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Ind. Baptists refuel for the journey

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (BP)–Indiana Baptists celebrated the theme “Fuel for the Journey,” based on Acts 1:8, during their 51st annual meeting at the Radisson Star Plaza Hotel in Merrillville Oct. 26-27.

A total of 230 messengers and 130 guests representing 92 churches were challenged to participate in simultaneous “Crossing Indiana” rallies statewide March 1 as part of the North American Mission Board’s “Find It Here” evangelism campaign.

Kevin Ezell, pastor of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and president of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference, led the theme interpretations for the three sessions.

“There is always fuel available and abundant. The problem is not in the fuel, but in the vessel the fuel occupies,” Ezell said. “Indiana may not have the number of churches as other states or the same budget as other states, but the last time I checked, we have the same fuel.”

In another theme interpretation, referencing the conversion of the Apostle Paul, Ezell reminded messengers how the Holy Spirit works. “God can change anyone, blend anyone into His family, and use anyone,” he said.

Alan Scott, president of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana, challenged messengers from Revelation 2:1-7, reminding that Jesus is walking among them and watching what they do. Jesus also is mindful of their motives, wanting them to return to their first love.

Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., preached from Mark 5, citing some barriers believers must overcome in reaching hurting people for Jesus. They must move past positions, traditions and interpretations, Brunson said, and leave behind a fickle faith that succumbs to distortions, distractions and dissension.

“We must submit to the overcomer, Jesus, who overcomes death, doubt and any deficiency,” Brunson told Indiana Baptists.

Steve Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg, delivered the convention sermon, based on Luke 10:1-3.

“It’s not much of a journey if you stay put,” Davidson said, adding that Jesus sent His disciples out as sheep among wolves. “We will not become a Great Commission state until we are totally dependent on the Shepherd.”

Stephen Davis, executive director of the Indiana convention, urged messengers to evangelize rather than fossilize, referring to Ezekiel 37. While some Indiana churches may be declining or plateaued, Davis pointed to some bright spots in the state convention.

Indiana Baptists, Davis noted, have a missions partnership with the Florida Baptist Convention and assistance from the Mississippi Baptist Convention as well as a statewide church planting emphasis called “Indy Needs to Know,” which has an 85 percent success rate. He also said a partnership with LifeWay Christian Resources in the Minister of Education Project has seen some churches double and one church quadruple in Sunday School attendance.

Davis reminded messengers that only 20 percent of Indiana residents are in any Christian church on any given Sunday, and he challenged churches to prayerwalk every street and road in the state with a goal of sharing the Gospel with every household as part of Find It Here.

“We must pray for every household and against every stronghold,” Davis said.

During the business portion of the annual meeting, messengers approved a 2010 budget of $4.8 million, a 2.8 percent increase over the current year. Of the $3,020,740 in anticipated Cooperative Program receipts from Indiana churches, 36.5 percent will be forwarded for Southern Baptist national and international missions and ministries, marking a 1 percent-of-budget increase over 2009. Indiana Baptists have a goal of increasing CP giving by 1 percent of their budget each year until a 50/50 split is reached.

All officers were re-elected: president, Alan Scott, pastor of Oakhill Baptist Church in Evansville; first vice president, Scott Hobbs, pastor of First Baptist Church in Griffith; second vice president, Bobby Pell, pastor of Northwoods Baptist Church in Evansville; and recording secretary, Jayne Nichols, a member of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie.

Messengers adopted a resolution recognizing the 50th anniversary of the state’s Woman’s Missionary Union, organized first at Washington Avenue Baptist Church in Evansville.

The resolution said missions education provided by WMU has been the starting point for recognizing the needs of the state and the world, and the faithful service of Baptist women through WMU has greatly empowered all Indiana Baptists to fulfill the Acts 1:8 challenge.

“By their labor of love and dedication this historic milestone has been reached and we lift their work up to the Lord,” the resolution said. “By their continued efforts long-lasting results have been achieved that will reap an eternal harvest of souls; and in that spirit, we commend the many dedicated WMU leaders and members, asking that God would continue to glorify His name and build His Kingdom by blessing the WMU membership with wisdom and strength in their mission endeavors.”

Before the annual meeting, the Indiana WMU gathered at Eastlake Baptist to celebrate the 50th anniversary Oct. 25-26. They heard from Kaye Miller, national WMU president, who encouraged the women to look for ways to reach out to others and share the love of Christ.

Teenagers from Eastlake Baptist and Barrington Ridge Baptist Church in Hobart connected history to the future as they led the celebration’s worship, as well as modeling vintage dresses representing Indiana WMU’s history. Mary Fullhart was elected Indiana WMU president, and Cynthia Ray was re-elected recording secretary.

“As Indiana WMU looks to the future, it is evident that never before has there been a greater need for missions education and involvement in the church,” Allison Kinion, state WMU director for Indiana, said in her report.

“Indiana WMU strives to challenge men, women, boys and girls to understand and be radically involved in the mission of God. Since its beginning in 1888, WMU has been true to its basic purpose: missions,” Kinion said. “If the church is going to reach the world with the Good News of Christ’s love, teaching and training people to go is vitally important. Who will be the next missionaries to go? Will it be you, your children, or your grandchildren?”

Indiana has 369 churches and 46 missions with nearly 88,000 members.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 25-26 at Parkside Baptist Church in Columbus.
Based on information provided by the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana staff.

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