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Baptisms have increased in Okla., messengers told

EDMOND, Okla. (BP)—Baptisms are increasing, messengers to the 99th annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma were told during their Nov. 14-15 annual meeting in Edmond, attended by 886 messengers.

A $22.65 million Cooperative Program budget was approved and a partnership between the BGCO and Armenia was formalized.

BGCO evangelism specialist Alan Quigley reported that 298 churches doubled their baptisms during the past year, and 85 went from zero baptisms to from 1-24. In addition, three associations’ baptisms grew by more than 50, with Kay Baptist Association baptizing 120 more people and Southwest and Bryan Baptist associations baptizing 56 more, Quigley said. Also, 18,370 people have been trained in personal evangelism this year.

Quigley also noted that Oklahoma Baptists have three of the largest websites in the world. Code2life.com is the largest of the three, with 6,000 testimonies of faith; mostimportantthing.com has 800 testimonies of faith; and majorthing.com, which is being launched, already has 500 testimonies. The websites get thousands of hits and have recorded more than 400 professions of faith.

The 2006 budget is an increase of 1.8 percent over the 2005 budget, and includes $13.45 million (60 percent) for Oklahoma causes and $8.97 million (40 percent) for Southern Baptist Convention causes after 1 percent ($226,500) is allocated for statewide stewardship and CP education.

BGCO Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony Jordan and Armenian pastor “Gary” signed documents Nov. 15 formalizing the Oklahoma missions partnership with Armenia. The partnership will provide a variety of mission opportunities for Oklahoma Baptists through 2008.

Messengers approved 11 resolutions during the annual meeting, including support of the U.S. military; spiritual awakening; encouraging parental involvement in education; encouraging churches to become places of comfort and healing for people suffering from spiritual, emotional and mental struggles; expressing compassion for victims of disasters and those providing relief; affirming belief and commitment to the Cooperative Program; affirmation of SBC President Bobby Welch, who is leading an “Everyone Can” initiative for Southern Baptists to baptize 1 million people in a year; and calling on churches to deepen commitment to the central purpose of proclaiming the Gospel as the BGCO approaches its 100th anniversary.

Resolutions of appreciation were passed for John Yeats, former Baptist Messenger editor, and Keith Wilkinson, retiring church & family equipping team leader and Sunday School specialist.

The Falls Creek report featured Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, which recently gave a $2 million gift to the Falls Creek For the Sake of the Call campaign. Green, a member of Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, said he is a product of camps and is familiar with the impact of camps.

“I am grateful for what Falls Creek has done for the state of Oklahoma, the nation and the world,” Green said. “There is a great vision for Falls Creek, and we want to be a part of that.

“What is happening at Falls Creek is making a difference. I challenge you to support it and make it all it can be.”

Messengers also heard from those involved in Oklahoma’s partnership missions in Mexico, Arizona, Chicago and the newly established partnership with Armenia.

Phil McConnell, volunteer coordinator for Estrada Baptist Association in Arizona, said six new churches were planted last year and 30 people came to Christ in a new housing addition where Oklahomans had prayerwalked before a house was built there. McConnell, who grew up in Oklahoma and was saved at Camp Hudgens, also reported that a new church is being planted in downtown Phoenix where 10,000 people are living in condos.

“God is bringing people to us, and we pray Oklahoma will continue to be a part of this partnership,” he said.

Keith Draper, a native of Ardmore who has served as a missionary in Chicago for 20 years, said there are 200 Baptist churches for the 9 million people in Chicago, while Oklahoma Baptists have 1,700 churches for 3.5 million people.

With Oklahoma Baptists’ help, 41,891 people attended evangelistic events, 482 people were saved and 12 new churches were started in Chicago, Draper said.

In his address to the convention, BGCO President Bob Green, pastor of Arrow Heights Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, listed four “if” conditions if Oklahoma Baptists are to be on mission with God.

First is “if” the presence of God lives in you.

“You don’t get saved and lose Jesus,” he emphasized. “Jesus is there continuously, and there is evidence.”

Green noted a hindrance in the church is people who have had a religious experience but not a conversion experience.

“We must help people understand salvation is the work of God and always includes repentance,” he said.

Second is “if” the power of the Holy Spirit is not quenched.

“Don’t you yearn for a time you can’t explain what is happening in your church except by the power of the Holy Spirit?” he asked. “We have opportunity to make a radical difference in people’s lives, but we’ve gotten caught up in our own sinfulness. Our people bow down to materialism, things of darkness. We must be a people of great prayer.”

Third is “if” the process of renewing your mind is happening.

“We must teach our people to be made different by renewing their minds,” he said. “You transform your mind by living in light of who Jesus has allowed you to become.”

Fourth is “if” the priority of cooperation is enhanced.

“We know historically there’s not a better way to work together than the Cooperative Program,” he noted. “But we have focused on how many we can get together, not how many we can send.”

Jeff Moore, pastor of First Baptist Church in Altus, in the annual sermon, told messengers that some churches probably need to be cleared out just as Jesus cleared out the temple.

“The temple had become much like the streets of Jerusalem, with people selling their wares and trying to get ahead,” Moore said. “The culture had crept into the temple.”

Moore said this communicates the idea that criminals, outcasts and people living in contrast to God’s ways were hiding out in the temple.

“Doors have to be opened to people who need to hear the message, but in Christ’s day, people were not there to worship, but so they wouldn’t get caught somewhere else,” Moore pointed out. “Who’s going to look for them in churches?”

Some people coming into churches today are doing nothing more than hiding out and pretending to be something they are not, he noted.

For too long the church has bowed down, not wanting to rock the boat or hurt feelings, he said. “But what about God’s feelings?” he asked. “If you get serious about serving Christ, confronting people in their sin, you will upset some people in your church. People don’t want to talk about conviction, but about convenience. Would God come to our church and turn some things over?”

In his address to the convention, Jordan focused on the words of Jesus in Mark 1:16-20 when He called His disciples and told them to “follow Me.”

“Religion was big in Israel,” Jordan began, “but it was a religion illustrated by dead ritual. Jesus called us to Himself. His was a radical movement that transforms lives.”

Jordan pointed out that a “Jesus movement” is described by three words — relational, transformational and incarnational.

“When He said follow Me, He was calling us to a relationship with the living God,” Jordan emphasized in hitting on the theme of the annual meeting — “Everyone Can Go Make Disciples” based on Matthew 28:19. “But, the question is, how do we practically implant that in our churches? First, it’s about relationship with Jesus above religious activity…. [W]e need to make disciples, not church members.”

Jordan encouraged messengers to help their churches not “to bunker down,” but to become similar to the Coast Guard and rescue the perishing.

“But, to rescue the perishing, you must go where the perishing are,” he emphasized. “It’s time our churches became a spiritual Coast Guard in our communities.”

Jordan concluded by emphasizing that Baptists need to be about “serving, rather than instructing,” when they encounter the lost.

Using disaster relief volunteers as an example, he said, “They led many people to Christ just because they served them. Serving always opens the door to telling; that’s the Jesus way.”

SBC President Bobby Welch was the concluding speaker at the convention.

After showing a video of hurricane victims, Welch said, “Disaster doesn’t discriminate, and the love of God doesn’t either.”

Welch encouraged messengers to “build your life on what counts…. Southern Baptists are standing on the clock of destiny…. [W]e have to raise the bar in sharing the love of Jesus.

“We can’t discriminate against anybody when it comes to sharing the Gospel. The Bible says it is not the will of God that anyone should perish…. [I]t’s impossible to carry the Gospel to the wrong person!”

Welch, pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., reminded messengers that he has called on all 1,188 Southern Baptist associations across North America to conduct associational baptism rallies and to hold those services outdoors.

Green was reelected president of the convention. Randy Childers, director of missions for the Rogers Baptist Association, was elected first vice president and James Swain, pastor of First Baptist Church in Kingfisher, was elected second vice president.
Reported by the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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