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La. Baptists maintain CP percentage

ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)–Messengers to the 163rd annual meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention voted without discussion to keep the percentage of Cooperative Program receipts they forward to national and international causes at 36.49 percent.

Louisiana Baptists, meeting at the Riverfront Center in Alexandria Nov. 15-16, approved a 2011 budget of $21,284,217, down $1.2 million from the current year.

Messengers also approved, without discussion, 10 resolutions, including standing with Christians who deal with persecution; commitment to the centrality of the Gospel; encouragement for those involved with nonsmoking policy efforts; lament for the deaths of the 11 Deepwater Horizon workers; encouragement for family worship; support for marriage; opposition to changing current law regarding homosexuals in the military; and opposition to the Employment non-discrimination act.

Rod Masteller, pastor of Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport, was re-elected president; Rick Byargeon, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Ruston, was elected first vice president; and Jason Hoychick, pastor of Elwood Baptist Church in Forrest Hill, was elected second vice president, all by acclamation.

At final count, 294 congregations sent 775 messengers to this year’s annual meeting. Jeremy Christ, music minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria, led in worship.

The absence of any controversy or even new business presented from the floor allowed participants to concentrate on the messages. The theme for the two-day meeting was taken from Ephesians 5:16: “Be filled with the Spirit.”

David Hankins, the convention’s executive director, challenged Louisiana Baptists to maximize Gospel work in the state.

“The Louisiana Baptist Convention is a Gospel organization created, guided and supported by Gospel churches for Gospel goals,” Hankins said, reiterating the convention’s mission statement. “The power is in the Gospel, not us.”

Hankins said the Gospel of God is particular in its content, powerful in its intent and pervasive in its extent.

“Having said these things,” Hankins said, “I want to assert the following: The primary assignment for the Louisiana Baptist Convention is assisting Louisiana Baptists in evangelizing, congregationalizing and discipling the residents of the state of Louisiana.

“Two current emphases in SBC life make it important for the LBC to state clearly our objectives,” Hankins said. “The first is an attitude of some Baptist leaders to devalue the work of the Baptist state convention and to call for a virtual defunding by Baptists of our work in the state. I strongly disagree with these sentiments.

“The second emphasis is the realigning of the funds of the North American Mission Board away from places like Louisiana to the underserved areas of North America,” Hankins added. “I affirm this initiative as long as it is accomplished thoughtfully and fraternally.”

In response to the current climate, Hankins stated the Louisiana convention’s intentions: to assist and strengthen churches; to be diligent, thoughtful, frugal and accountable; to maintain and improve church planting efforts, “most notably” in New Orleans; and “although we will endeavor to allocate more Cooperative Program resources away from Louisiana, we will not do so in a wholesale manner that is a de facto defunding of our necessary and valuable Gospel ministries in our state. Our strategy continues to be a reallocation by growth, not a reallocation by elimination.”

Masteller closed the first evening with his president’s address.

“There is a drought in the power of God in our lives and in our churches,” he said, based on Luke 11 and other passages. “I want you to remember that you will be moving toward your appetite. Whatever it is, you will move toward it. I think that is a major problem in our lives.”

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the Bible study leader during the meeting, teaching on Jesus as prophet, priest and king.

Jesus taught as one with authority because he was the author of the Scriptures, Mohler said. “The ones who know Him are those who have heard and live obediently.”

Christ is our mercy seat, Mohler said. The cross was the final altar. And yet, “Far too many Christians do not believe they need a priest at all.”

Mohler’s third Bible study, on Jesus as king, started in 1 Samuel 8:19. The people wanted an earthly king because they didn’t trust the King they had, and they didn’t trust Him because they had moved in their hearts far from Him, he said.

Lindsey Burns, pastor of First Baptist Church in Deridder, preached from Micah 4:1-5 when he brought the convention sermon. He contrasted the perfume of freedom in America with the stench of its present decaying society.

Tuesday afternoon, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, talked about the need for Southern Baptists to be salt and light in their communities.

“There’s no room for us to be separate from that we would preserve,” Land said. “We’re called to be an irritating preservative.”

He warned about a movement toward the growing acceptance of Shariah [Islamic law] in the United States and said, “It is alien to the soil of this nation and must not be allowed to be planted.”

James Merritt, pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga., and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, delivered the final message of the convention on the topic of grace.

“Grace is God’s go-to-heaven-free card,” Merritt said. Grace saves people from sin’s penalty, strengthens people from sin’s power and gives people the power to live like they want to live, he said.

In Masteller’s final words before the benediction, he repeated his call for Louisiana Baptists to fast in order to regain God’s power to thwart the evils rampaging across America.

“We can do it together,” he said.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 14-15 at First Baptist Church in Covington.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Louisiana Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.