TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (BP) — From reaching budget goals to achieving new highs in offering giving to making plans for the long-range future, Alabama Baptists have a lot about which to get excited, said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
This year the state reached a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the state’s budget and the Southern Baptist Convention causes for the first time. It’s a goal Alabama Baptists have been working toward for several years — and reached five years early.
State Baptists also met their $1 million goal for the Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering on the Friday before convention — a goal that had been raised from $750,000 the year before.
All of that is “worthy of celebration,” Lance said at the beginning of his report to messengers attending the Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting. The Nov. 13–14 meeting was held at First Baptist Church, Trussville, Ala.
During the meeting, with theme “Faithful,” messengers approved a $37.5 million budget — an increase of $500,000 over last year’s budget of $37 million — for 2019.
They also approved a recommendation that the state convention’s executive committee work alongside convention staff to develop initiatives for BEYOND 2020, which will be presented at their 2019 annual meeting in Daphne, Ala.
BEYOND 2020 will “refresh our look” and “refocus on the Great Commission in important ways,” said Lance, who drove that point home prior to the SBOM report by shifting from his standard formal attire to a more business casual look, complete with a pair of sunglasses.
The Great Commission might seem out of reach at times, but it’s not an impossible task, said Lance after walking out, even strutting for second, to the “Mission: Impossible” theme song.
“I want to take a refreshed look at what we call our one mission — the Great Commission,” he said. “Let’s think about mission impossible being made possible.”
Lance noted four defining factors of the Great Commission:
— Intentional. The first charge of the Great Commission — found in Matthew 28:19–20 — is to “go therefore.”
“You can’t take the ‘go’ out of the Gospel or the Great Commission,” Lance said. “As you go, make disciples. There’s an intentionality about the Great Commission as we seek to share the risen Christ.”
— Missional. Believers in Jesus Christ have the unique imperative to share Him with the world, Lance said. “This means that we are to go out and make disciples — the Great Commission spells that out in concrete language.
“We intentionally need to be seeking out that one person — and more than one — as we look forward to be missional for the cause of Christ,” he said.
— Directional. The Great Commission extends to all people and all nations, Lance said. “It’s for all peoples, all nations,” he said. “You and I do not have to be reminded that the nations have come to our neighborhood.”
— Celebrational. Before Jesus gave the command to go and make disciples, He started with a promise — “that He would be with us always.” That’s worth celebrating, Lance said.
And God is at work in ways that are also worth celebrating, he said. Churches are being planted and revitalized.
“Our theme is being faithful to the Great Commission,” Lance said. “As long as God gives us breath, may we be that kind of people, now and in the future.”
Also during the convention report, messengers approved the special offering goals for 2019 — Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, $12 million; Annie Armstrong Easter Offering, $6 million; Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries, $2.8 million; Myers-Mallory State Missions Offering, $1.2 million; and Global Hunger Offering, $800,000.
Among resolutions adopted by messengers were:
— A Call for Prayer and Unity, calling for Alabama Baptists to commit to pray for government leaders at all levels and to advocate for freedom of speech and religious liberty. The resolution also called on Alabama Baptists to participate in the National Day of Prayer on May 2, 2019.
— Christian Parenting for All Children, calling on Alabama Baptists to stand for the family as the “scriptural pattern for living and the foundation for a positive civic life.”
— Affirming the Move of the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
— Gratitude for the Life of David Potts, recognized the 28 years of service the late David E. Potts gave as president of Judson College. The resolution noted the “high standard of excellent curriculum” Potts promoted at Judson during his tenure, as well as Potts’ commitment to “people living in poverty, especially those who make their home in Alabama’s Black Belt.”
— Appreciation for Bobby S. (Bob) Terry’s 23 years as editor of The Alabama Baptist and his upcoming retirement. Terry has been in Southern Baptist newspaper ministry for 50 years. The resolution asked Alabama Baptists “to pray for God’s continued blessings and guidance upon Bob and Pat Terry in their new season of ministry, as well as the continued ministry of The Alabama Baptist.”
Messengers also elected new convention officers.
Tim Cox, who has served as pastor of Liberty Baptist Church, Chelsea, since 1998, was elected president. Buddy Champion, pastor of First Baptist Church, Trussville, was elected first vice president. Morgan Bailey, pastor of Canaan Baptist Church, Bessemer, was elected second vice president.
Messengers also re-elected Billie Davis as the recording secretary and Bobby DuBois as statistical secretary and registration secretary. Davis serves in the executive director’s office. DuBois is the associate executive director.
John Thweatt, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pell City, was the outgoing convention president. During his president’s address, Thweatt challenged Alabama Baptists to preach the Word.
Sharing Paul’s challenge to Timothy from 2 Timothy 4, Thweatt said, “You and I are Kingdom citizens plucked from this world, called by God to proclaim His message. We draw others in by preaching His word.”
Thweatt challenged pastors to be sober-minded — that is, not get pulled into watering down their message because people will no longer “endure sound teaching,” as verses 3–4 say.
“Don’t let (their preferences) get you so intoxicated that you stop preaching the Word and start lessening what you do so that you can attract a crowd,” he said. “I believe a deeper river will sooner or later get wider, but a wider river might never have depth.”
Preaching during the Tuesday evening session was Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
Mohler spoke on the importance of faithfulness among Christians and in churches as he preached from Acts 20.
“Paul was in haste to reach Jerusalem where he would likely face imprisonment or martyrdom,” Mohler said. “But he was faithful to the call he had received from God, and Jerusalem presented an opportunity for the massive public preaching of the Gospel.”
“Faithfulness is multifaceted,” he said. Christians must hold to theological faithfulness, moral faithfulness, evangelistic faithfulness and congregational faithfulness, he explained.
Whether a pastor, a church or a convention, we can’t possibly be faithful in any other aspect if we are not theologically and doctrinally faithful, Mohler said. “The Gospel is at stake. … The first mark of a church is not the building, but the preaching of the word of God.”
Evangelism is not just something Christians should do, but it is who we are, he said.
“The real secret to the [Southern Baptist Convention] is that there are people in our churches who go without and give. And they pray,” Mohler said. “We cooperate in such a way that we give to people we will never meet in places we will never go for those we will never see until the great marriage supper.”
As Southern Baptists and as Alabama Baptists, “let’s walk together as long as the Lord allows,” Mohler said. “We will preach the Gospel together and love together and then accompany each other to the ship (v. 38),” he noted. “It all depends on how we finish.”
Also featured during the Tuesday evening service was Alabama Baptists’ Children’s Honor Choir, which marked 20 years since its first audition.
The choir consisted of current and alumni members as well as a few members of the Alabama Baptist Singing Men and Alabama Baptist Singing Women, making it an inter-generational choir and a first for the state convention meeting.
Wrapping up the annual meeting was Terrence Jones with the convention sermon.
Jones, pastor of Strong Tower at Washington Park, Montgomery, said there’s something upside down about the landscape of the church in America these days.
“American Christianity is messed up,” he said. “We forget that Jesus is the prize, that reigning with Him and being with Him is the reward.”
The Gospel has become something completely different, he said. People “chase tranquility and comfort” as the goal, but nothing this world has to offer will ever compare to the eternal treasure found in Jesus Christ Himself.
“We have to recapture the idea of faithful endurance.”
The ministry has a set path, he said — it’s a cross, then a crown. Christians walk through suffering here with endurance and then gain the reward of Christ in eternity.
That’s what Paul reminded the young pastor Timothy as he wrote to him from prison — that if we have died with Christ, we will also live with Him, and if we endure with Him, we will also reign with Him.
It’s a trustworthy saying that Paul offers in 2 Timothy 2:11–13 — one of five “trustworthy sayings” that Paul gave in his epistles.
Jones said all were written to pastors, perhaps “because Paul knew pastors would be prone to doubt and wonder, ‘Is God really with me?'”
From this particular “trustworthy saying,” pastors can draw three conclusions, Jones said: commitment to Christ comes with a great reward, lack of commitment leads to great peril and ultimately God wins because He cannot deny Himself.
“Nothing we can lose in this life can compare to what we will receive,” Jones said. “It is, however, possible to be characterized as having perseverance but still need a warning.”
Looking at Revelation 2, Jones said the story of the church at Ephesus shows us something important — that walking away from Christ is a possibility.
Both that passage and the verses in 2 Timothy “remind us that abandonment is something we need to be sober minded about,” he said.
Pastors have to fight to endure and hold on to their love for Jesus. But a bit of good news — “even when we are faithless, God is faithful,” Jones said.
Alabama Baptist’s 2019 annual meeting will be held at Eastern Shore Baptist Church, Daphne, on Nov. 12–13. The convention preacher for the 2019 annual meeting will be Rick Marshall, retired pastor from Montgomery. Alternate preacher is Jeff Meyers, pastor of First Baptist Church, Opelika.