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Dakota Baptists affirm plans for ‘The Next Level’

MINOT, S.D. (BP)–“Turning the corner — fulfilling Acts 1:8” was the theme for the Dakota Baptist Convention’s Oct. 21-22 annual meeting in Minot, S.D.

Sixty-nine messengers were on hand, representing 31 of the two-state convention’s 91 churches and missions.

Jim Hamilton, in his first convention as executive director, reported on the realignment of budget resources to maximize stewardship for targeting local church ministries. Hamilton, who joined the convention staff Jan. 1, formerly was senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg, Ind.

At last year’s convention, Dakota Baptists celebrated their 50th anniversary in Southern Baptist life by unanimously approving a move to state convention status and a name change from the Dakota Southern Baptist Fellowship to the Dakota Baptist Convention.

Hamilton, who has ministered on-site to more than two-thirds of the churches in the Dakotas in his first year as executive director, outlined the 2005 ministry strategy of helping churches reach “The Next Level.” The strategy envisions a ministry plan for every church, developing godly pastoral and lay leadership and building ministry teams to achieve God-sized results in prayer, evangelism, ministry, discipleship, fellowship and worship.

Hamilton reiterated the goal of baptizing one new member for every seven resident members of Dakota Baptist churches.

“Dakota churches are filled with people who love the Lord and His Kingdom work,” Hamilton said in tapping the annual meeting’s theme of “Turning the corner — fulfilling Acts 1:8” to urge a united effort by Baptists across the two states.

“We can touch our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth, and we will!”

Hamilton noted that the convention’s long-term strategy plan will encompass three strategic areas: starting, strengthening and serving churches, and a strategy planning team is being formed to begin work on a comprehensive strategy for 2006 and beyond. The new state staff led by Hamilton includes John Guillott as state director of missions; Myron Grueneich as strategic coordinator; Donna Guillott as WMU/women’s ministries director; and June Highlan as bookkeeper. John Miller continues in his role as church health and leadership development director.

Rob Grimm, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Sioux Falls, S.D., and president of the convention’s executive board, summarized the year with one word: change – a change in leadership under Hamilton, a change in name and a change in direction.

“Change is not only good, it is necessary to reach our world for Christ,” Grimm said. “It truly is a ‘new day’ in the Dakotas!”

Two of the resolutions adopted by messengers involved the convention’s new direction:

— “Be it resolved that we affirm and support Dr. James Hamilton, our new Executive Director. We challenge our churches and members to pray for him and the Dakota Baptist Convention staff regularly and support their leadership.”

— “Be it resolved that we appeal to Dakota Baptist Convention churches and members to pray regularly and fervently for our Strategic Planning Team as they formulate strategies that will support and guide our churches to achieve Acts 1:8 goals.”

Another resolution called Dakota Baptists to vote in the Nov. 2 elections, challenging them “to be intelligent voters and to support candidates who most closely follow the values taught in the Word of God.”

A resolution on marriage, meanwhile, noted, “… we affirm the Biblical design of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for life. It is our conviction that the laws of our states and nation should reflect this Biblical design. We challenge our churches and members to live and promote this truth.”

Messengers adopted a $1.23 million budget for the coming year, up from the current $1.22 million budget; 14 percent of Cooperative Program receipts from the churches will continue to be allocated to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries.

Vel Hightower, pastor of Gift of Hope Baptist Mission in Belcourt, N.D., was re-elected as convention president, while Morgan Medford, pastor of Prairie View Community Church in Fargo, N.D., was elected as the lone nominee for vice president. Kathy Osborne, layperson from Cornerstone Baptist Church in Grand Forks, N.D., was re-elected as recording secretary.

The convention recognized Larry and Lillian Vickery for 28 years of service to the Dakotas. Larry Vickery most recently served as rural church planting coordinator and disaster relief coordinator. He will continue to serve in the disaster relief role after his retirement in March.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 20-21 in Rapid City, S.D., hosted there by Westside Baptist Church.

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