McALLEN, Texas (BP)–Messengers to the Baptist General Convention of Texas annual meeting approved a 2011 convention budget of $38 million, voted down a motion that would have allowed Houston Baptist University to elect non-Baptist trustees and approved a motion that sought to dramatically alter the format of the annual meeting.
More than 760 people made first-time decisions for Christ and another 430 rededicated their lives to Christ during a “Valley Reach” campaign that involved 48 projects and 82 congregations.
The budget anticipates $35.85 million coming from anticipated Texas Cooperative Program receipts and $2.15 million from investment income. The $38 million total represented a 13.6 percent decrease from the 2010 budget. The 2009 and 2008 budgets had been lowered by 9.8 percent and 8 percent, respectively, over their preceding years.
The BGCT “adopted” budget plan, which is a suggestion to churches, not a default, will continue to allocate 79 percent of CP receipts for BGCT ministries and 21 percent for other ministry partners.
Messengers voted down, by a 60-40 margin, a motion to allow Houston Baptist University to elect non-Baptist trustees. Opponents argued that allowing HBU to elect non-Baptist trustees would weaken Baptist ties to the school.
A motion to significantly alter the format of the annual meeting was adopted, though not as much as the Texas Baptist Annual Meeting Study Committee suggested. The proposal called for the annual meeting to take place during the summer every five years and, in 2017, to be held at multiple locations through simulcasting.
Kyle Henderson, chairman of the committee, said the changes are meant to increase attendance. In the past five years, 75 percent of BGCT-affiliated congregations have not attended an annual meeting.
Messengers voted down the committee’s recommendations to eliminate resolutions and move discussion of business to a breakout session.
At this year’s Nov. 8-9 meeting in McAllen, there were 783 messengers from 341 churches, along with 948 visitors, including 312 from BGCT churches, which number 5,600 across the state.
Victor Rodriguez, pastor of South San Filadelfia Baptist Church in San Antonio and president of the Hispanic Baptist Convention of Texas, was elected as BGCT president, the first person to serve as the president of both conventions. A day after being elected BGCT president, Rodriguez relinquished his role as president of the Hispanic convention to Jesse Rincones, pastor of Alliance Church in Lubbock and first vice president of that group.
Jerry Carlisle, pastor of First Baptist Church in Plano, was elected first vice president, and Sylvia DeLoach, a missions leader and member of First Baptist Church in Richardson, was elected second vice president.
BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett introduced the “Hope 1:8” emphasis, based on the passage in Acts 1:8: “And you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea, in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”
Everett said the cost is out of reach to deal with the state’s massive population growth and demographic shift by starting more churches. Instead, Everett said the solution is to fill the churches the state already has.
“Our state is increasingly becoming more secular and isolated and ignorant of the hope that is within all of us,” Everett said, noting that the church plants would have to multiply four-fold just to keep up with population growth from 10 years ago. “Are there other models where one building might house multiple congregations, worshipping in multiple languages and multiple styles? Could our buildings or institutions be housing churches? Who are we training that can be leaders and pastors? If we’re going to reach Texans for Christ, we’re going to need a new paradigm.”
Everett said part of that paradigm shift needs to include a close examination of where churches are spending their dollars, given the struggle currently felt to support the Southern Baptist missionaries being sent around the world. He said churches also must emphasize missions involvement among children and not simply missions education. Partnering with Baptists around the world, mission-sending agencies and international seminaries that are training locals is another area Everett encouraged churches to consider.
BGCT President David Lowrie told messengers the key to reaching one of the nation’s most populous states is for churches to cooperate.
“We cannot let Kingdom cooperation die on our watch. I don’t care what we call it; we have to keep doing it. We have to keep working together and stretching ourselves,” Lowrie said, noting that relational and financial issues often threaten cooperation.
“We have to lead with trust in the Lord and with each other,” Lowrie said. “We have to lay aside preconceived notions about people and realize we have the same passions. It’s the enemy who draws these lines.
“The economy has been bad, and it’s often hard [for churches] to make ends meet. When money gets tight, [we are tempted to ask] do we keep the money at home to keep the lights on or continue to give to the convention to ministries. But what we do as a church teaches our people what we believe about God.”
Lowrie also said that churches are tempted to forego support for convention entities and mission-sending agencies to fund their own hands-on ministry work, but he encouraged them to consider those two as not mutually exclusive. Instead, churches should be involved in both efforts and trust God to provide and bless as they obey His commands to go.
“[Jesus] asks them to ask for more workers, but then go. Don’t wait for the reinforcements to come, just go and trust Me,” Lowrie said. “Are we going to try and strategize or come to the place where we say, ‘We’re gonna go’ and say, ‘We believe You’re going to meet our needs.’ Let’s put our faith in Jesus, and trust Him. Could it be that Jesus is saying to all of us to be strong and courageous because the Lord your God goes before you into the land?”
More than 760 people made first-time decisions for Christ and another 430 rededicated their lives to Christ during a “Valley Reach” campaign in partnership with churches in the Rio Grande Valley that began Aug. 14 and led up to the annual meeting.
By the time the last projects are completed near the end of November, more than 48 projects and 82 churches will have been involved in the effort.
“It’s about partnering with Valley leadership and churches to share the hope of Jesus Christ together in creative ways we couldn’t do alone — in intensive ways over a short period of time to bring a swell of encouragement to the people here,” said Scott Willingham, BGCT director of church evangelism. “In the process, we have learned from one another and strengthened one another.”
Much of the Valley Reach efforts were focused on students and families through block parties, skateboard competitions, Baptist Campus Ministry outreach at two universities and distribution of the Texas Hope 2010 compact discs that share the Gospel and the Book of John in both English and Spanish.
Primera Iglesia Bautista in Mission hosted a skateboarding competition featuring guest skaters with Untitled Skateboard Ministry in Los Angeles. The skaters judged the competition and shared their stories about being Christ-followers. For those who don’t skate, the church held a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and a Christian hip hop concert. Through the effort, 16 students came to Christ.
“The following week, we also had an overflow of what God did in the skate comp,” said Juan Contreras, the Primera Iglesia Bautista staff member who runs the church’s skate park. “We had an additional five kids make decisions for Christ on Wednesday night. I had one kid who we have worked with all year who hadn’t responded to us, and he made a decision that night.”
More than 540 men made decisions for Christ during a three-day prison ministry outreach hosted by Texas Baptists and Bill Glass Champions for Life.
Next year’s BGCT annual meeting will be Oct. 24-26 in Amarillo.
Compiled from reporting by John Hall of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.