FLORENCE, Ky. (BP) — “More for Christ” was the theme for Kentucky Baptists’ 174th annual meeting at Florence Baptist Church at Mt. Zion in Florence Nov. 15.
In the first year of a three-year spiritual renewal emphasis, messengers were encouraged to take up the words of John the Baptist — “He must increase … I must decrease” (John 3:30).
In addition to commissioning Paul Chitwood as the convention’s new executive director, the 865 registered messengers approved a new ministry partnership, elected a seminary faculty member as president and adopted a $23.5 million budget for 2012-13.
In a signing ceremony during his first report to the convention, Chitwood formalized a missions partnership agreement with Baptists in St. Louis. Convention President Floyd Paris and Jim Breeden, director of missions for St. Louis Metro Baptist Association, joined Chitwood in signing the document.
Launched in conjunction with the North American Mission Board’s newly adopted church-planting strategy, “Send North America,” the goal of the three-to-five-year partnership will be to help start 125 churches in the St. Louis area by 2020. St. Louis is one of 27 cities selected by NAMB leaders for coordinated efforts in evangelism and church planting.
The Greater St. Louis area’s 2.8 million residents “need a faithful witness of the Gospel,” Chitwood said. “There are churches and an association there struggling to give that witness that need help. Kentucky Baptists are answering that call to help them.”
Adam Greenway, a professor and associate dean at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism, was elected as KBC president. He served as first vice president in 2009-10.
Greenway received 73 percent of the 644 votes cast over Derek Coleman, a Lexington pastor. With his election, four of the last seven KBC presidents now have had ties to Southern’s faculty.
Alan Dodson, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Lexington, was elected first vice president, and T.J. Francis, pastor at First Baptist Church in Walton, second vice president, both by acclamation.
Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, issued a challenge for unity as the convention’s keynote speaker, leading up to the commissioning of Chitwood as executive director. Pointing to Jesus’ prayer request in John 17:21, Page appealed for unity among Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists.
“Unity is more than just a nice, fuzzy feeling,” Page said. “It is a testimony to the lost. I believe our unity affects our evangelism.”
Increased unity could have unprecedented results in the world and leave an eternal mark on the Kingdom of God, Page said.
“I believe the 21st century could see a turnaround such as we’ve never seen before, that we could do more for Christ,” he said. But that will only happen when there is an attitude and a perspective of Christ-like selflessness and a cooperative spirit among Southern Baptists and Kentucky Baptists, Page said.
“It’s time to light the beacons,” Chitwood told Kentucky Baptists, after a commissioning prayer by Paris. Using a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” Chitwood called messengers to ready, rally and respond.
“Lighted only in the worst of circumstances, those beacons were a signal to the people of the land that they were directly in the path of the enemy. They were the worst of news,” he said.
“And yet, to those who were in the path, the beacons also represented hope,” Chitwood added, explaining that they called out the armies to defend those in imminent danger.
Urging Kentucky Baptists to stand together against their spiritual enemy, Chitwood said, “Might we hear the bad news that we are directly in the path of the enemy — and be not deceived, he comes with full assault. And might we then count it as good news because it allows us to ready, to rally together and to respond.”
Kentucky Baptists adopted a $23.5 million budget for 2012-13 that calls for 52.46 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to be distributed to Kentucky Baptist causes and 43.54 percent to go to Southern Baptist missions and ministries, with 4 percent being considered shared expenses.
The 23.5 million budget, which is identical to last year’s goal, includes a “More for Christ” challenge goal that assumes a 3 percent growth in Cooperative Program receipts, for an additional $705,000. Including the “More for Christ” target, the total CP goal for 2012-13 is $24,205,000.
In adopting the report of their Great Commission Task Force at last year’s annual meeting in Lexington, Kentucky Baptists embarked on a 10-year course that eventually will lead to a 50/50 division of Cooperative Program funds between state and Southern Baptist causes.
Though the percentage allocations will remain unchanged in this year’s budget, KBC officials assured messengers that the intent is still to advance toward the 50/50 mark within the time frame, but they also noted that the convention had fallen short of its previous Cooperative Program budget goal by more than $1 million.
In a resolution adopted unanimously by messengers, convention and church leaders were urged to call on state and local government officials to “restrain exorbitant interest” rates charged by payday lenders and to promote “any other protections necessary to protect individuals from lending abuse.”
According to the resolution, payday loans are offered at interest rates as high as 391 percent and are “designed to entrap households in debt through a combination of high fees and short repayment periods.”
Next year’s annual meeting of the Kentucky Baptist Convention will be Nov. 13 at Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington.
Todd Deaton is editor of the Western Recorder (www.westernrecorder.org), newsjournal of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.