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Dakotas raise CP percentage, welcome new pastors

PIERRE, S.D. (BP) — A healthy increase in financial support, new pastors and denominational recognition highlighted the 2017 annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention.

Known in the two-state convention as its “Baptist Gathering,” the Dakota annual meeting took place Sept. 21-22 at the Ramkota Pierre Hotel in Pierre, S.D. Its theme — “Building up the body of Christ together: revitalizing our churches” — was drawn from Ephesians 4:11-13.

“I thought it was very uplifting, very good,” said Debby Bogart, wife of Capitol Heights Baptist Church’s pastor Bob Bogart in Pierre. “One of the things that was really good for me was hearing all the different messages. As a pastor’s wife you’re busy in the church so it was good to sit back and be fed. We heard a lot of useful messages to take back to our churches.”

In all, some 110 people from at least 37 of the Dakotas’ 89 churches participated in the two-day event that included a pastors’ conference.

Guest speakers at Dakotas’ Baptist Gathering included Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee. In addition to bringing a message of encouragement based on God’s faithfulness, Page and DBC Executive Director Garvon Golden hosted a breakfast Friday morning that included a question-and-answer forum about the future of the SBC.

“I’m a longtime Southern Baptist,” Bogart said, “but it was good to hear about the Cooperative Program again and be reminded of all it does,” Bogart said.

“And we now have someone on the Executive Committee, which is good,” she said of the SBC’s addition of an Executive Committee representative from the Dakota convention despite its small numbers compared to numerous other state conventions. “Mr. Page fought for us to get somebody on it so we have representation and I thought that was very good.”

A missionary from the SBC’s International Mission Board, who serves in Africa but not named in this report for security reasons, and John Mark Clifton, who leads the North American Mission Board’s replanting team, also spoke at the Dakota gathering. Worship was led by Scot Ristau, associate pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Aberdeen, S.D.

Budget & elections

Messengers at Dakota’s Gathering voted a $479,000 budget for 2018, up 2 percent from last year’s $468,800. The new amount reflects $360,000 from Dakota churches; $50,000 from NAMB; and $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources. NAMB also has allocated $440,000 for church planting in the Dakotas and $87,000 for evangelism.

Dakota Baptists increased the percentage of their budget for Cooperative Program giving by 1.5 percent, up from last year’s 1 percent-of-budget increase, for a total anticipated giving to the SBC for national and international causes of $93,600 reflecting the two-state convention’s increase to a 26/74 percent split between Dakota and SBC ministries.

All officers were re-elected: president Steve Ford, pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Vermillion, S.D.; vice president Jonathan Land, church planter/pastor of Connection Church in Sioux Falls, S.D.; recording secretary Ernie Nelson, pastor of Outreach Community Church in Box Elder, S.D.; and assistant recording secretary Karen Holmes, pastor’s wife at First Baptist Church in Woolsey, S.D.

With no old or new business other than the budget and elections, the Dakota gathering celebrated ministry done over the last year and the arrival of six pastors since last year’s annual meeting.

DBC’s annual evangelistic ministry at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in early August led to 270 people making professions of faith.

“The Sturgis Bike Giveaway evangelism ministry continues to be an effective evangelistic and discipleship event,” Golden told Baptist Press regarding the strategy of drawing listeners to a three-minute Gospel presentation to qualify for the motorcycle giveaway at the end of the rally.

“This year we had 140 volunteers who shared with 2,596 individuals,” Golden said, “and 270 prayed to receive Christ.”

Resolutions were passed to honor the lives and ministries of two longtime Dakota leaders:

— Berna Miller, who died Sept. 13 looking up to heaven while sitting in a chair gardening, her husband John Miller told Baptist Press. They ministered for 50 years, 25 when he was pastor of Mandan (N.D.) Baptist Church and 25 on the state convention staff, which concluded with eight years as Prairie Partners Baptist Association’s missionary.

— June Highlan, who has retired after 49 years as the state convention’s accountant. She also helped people working on the accounting books in several other state conventions, including Wyoming, Montana, Utah/Idaho and New York.

With Highlan’s departure, the Southern Baptist Foundation of Texas will handle the Dakota convention’s accounting, Golden said.

The next annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention will be Oct. 11-12 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“The Dakota Baptist Gathering is a time that Dakota Baptist churches, their pastors and leaders, come together to connect with God and each other,” Golden said in his comments to Baptist Press. “It is a time to celebrate God’s work in us and around us. It is a time to celebrate relationships and partnerships through hearing inspiring messages, engaging in God-honoring worship, and hearing reports of what God is doing across the Dakotas, the Southern Baptist Convention and across the world.”