ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — During their annual meeting highlighting a statewide soul-winning emphasis for 2017-2018, Louisiana Baptists heard various ministry reports that included disaster relief efforts following record flooding in the state. And Louisiana messengers defeated a motion for a 2018 move toward a 50/50 Cooperative Program split with Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Messengers also referred a motion regarding concerns with the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission to the Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Executive Board. Approximately 600 messengers registered for the state convention’s Nov. 14-15 meeting that was held at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria.
Budget & CP debate
During the meeting, messengers approved a $20,043,331 Cooperative Program budget for 2017, down $550,435 from 2015, with an allocation of 36.74 percent to be sent to Southern Baptist Convention national causes. The LBC portion of the CP budget is $12,679,411, a decrease of $348,205 from the 2016 allocation.
Messengers also defeated a motion for a 2018 move toward a 50/50 Cooperative Program split with SBC missions and ministry efforts.
Kyle Sullivan, associate pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, introduced the proposed CP measure during the opening session of the annual meeting, and the debate on the motion was conducted during the morning session the following day.
The motion called for a “50/50 split of the Cooperative Program giving” in the 2018 budget, citing the “vast lostness of the nations” compared to the lostness in Louisiana, and highlighting the “primacy” of making disciples of “the nations.”
The motion also listed the SBC’s multiple affirmations of the “idea” of a 50/50 CP split, over the years, and highlighted that the LBC’s 2006 Cooperative Program Advance Plan for giving more to national causes had added only 1.24 percentage points to the SBC side of the CP split.
Following discussion on the floor, LBC President Gevan Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church Haughton, presided over the business session and asked David Hankins, executive director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention, to speak to the impact of the motion.
Hankins said the budgeting process is a “very thorough” one, led by Louisiana Baptists with “over 90 churches of the Louisiana Baptist Convention” represented in the state convention’s Executive Board budget process, and, told the messengers cutting $2.5 million would mean “you would not be able to have the ministries that we have.”
Hankins assured messengers the state convention’s Advance Plan will work to move toward a 50/50 split as in the past when income grows, and urged the messengers “to stay the course we’re on.”
A few scattered ballots were raised in support of the measure, but the overwhelming number of messengers voted no on the motion.
A motion regarding the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission was referred to the LBC Executive Board. Clark Stewart, pastor of New Zion Baptist Church in Covington, offered the motion, asking the LBC Executive Board to “study the recent actions of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission with regard to issues of concern to Louisiana Baptists.”
Stewart did not elaborate on what catalyzed his motion, and the motion was referred to the Executive Board without discussion and with a near-unanimous raise of ballots by messengers.
Louisiana Baptists called to be laborers for Harvest
Holding a pair of work gloves like the hundreds that were distributed during his presentation, Keith Manuel invited messengers to the LBC’s annual meeting to commit to a God-sized vision — evangelize the entire state of Louisiana during 2017-2018.
Reaching 4.7 million people with the Gospel in a two-year period may seem daunting, said Manuel, LBC evangelism associate, but it is within the realm of possibility through the Harvest initiative, a statewide campaign to engage 700 Louisiana Baptist churches to “pray for every home and share Christ with every person” in Louisiana.
“This task is hard,” Manuel said during the opening session. “It will take work. Let these gloves serve as a reminder, to lift up your eyes and look at the fields for they are white unto harvest.
“Let’s go to work and envision a Louisiana where every home receives prayer and every person receives a Gospel witness and if the Lord is willing, may we see the greatest harvest of souls, who grow into the greatest group of reproducing disciples Louisiana has ever seen.”
Manuel also gave an overview of what he said could be the largest joint evangelistic effort ever in Louisiana.
After spending 2016 to plan and enlist leaders and churches and using 2017 to conduct statewide evangelism training and pilot different methods, Louisiana Baptists will join together across the state in 2018 in prayer events and intentional soul-winning activities, Manuel said. The cooperative effort will include a diversity of approaches such as multi-church crusades, one-on-one evangelism, single-church revivals and other harvest events which take advantage of compassion ministries to share about the love of Christ.
The first major kickoff event, he said, will take place during the 2017 Louisiana Baptist Evangelism Conference at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, Jan. 23-24, with an outreach event effort targeting teens and college students.
Elections and resolutions
Gevan Spinney, pastor of First Baptist Church, Haughton, was re-elected LBC president without opposition. David Lane, pastor of Judson Baptist Church, Walker, was elected first vice president; and, Carlos Meza, pastor of Iglesia Bautista Del Calvario, Shreveport, was voted second vice president — both by acclamation of messengers. Meza is the first Hispanic to hold an LBC state office.
Among the resolutions affirmed during the meeting, messengers honored Louisiana Baptists’ disaster relief teams for their responses to two historic flood events in one year. Messengers also approved resolutions opposing human trafficking and the sexual politics of transgenderism.
Messengers took time for spiritual enrichment and inspiration before and after the several organizational actions they were asked to complete.
Dennis Phelps, professor of preaching and director of alumni relations and church-minister relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, began all three sessions with a Bible study, each with a focus from the book of Jonah and the theme of “When God Moves.”
‘An inner world to manage’
In his convention sermon, David Brooks, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Alexandria, explored the topic of why a healthy soul is vital for ministry.
Brooks said at times, pastors tend to give more emphasis toward maintaining their outer world while neglecting their inner world. However, to be at one’s best, cultivating the soul must be a priority.
“We have an outer world and an inner world to manage,” said Brooks, drawing his message from 3 John 1:2. “My inner context determines my culture. If I want things to be in rhythm with God, it has a lot to do with my inner world, not just my outer world.”
Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla., told messengers during the closing message, God will never detour you around the difficulties in life, but instead direct you through them for your growth and for His glory.
Brunson said God never consults a person about the course He takes them on, never asks directions about the path He leads, and calls believers to walk by faith.
Brunson said that in Exodus 13-14, God led the Israelites on a journey that seemed endless, with them spending years as slaves. But He eventually brought them into freedom and out of the clutches of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.
“It’s not about the direction you’re going in,” Brunson said. “It’s about His glory. And that’s the struggle we have. We are far more interested in the direction we’re going than we are His glory.”
Brunson noted, “You can trust the unbreakable promises of God. God’s going to take care of you.”
Messengers received a number of entity and ministry reports during their annual meeting, including highlights regarding extensive disaster relief efforts in response to two historic floods, and, a progress report on the 2020 Commission goals pertaining to church planting.
In March, more than 3 feet of rain fell in 48 hours in some areas of the state, concentrating in northern parishes, affecting more than 18,000 homes and 14 Louisiana Baptist churches. An estimated 85 percent of the state’s trained disaster relief personnel were impacted during this time, according to disaster relief leaders, yet they responded to the many needs of others.
Then in August, the state’s southern parishes unexpectedly received 31 inches over a two-day period in some areas. More than 155,000 homes and 72 Louisiana Baptist churches were damaged.
“Just like in all the other times of disaster, Dr. Gibbie McMillan and our disaster relief volunteers swung into action for the second time in five months,” said John Hebert, missions and ministry director for Louisiana Baptists. “Like super heroes in yellow shirts but without capes our teams moved once again into the area of the disaster and began their work.”
More than 170 teams from 29 state conventions responded, completing 7,266 flood-related clean-up jobs, distributing Shockwave mold remover to 7,518 homeowners, preparing 681,301 meals and distributing 2,431 Bibles. Chaplains and ministry volunteers gave solace to more than 20,000 flood victims. About 1,600 asked to know more about Christ and 207 of these asked Him for forgiveness and committed to live for Him.
“The names and address of those people are being turned over to local churches for follow-up,” Hebert said. “In the wake of disaster, Baptists help people find hope for now and for eternity.”
James Jenkins, director of church planting for Louisiana Baptists, updated messengers on the President’s 2020 Commission Report pertaining to “plant 300 new churches by 2020.”
“On Oct. 15 of this year we met at the Louisiana Baptist Building, and what a great day. We celebrated the 150th church plant since we started our goal. Today, we come before you to give a statistical report on the first 150 church plants.”
He and his team presented descriptive data showing the diversity of Louisiana Baptists church plants, which are:
— located in 75 different towns and cities, with 79 percent located in south Louisiana (where most of the state’s population lives);
— part of 21 different associations;
— 58 Anglo, 49 African American, 25 Hispanic, 8 Asian and 10 multi-ethnic congregations, reaching 13 different people groups; and,
— 17 multi-site congregations and 20 replants of declined or closed churches.
Importantly, Louisiana Baptist church plants enjoyed a 92 percent success rate, in terms of remaining healthy and viable congregations, according to Lane Corley, church planting strategist.
Meanwhile, Carlos Schmidt, Hispanic church planting strategist, shared “the waters had stirred,” explaining that Louisiana Baptist church plants had performed a combined 2,535 baptisms.
Wayne Sheppard, executive assistant to the LBC executive director, gave a report on the “Cast the Net” partnership missions effort.
Attention was drawn to six particular country endeavors, including Haiti, Belarus, Brazil, Indonesia, Cajun Connection (Canada) and Portugal. But special emphasis was given to Louisiana Baptists’ work Haiti.
The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries and multiple LBC congregations are working through the state convention and with the Haiti Baptist Convention to establish a ministry center near the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
Louisiana Baptists have purchased 3.1 acres of land, and in September, contractors dug a well (205 feet deep). This water source will supply the ministry center and the surrounding community with clean water. The next step in the project is the construction of a security wall around the compound, which eventually will house a training center for pastors and church planters to expand the Gospel throughout the country, then an orphan village and school.
The 2017 annual meeting will be Nov. 13-14 at Istrouma Baptist Church, Baton Rouge. John Fream, pastor of Cypress Baptist Church in Benton, will bring the convention sermon, and Jeff Ginn, pastor of Istrouma Baptist Church, will serve as the alternate. Gordon Butler, worship pastor at Istrouma Baptist Church, will serve as music director.