and act with full authority in all matters pertaining to the general welfare of the National Association.’”
Throughout the two-day session, the General Board heard reports from eight national agencies and four commissions, electing board and commission members where needed. They approved two recommendations from the Executive Committee: 1) adopt Kansas City, Missouri, as the site of the July 20-23, 2025, convention; and
2) approve a 2021 denominational budget of $29.8 million.
The board also approved three resolutions: 1) affirming the National Association of Free Will Baptists’ stance against racism; 2) adopting the 3 for 30 Plan for the denomination; and 3) thanking Donelson FWB Church for hosting the meeting during this unusual time.
In his first report as executive secretary, Dr. Edward E. Moody, Jr., highlighted the multi-faceted ministry of the Executive Office: ONE Magazine, online church directory, email-based NAFWB News, Better Together Podcast, digital and printed resources, graphics, training events, and church support. He encouraged listeners to help promote these resources by reading, sharing, and providing ongoing feedback.
Photo: Executive Secretary, Edward E. Moody, Jr.
Moody identified initiatives for the Executive Office based on data and research: equipping Free Will Baptists to be healthier and more effective in ministry (Better Together Podcast, webinars, written resources, and training meetings); expanding Hispanic ministry (Facebook, written resources, graphics); and providing training and revitalization for pastors, leaders, and churches (Refresh, Leadership Conference).
The Executive Office worked closely with North American Ministries to improve church and pastor revitalization efforts. The resulting program, Refresh, focuses on training regional coaches to work with pastors and churches as needed. Moody anticipates 46 coaches to be trained by year’s end. “It is our belief,” he asserted, “healthy and effective pastors and laypeople will lead to healthy and effective churches and a healthy and effective denomination.”
Moody emphasized a unified vision or set of goals for the denomination. After an in-depth analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) for Free Will Baptists, denominational leaders developed the 3 by 30 Plan, focused on three over-arching goals: Reach (Acts 1:8); Train (Matthew 28:18-20); and Give (Luke 16:10; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8).
Director of Member Care Neil Gilliland, pinch-hitting for General Director Clint Morgan, reminded listeners, according to the last census, 5.5 billion of the 7.8 billion people on earth are unbelievers, and 41.6% of the world’s population is completely unreached with the gospel. “With these facts flashing in our minds and stirring our hearts, we must face the stark reality the task is unfinished,” he stated. He urged every listener to find his or her place in finishing the task and taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Gilliland praised the denomination for faithful support in 2019, with near-record giving allowing all but three missionaries to end the year in the black. He celebrated the appointment of 21 new missionary candidates, taking the number of missionary personnel over 100 for the first time in more than two decades. Most important, 2019 saw 950 international professions of faith and 2,087 baptisms.
Photo: Neil Gilliland, director of member care, IM, Inc.
Gilliland celebrated that IM met all of the organization’s 20 by 2020 goals set in 2015. Cash reserves grew to 30%, surpassing the goal of 20%. Monthly donors topped a thousand, surpassing the goal of 963. Missionary personnel grew to 103, beyond the 2015 goal of 94. International believers grew to 35,537, well beyond the goal of a 20% increase, while churches worldwide increased to 845, exploding past the desired 554.
Gilliland announced the following strategic goals for 2025: first, to Reach by increasing the number of missionaries from 108 to 125, expanding non-North American believers to 50,000, and increasing the number of international churches to 2,000. Second, to Train through short-term missions, involving 500 people annually in the GO GLOBAL program, increasing short-term team members from 200 to 350, and increasing field leadership training programs from eight to 12. Third, to raise Giving through increased stewardship training, with 75% of churches giving to IM, the WMO increasing to $1 million, and national missionaries growing from seven to 20.
“The task may still be unfinished,” Gilliland concluded, “but we are still alive, and we must be about it.”
Free Will Baptist Foundation
Using a line from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Free Will Baptist Foundation Director David Brown described the past year as “the best of times and the worst of times.” He pointed to a record $11.5 million increase, taking assets to $84.7 million by December 31, 2019. However, six months later, Foundation assets had fallen to $79.6 million, a loss of more than $5 million in the wake of the COVID-19 financial downturn. The pandemic also stopped the department’s successful estate planning ministry “in its tracks.” Based on these trends, Brown offered a projected loss ranging from $90,000 to $140,000, leading the department to cut the base earnings rate on Money Management Trusts from 2.9% to 2%.
Brown indicated the regular grant program was set aside due to the pandemic, and the board decided to award grants specifically for emergency operational income. They awarded Welch College $400,000, Randall House $100,000, and WNAC $100,000. He also noted the Foundation extended a $1.5 million line of credit to Randall House, again due to the impact of COVID-19.
Brown anticipates a return to the grant program once the financial crisis has passed, noting while the department’s budget reflects $500,000 for grants in 2021, the money will only be awarded if market conditions allow.
North American Ministries (Home Missions)
North American Ministries (NAM) Director David Crowe celebrated 2019 as “the best financial year in our department’s 82-year history.” More than $4 million in total gifts allowed the department to finish the year $892,000 in the black, with the positive financial trends continuing in 2020, despite the pandemic. Crowe recalled his first report to the National Convention included a $1.4 million deficit and praised the Lord for the $2.2 million turnaround over six years.
As a result of Free Will Baptist generosity, Crowe noted church planters have the opportunity to be “faithful to the task and preaching repentance, faith, and obedience, winning hundreds of people to Christ.” The ministry currently has 53 church-planting families involved in 85 church plants. This includes six Hispanic families who oversee 54 Hispanic church plants.
Master’s Men continues to spearhead denominational disaster response efforts, along with producing Bible studies for men’s groups, sponsoring sports fellowship, and maintaining and repairing the Ridge Church in New Hampshire.
Free Will Baptist chaplain ministry continues to expand under the direction of former chaplains Terry Austin and Kerry Steedley. NAM currently endorses nine chaplains. The newest, Michael Beatty, recently transitioned from the Air National Guard to the U.S. Army.
Crowe expressed the department’s desire to change their official name from The Board of Home Missions of the National Association of Free Will Baptists, Inc. to Free Will Baptist North American Ministries. This begins the process that will culminate in a vote during the 2021 convention in Memphis.
Director Elizabeth Hodges described 2019 as a “season of transition” for her department, as WNAC seeks to broaden the outreach of FWB women’s ministry. Hodges applauded Free Will Baptist women for giving $493,518 through WNAC in 2019 to missions and ministry causes. She also expressed gratitude for a $100,000 grant received from FWB Foundation, observing, “With the Foundation grant, our goal is to weather the COVID crisis well while strategically preparing for future ministry.”
These strategic changes include a complete revision of wnac.org, with international study resources available in Spanish, with French and Portuguese to follow. Treasure magazine has moved online completely, offering downloadable Bible studies for personal and group use. WNAC also created the WNAC app this year to help Free Will Baptist women connect, communicate, and give more easily.
Hodges emphasized the continued importance of the Steward Provision Closet, a $30,000 ministry in 2019, that continues to meet the needs of church planters and international missionaries. In the past year, the closet met 110 specific missionary needs and provided gifts to the Women of Good News in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. This ongoing friendship between WNAC and the Women of Good News allowed WNAC to be an integral part of the fundraising and completion of the Women’s Center, which was dedicated and opened in March.
In 2019, WNAC awarded $6,000 in scholarships to Abby Hair, Emilee Davis, Debbie Driscoll, Daniel Delgado, and Uruguayan Bible institute students. Director Hodges noted while Shine! and Flourish conferences have been postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19, WNAC will host an online event August 15. All Free Will Baptist women are encouraged to attend at wnac.org.
“As I reflect on a decade in the office,” Hodges concluded, “I stand amazed at all God is doing, has done, and will continue to do through Free Will Baptist women, both here at home and abroad...to Him and Him alone be the glory!”
Board of Retirement
The Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement celebrated 50 years in 2019, and, according to Director John Brummitt, the milestone year was “one for the record books.” The board enjoyed 183 new enrollees, contributions totaling more than $6 million, and significant growth in the institutional investment program, with $1.8 million in contributions. The board also enjoyed a big year in investments as the continuing bull market pushed participant earnings into the double digits. Brummitt encouraged participants not to view the current downturn in the economy as something to fear, but as an opportunity for significant gains through long-term investing.
The department put greater emphasis on financial training in 2019, sponsoring the Re:invest Conference for ministers and their spouses. The conference was a cooperative effort with all national agencies partnering to provide speakers, resources, and meals.
Brummitt concluded by challenging all Free Will Baptists to begin their retirement savings journey immediately. “The sooner you start saving,” he urged, “the easier the work of saving becomes. Our vision is for every Free Will Baptist employee, church, and agency to be prepared for the future ministry God has for them!”
Director Ron Hunter enthusiastically showcased the new D6 EveryDay curriculum line, describing it as “the very best curriculum we have produced in our history.” The new line continues the D6 emphasis on generational discipleship, combined with innovative methods and resources for pastors and teachers to help their people live out discipleship every day of the week. “Discipleship is not a Sunday event,” Hunter affirmed. “It is a daily commitment.” EveryDay curriculum will premiere the first Sunday in September and is available for purchase at randallhouse.com.
Hunter conceded the COVID-19 pandemic created profound challenges for the department, especially the launch of the curriculum line, but also in the postponement of the D6 Conference until spring 2021 and the cancelation of the National Convention and Vertical Three conferences.
On the heels of an $182,747 deficit in 2019, these continuing financial impacts from the pandemic have been significant. They include a $200,000 loss during the summer curriculum cycle; a $370,000 loss from the cancelation of Vertical Three and the National Convention (without adjusting for expenses); and a loss of $30,000 in convention sales, for a total financial hit of $600,000. Hunter expressed deep appreciation for a $100,000 grant from Free Will Baptist Foundation that helped the department bridge these setbacks.
To address these financial challenges, Randall House reduced budgetary expenses by $180,000, received a PPP (Payback Protection Program) loan from the federal Small Business Administration, and reduced staff. Hunter described these changes as “adaptive leadership,” not changing the mission of the organization but changing methods and reallocating resources to continue the mission effectively.
After enjoying “a 36-year high enrollment, the largest budget in the college’s history, solid gains in mission fulfillment, and the addition of several new programs,” during the 2019-20 academic year, President Matt Pinson acknowledged the COVID-19 pandemic hit the college hard. Still, he offered a positive outlook regarding the future: “In the midst of this storm, we sense God’s blessing, and we are poised for survival and for greater growth than ever when the storm passes by.”
The college was especially hard-hit in finances, producing the worst deficit in the history of the institution. Pinson traced this deficit to three particular factors: refunding student room and board, decreased donations after the suspension of normal fundraising, and unbudgeted expenses related directly to COVID-19. He did point out a “silver lining”—most of the deficits relate directly to depreciation, thus creating non-cash expenses.
The president thanked FWB Foundation for a $400,000 grant and expressed gratitude for receiving a (mostly forgivable) PPP loan of $785,000. These, along with a $1.5 million emergency line of credit from the CELF program at North American Ministries will help the college weather the financial crisis. Still, Pinson urged supporters of the school to continue giving faithfully during this difficult time. He reminded listeners a Coronavirus Student Relief Fund has been established to help students impacted financially by the virus.
The college anticipates a quick rebound coming out of the crisis, based on strong growth in enrollment at a time when most private higher education is plateaued or declining. “We came into this crisis strong,” Pinson affirmed, “and when this crisis is over, we will be able to come back stronger than ever.”
He challenged listeners to pray faithfully for the school, faculty, current students, prospective students, donors, and potential donors.
Historical Commission. The commission thanked a number of states and individuals for substantial donations to the Historical Collection in 2019 and early 2020. The organization continues its work on the Minutes Project, scanning and posting national, state, and regional association minutes to FWBHistory.com. Two recently published books from chairman Robert E. Picirilli are recommended: Free Will Baptist History: Exploring Our Origins and Identity and Little Known Chapters in Free Will Baptist History. Both volumes are available for purchase at randallhouse.com.
Media Commission. Marc Neppl marked 2020 as the 11th year the Media Commission has produced live streaming for the National Convention. During the past decade, 109,000 viewers tuned in worldwide to join services. Since 2010, streaming has expanded to include business sessions and Spanish translation.
Photo: A participant watches from home
Marc noted the COVID-19 pandemic pushed churches to embrace new technology, expanding the role for many individuals in Free Will Baptist congregations. With this in mind, the Media Commission created a private Facebook page that allows church technology teams to interact and share guidance with one another. At the conclusion of the Media Commission report, Moderator Tim York offered gratitude on behalf of the denomination for the ongoing efforts of the commission.
Music Commission. Chairman Doug Little celebrated the significant advances made on the new commission website fwbworship.com. He noted 94% of Free Will Baptist music leaders are either volunteers or part time, based on recent surveys by the Denominational Research Committee. This statistic drives everything the commission does, including the design and content of the new website. The site is designed to “help everyday people become better worship leaders,” offering practical resources, training, interaction, and inspiration.
Commission for Theological Integrity. Chairman Matt Pinson noted the 60-year history of the commission’s role in preserving the theological integrity of the denomination. He stressed the importance of “deeper conversations” with rising generations regarding the challenging questions of the Faith. With this in mind, he encouraged listeners to attend the annual Theological Symposium, October 5-6, at Welch College in Nashville, Tennessee, and invited listeners to watch the online panel discussion on denominational identity at nafwb.org/seminars.
As the business meeting drew to a close, with both humor and emotion, Moderator Tim York told the General Board: “We certainly introduced our new executive secretary in an unusual way! But then again...for such a time as this. He was uniquely qualified to direct us in this time when we desperately needed him. God has given us great grace.”
For such a time as this...
Monday, July 20
Tim York (TN)
Tuesday, July 21
Eddie Moody (TN)
Executive Office - $834,616
FWB Foundation - $2,264,000
IM, Inc. - $8,000,000
Home Missions (includes Master’s Men) - $5,000,000
Retirement - $673,700
Randall House - $4,637,450
Welch College – $8,117,284
WNAC - $235,190
Theological Commission - $5,200
Historical Commission - $5,885
Media Commission - $5,308
Music Commission - $6,300
Total – $29,784,933
Elected in 2020
IM, Inc. 2026
Janice Banks (TX)
Rick Cason (GA)
Jeff Nichols (TN)
Randall House 2026
Paul Bryant (MS)
Ryan Giles (OK)
Rick Taylor (AL)
Welch College 2026
Jeff Crabtree (ATL-CAN)
Shiloh Hackett (TN)
Chris Truett (NC)
Jessica Edwards (TN)
Tracy Payne (OK)
Katie Postlewaite (SC)
Mike Gladson (OH), replacing Jack Daniel, deceased
Theological Commission 2025
Rodney Holloman (TN)
Historical Commission 2025
Eric Thomsen (TN)
Music Commission 2025
Bryan Hughes (NC)
Media Commission 2025
Jeremy Smith (NC)
Moderator: Tim York (TN)
Assistant Moderator: William Smith (GA)
Clerk: Randy Bryant (FL)
Assistant Clerk: Ernie Lewis (IL)
2020-21 Nominating Committee
Jeff Blair, OK, Chairman
Steve Lindsay, AL
Rufo Gomez, TN
Diana Bryant, FL
Wayne Hale, Mid-ATL
Terry Motte, OR
Terry Pierce, MS
Convention Coverage: Eric K. Thomsen
Photographer: Rodney Yerby