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Colo. Baptists pledge to continue ‘whatever it takes’ to share faith

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (BP)–It was more than a theme. It was echoed from the pulpit, the pews and in the hallways.

As Colorado’s Southern Baptists gathered at Immanuel Baptist Church, Fort Collins, for the 45th annual meeting of the Colorado Baptist General Convention, “Whatever It Takes” resounded throughout the meeting.

Colorado Southern Baptists testified about doing whatever it takes, were encouraged to learn new ways to do whatever it takes, and committed to continue doing whatever it takes to reach Colorado and the world for Christ.

More than 250 messengers and dozens of guests attended the Oct. 24-25 meeting.

In a historic vote, messengers voted to revise the CBGC’s constitution, updating its wording as well as embracing the Baptist Faith and Message adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention in June.

Most of the revisions involved changing the words “sessions” to “meetings” and “affirmation” to “cooperation.” The new wording “better reflects the polity and spirit of our convention,” said Lewis Adkison, chairman of the CBGC constitution committee and interim pastor of Arapahoe Road Baptist Church, Littleton.

But a recommended change in wording concerning the Baptist Faith and Message sparked the only debate on the convention floor.

The constitution previously required churches seeking affiliation with the CBGC to have adopted and adhere to the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message. Proposed changes to the constitution stated that churches seeking cooperation with the CBGC adopt the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message approved by messengers to the SBC annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

An amendment proposed from the floor called for the wording to say that churches seeking cooperation with the CBGC “shall adopt any of the Baptist Faith and Message” statements in Southern Baptist history.

The amendment brought comments both for and against the proposed change in wording and the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message.

“The [2000] Baptist Faith and Message, which takes a firm stand for the family, is a lone voice,” said Butch Caner, senior pastor of Central Baptist Church, Aurora. “We shouldn’t sacrifice truth for a pseudo-peace.”

“The Baptist Faith and Message interprets what we believe about the Bible and is not the Bible itself,” said Jay Humphreys, director of associational missions of the Continental Divide Baptist Association. “We don’t want to fight over what has been interpreted, but what God has given. I believe any of the Baptist Faith and Message statements sufficiently describes what we believe without clinging to any one. We agree with all of them because we believe in the Bible.”

“We feel like the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is an excellent confession of faith and something Colorado Baptists shouldn’t back away from,” Adkison said.

A 91-56 vote by secret ballot defeated the proposed amendment and in a raised ballot vote messengers approved the revisions to the constitution as recommended by the committee.

Rick Lewis, CBGC president and senior associate pastor, commended messengers for dealing with a tough situation with a spirit of cooperation and unity.

A 2001 CBGC budget of more than $4.3 million dollars was approved by messengers, up from the current $3.8 million budget. More than $1.8 million is expected to be given by Colorado’s Southern Baptist churches through the Cooperative Program, a 10 percent increase over 2000. Twenty-nine percent of their gifts, $538,721, will continue to be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for world missions causes through the Cooperative Program.

Messengers also approved a change in the budget cap that has guided budget planning in recent years. The 100 percent cap was raised to 105 percent, meaning the 2002 budget cannot exceed 105 percent of the income from July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2001.

At the Tuesday night session, Curtis Griffis, CBGC’s director of church growth ministry, was honored upon his retirement after 35 years in ministry and eight years with the CBGC. He served in Ohio, New England, Baltimore, Chicago and Kentucky before coming to Colorado in July 1992.

He and his wife, Barbara, were surprised by having all of their children and grandchildren join them at the meeting. His mother, other family members and a longtime good friend also were on hand. Following the evening session, friends greeted the Griffises at a reception.

Messengers approved resolutions appreciating recently retired executive director David Bunch for his service and ministry to the CBGC; affirming Curtis and Barbara Griffis upon his retirement; encouraging Colorado Baptists to vote; and supporting the Southern Baptist Convention and its boards, agencies, seminaries, committees, commissions and the Cooperative Program.

A highlight of the meeting was a report on the Hungarian partnership and the introduction of guests from Hungary. Kornel Mezaros, union secretary of the Hungarian Baptist Union (HBU), Budapest, Janos Papp, mission secretary of the HBU and pastor of Morning Star Centre and Baptist Church, Gyor, and Ron Brown, International Mission Board missionary in Koszeg, brought greetings and a challenge.

“After World War II, we became a communist country,” said Mezaros. “But now we have a democracy and the freedom to preach the gospel anywhere. We’re enthusiastic about the partnership [with Colorado Southern Baptists].”

Papp shared sobering statistics about the former communist nation:

“A few years ago, a Gallup poll revealed that Hungary had the highest suicide rate in the world, with rampant alcoholism and one of the highest divorce rates in the world,” he said. “The poll also showed that few people in Hungary claim to have a ‘best friend.’

“We were a loser,” he said. “Always. The Turkish army invaded Hungary, later came the Germans, and there were others,” he said.

“In World War I we were losers and in World War II we were losers. Then the Russian army came,” he said, referencing the start of the communist period in Hungarian history.

“In 1956, we decided we wanted change,” he added, alluding to a failed attempt at revolution. “But it didn’t happen.

“But in Christ, we can be winners. God has the victory!

“Please come to Hungary to help us,” he pleaded.

“Ten years ago, we had baptisms only in churches [because of communism],” he said. “But now we have baptisms in rivers and swimming pools and wherever.

“We have Hungarian missionaries serving in Ukraine and Serbia,” he added. “We can send missionaries to North Korea because we had a relationship with them as a communist country.

“But laws are changing,” he said. “In a few years we may not be able to enter school houses with the gospel, but we can now. We want to take advantage of opportunities today.”

Inviting Colorado Southern Baptists to join them in ministry, Papp said, “We know this is a new thing for you. It’s new for us. We know we are all limited, but we also know God and he is bigger than everything. Please come join us.”

Ron Clement, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Black Forest and chairman of the Hungarian partnership task force, said though Gallup polls show Hungary to be the most depressed nation, “I see great contrast in our Christian brothers there.

“Pray that God would break our hearts to at least pray for them,” he added.

In closing the Hungarian emphasis, dozens of messengers who committed to become involved with the partnership gathered around the Hungarian guests to pray for them.

In a message challenging the convention to do whatever it takes for Christ, Steve Stroope, pastor of Lake Pointe Baptist Church, Rockwall, Texas, used Christ as an example.

“He spoke on a hillside, not a pulpit,” Stroope said. “And he spoke about sheep, seeds and planting. He knew who his audience was and he spoke in their language.”

Stroope encouraged churches to have a clear purpose and suggested Matthew 28:19-20 as a gauge to measure “how’s business.”

“How many disciples did you make last year? Sunday school attendance figures and the number of baptisms is a small part of that,” he said. “But sometimes at the end of the year, we’ve had a lot of meetings and organized a lot of events, but have few disciples.”

While he advocates change in ministry, he pointed out that change always involves pain and risk. But he cautioned not to change or innovate for the sake of change or innovation. And he added that change should always be tied to one’s purpose.

“If change and the pain it brings don’t result in more people being won to Christ, we need to re-evaluate,” he said.

He emphasized the word “obey” from Matthew 28. “It’s not about just a head knowledge, but changed lives.”

Leith Anderson, pastor of Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minn., said effective ministry isn’t about doing just “whatever it takes,” but he noted that “it also takes the right thing.”

He said effective churches will exhibit biblical Christianity, cultural relevance and an outreach orientation.

Truth, love and righteousness are all tests of biblical Christianity, Anderson said. “People expect the Word to be preached. And hurting people can sniff it out in 90 seconds or less if these are truly loving disciples of Christ or not.”

He contemplated whether culture is the friend or the enemy of the gospel, while noting that extremes in either belief are dangerous.

“If you say culture is the enemy, you may become a separatist or cultic,” he said. “And if you say it’s the friend, you may compromise the gospel.

“We make a big deal out of hating the sin but loving the sinner. Let me suggest we make the same distinction about culture,” he said. “Hate the sin in the culture, but love the culture.”

“You could say it this way, ‘For God so loved the culture, He gave His only begotten Son …,” Anderson added.

In reports, Gary Sparrow, director of the Ponderosa Retreat and Conference Center, Larkspur, updated messengers on the growing ministry at the center.

Ponderosa now has guests every weekend, year-round, with a very busy summer season. The six rustic cabins were improved this year with the addition of sewer and water as part of the 20-year master plan for upgrades.

But the big news was the 300 professions of faith made by young people this past summer.

“And that doesn’t even include rededications, those answering God’s call to ministry and other decisions,” Sparrow said.

Emerson Falls, director of the Rocky Mountain Campus of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (GGBTS), also reported to messengers.

“It’s important to train students in the context of ministry,” he said. Rather than losing Colorado’s seminary students to schools out of state, they can stay here.

Next spring, the seminary’s library will open. “It’ll be one of the finest libraries around, with the finest electronics searching technology.

“We now need a professor of biblical studies and a professor of theology,” Falls said. “Then we’ll be a full-time campus.”

The Rocky Mountain Campus currently offers only half of the degree program. Students have the choice of completing the degree at Denver Seminary or at the main campus of GGBTS in Mill Valley, Calif.

Sam Cotter, church development director of the CBGC and interim executive director, cited several praises and challenges in his report to the convention.

“1999 marked the first time that Colorado Baptists cooperatively passed on more than $500,000 to the SBC Executive Committee for world missions,” he said. “Our churches are averaging 6.3 percent of their budgets as Cooperative Program gifts.

“In 2001, $155,000 will be given monthly to the CBGC,” he said. “Continue that faithful cooperation.”

Cotter challenged Colorado’s Southern Baptists to increase mission gifts and offerings, get involved in the Hungarian partnership, assist the Rocky Mountain Campus in its effort to offer a full degree, remain in unity in the body of Christ, increase efforts to win new people to Christ and plant new churches everywhere.

In other business, Rick Lewis, senior associate pastor at Denver’s Riverside Baptist Church, was elected to serve a second one-year term as president. Also elected to second terms were Jim Sheets, pastor of Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Byers, as first vice president, and Tobey Williams, pastor of Bicentennial Baptist Church, Fruita, as second vice president. Ginger LeBlanc, executive assistant, CBGC, was elected again as recording secretary.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 23-24 in Vail and hosted by Trinity Church.

    About the Author

  • Allen Spencer