IRVING, Texas (BP)–On Jan. 30, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention posted the affiliation document from the 1,000th church to partner with the young convention. The SBTC is the newest of 40 state conventions associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Founded in November 1998 with 120 affiliated churches, the SBTC has experienced steady growth in the three years since.
“We thank God for this milestone in the life of our convention. It is a great challenge to serve so many diverse churches; but we serve a great God who empowers us to do all that he sets before us,” said Executive Director Jim Richards. “Part of that empowerment will be the gifted people in these churches who will work alongside us as we share the good news of Christ across our great state. It is a great time to be a Texas Southern Baptist.”
Church number 1,000 is First Baptist Church of Buffalo Gap in Taylor County. Steve Joiner, pastor of Buffalo Gap for 14 years, said the church voted unanimously during a Jan. 20th morning worship service to affiliate with the SBTC.
“We could have done it three or four months ago,” Joiner said. “But we wanted to make sure that we spent plenty of time educating everyone so they could make an intelligent vote.”
Joiner, who is also the director of evangelism for the Abilene Baptist Association, described the church as a “typical Southern Baptist church, very evangelical and conservative.”
“Our church is excited to affiliate with people of like beliefs when we go to conferences and conventions. Our church believes very strongly that the Bible is without error in any issue, whether faith, practice or science,” Joiner said. “We love the idea that we’ll be affiliated with people that are of like mind. This is a group that we believe in. To me, they are old-time Southern Baptists. That’s who our church is.”
Established in 1880, First Baptist Church of Buffalo Gap was the first Southern Baptist church in Taylor County and is the mother church to First Baptist Church in Abilene. Joiner said church membership dwindled to 17 in 1984, forcing church leadership to consider closing its doors. Currently, FBC Buffalo Gap is home to 625 members.
The church attributes its increasing growth to its commitment to evangelism and missions not only revealed in its efforts within the community, but in its support of the Southern Baptist Convention’s missionary causes as well.
“By making a firm stand, I feel like we are making a strong stand for both the Southern Baptist Convention and for our belief in God’s Holy Word,” Joiner said. “We are excited about the future of the SBTC and believe we have found a good fit for our church in which we can reach Texas for Christ.”
Joiner said the church hopes to contribute its ability in evangelistic endeavors to SBTC work around the state.
“That is our church’s number one area,” he said. “I’ve already offered our services in any capacity in evangelism. It is our heart.”
Of the first 1,000 churches, 138 were started by SBTC churches and convention efforts. About 88 church plants are currently supported financially by the SBTC. Since the convention’s inception, 108 church starts have received financial aid at some time, while 30 affiliated churches have started since the SBTC’s beginning without receiving financial help.
“Starting healthy, reproducing churches that will share the gospel with men and women in Texas is a primary emphasis of this convention,” said Ruben Hernandez, SBTC missions and evangelism director. “We have put feet to that emphasis by giving it priority in our staffing and budgeting. Church planting is the largest single item in our annual budget.”
With missions and evangelism as its primary endeavor, the convention’s doctrinal foundation is based on a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, the relational aspect of the first person of the Godhead as Father, exclusivity of salvation in Jesus Christ, and the primacy of the local church.
The SBTC seeks to give vision and strategy for reaching Texas with the gospel of Jesus Christ. New church starts in unevangelized areas of Texas are a priority. The SBTC facilitates the financial cooperation and strategic planning of Southern Baptist churches in a cooperative effort of carrying out the Great Commission in Texas and around the world.
Additionally, the convention is comprised of 10 different language and ethnic groups. Each Sunday, SBTC churches preach the gospel in English, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Indonesian, Portuguese, Nepali and Hindi.
“This reflects the growing cultural diversity of our state,” said Robby Partain, SBTC church planting associate. “It is our intent that this diversity will grow as we reach into other unchurched or underchurched areas and people groups in Texas.”
Currently, 76 percent of the 1,000 churches affiliated with the SBTC are uniquely affiliated with the convention. Affiliation is a term that describes a church’s decision to partner with the SBTC. Affiliation requires church action expressing agreement with SBTC’s statement of faith and a desire to participate in the convention’s missionary work. When a completed form is signed by a church official and received by the SBTC office, that church is considered “affiliated.” No church is counted unless a completed affiliation form is on record with the SBTC offices.