LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Churches and believers under economic pressure need to focus on what the Bible says about money management, Las Vegas pastor Hoyt Savage told messengers June 23 during the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Louisville, Ky.
During the 2008 annual meeting in Indianapolis, Savage had testified about the difference the “It’s A New Day” financial freedom initiative has made at his church, Foothills Baptist. This year, he said, he was bringing “the rest of the story.”
Last year, Las Vegas was leading the nation in home foreclosures and average weekly giving at Foothills Baptist had dropped by about 9 percent, Savage said in 2008. This year, the city is experiencing 11 percent unemployment and 70 percent of the Las Vegas’ homes are in negative equity, Savage said. The church’s food pantry ministry is helping between 60 and 70 families a month and Nevada lawmakers recently raised taxes and slashed the state budget to deal with a ballooning deficit.
At Foothills Baptist, however, per capita giving has increased by 3 percent and the congregation gave its largest offering ever to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Mission.
“The principles of financial freedom our people learned through It’s A New Day … are still making a difference,” Savage said. “During our Vacation Bible School last week, I worked beside church members who have been affected by recent job layoffs. What they are going through isn’t easy. But there are two things I have recognized have made a difference in their homes.
“One, God’s faithfulness,” Hoyt said, “and the second is the financial wisdom they have gleaned through It’s A New Day. I’m here to challenge and encourage you that, if you have not investigated how It’s A New Day can help your church, visit the booth [in the exhibit hall] and learn about those resources available to you as Southern Baptists.
“I can’t think of a better time for God’s people to learn what His Word says about using His money,” Savage concluded.
More seminary students are becoming advocates for the Cooperative Program because of an Executive Committee initiative called Unlimited Partnerships, said Bob Rodgers, the Executive Committee’s vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship.
Rodgers introduced Bethany Helms, a recent graduate of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, who is a key leader in the Unlimited Partnerships initiative. She called forward a group of seminary students who she described as “part of the fruit of our cooperative effort.”
As the students gathered in front of the platform in the convention hall, Helms said, “God has called [these students] to be pastors, missionaries and other ministry leaders. They have felt God’s call in their lives and they are preparing for service. They are able to serve, thanks in part, because of your faithful giving through the Cooperative Program.”
Helms then asked messengers in attendance to gather around the students and pray for them.
“Jesus has commanded us to bear fruit, fruit that will last,” she said. “We must never forget that the purpose behind all our cooperative efforts, behind everything we do, the ultimate fruit, is to lead people to the cross. Let us pray that God would bless [these students] and make them fruitful.”
During the business section of the first report, messengers without discussion:
— adopted a 2009-10 Cooperative Program allocation budget that directs $148.77 million to ministries through the convention’s two missions entities, $44.8 million to theological education through six seminaries and $3.37 million to concerns about ethics and religious liberty.
— adopted a 2009-10 SBC operating budget that anticipates $9.14 million in income, with $6.99 million through the Cooperative Program. A total of $3.14 million is budgeted for SBC administration expenses and $6 million is allocated toward operating expenses for the Executive Committee.
— approved a recommendation to cease the cooperative relationship between the SBC and Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, over that congregation’s affirming position on homosexuality, which contradicts Article III of the SBC constitution. That relationship is ended and messengers from the church will not be seated at Southern Baptist Convention annual meetings “until such time as the church unambiguously demonstrates its friendly cooperation” in that matter, the recommendation said.
During the afternoon business session, on three other recommendations, messengers:
— added provisions to SBC Bylaw 1 that require a two-thirds vote for a convention messenger to speak in debate for longer than three minutes and allows a messenger to introduce a second motion only if no other messenger is seeking the floor to make a motion who has not made a motion during that session.
— amended the language of Bylaw 15(A) and Bylaw 19 to clarify the process and change the qualifications for nominees to the Committee on Committee and Committee on Nominations.
— revised the guidelines for selecting cities that will provide convention meeting sites and housing for future sessions of the annual meeting.
The day before, Executive Committee members elected officers for the coming year. Randall James, an assistant pastor at First Baptist Church in Orlando, Fla., was re-elected chairman by acclamation, and Martha Lawley, a women’s ministry author and speaker from Worland, Wyo., was re-elected as secretary. By a ballot vote, the Executive Committee elected Roger Spradlin, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, Calif., as vice chairman. That position had been vacated by Michael Lewis when he moved from pastor of Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin, Texas, to pastor of First Baptist Church in Plant City, Fla. Also nominated for the position was David Dykes, pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.