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Mo. churches staying on course for serving God, leaders say

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP)–Conservatives supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention may not have control of five of the state convention’s entities, but they are clearly the choice of a large majority of Southern Baptists in the “Show Me” state.

Conservatives have won four straight presidential elections at the state convention (including the most recent by a 75-25 percent margin) and are in firm control of the convention’s agenda and budget.

“God is indeed working through Missouri Baptists, despite the divisiveness created by a new state convention,” said Bob Curtis, MBC president and pastor of Ballwin Baptist Church, Ballwin. “We’re more excited than ever before.

“I commend the state convention workers at the Baptist Building and the executive board staff for their tireless work and commitment. God is on his throne and it’s our desire to serve him.”

Since being elected president at the MBC’s annual meeting last October, Curtis said he has focused on dispelling rumors and promoting the state convention’s New Directions philosophy.

Rumors like state convention employees losing their pensions have been floated, which Curtis described as a source of disappointment and frustration.

“I’ve met with many of the state convention staff to put down such rumors. I’ve let them know that I’m accessible and that they can call me anytime. Some have,” he said.

Curtis is particularly excited about New Directions, the convention’s initiative to encourage new church starts and growth among existing churches.

“It is a biblically based philosophical approach to try and get the churches throughout Missouri, 75 percent of which are in decline or stagnated, back on a growth track and to start new churches,” he said.

“We want the state convention to be more proactive in responding to the ministry needs of our churches. We want to work harder at finding out what our churches need and make our eight regional teams available to work with them and their association to turn things around. I think it’s been well-received so far.”

Curtis noted that staffers for one of the state’s eight regions, the south/central region, received more requests for assistance during the first three months of this year than they did in all of 2001. And, of 69 churches started in the past two years, 62 are still growing, Curtis said.

“That demonstrates that our churches are catching on to the concept of New Directions,” he said.

Another way conservatives have sought to move the state forward has been by including the churches in the search for a new executive director and by asking them for suggestions on what they would like to see happen in Missouri. The state convention has been without an executive director since Jim Hill resigned in October.

The MBC search committee conducted 12 listening sessions at churches throughout the state during February and March, collecting suggestions and then putting them on a survey that was mailed out to the approximately 2,000 Southern Baptist churches throughout the state.

Suggestions ranged from simply being more compassionate to being pro-life.

“More than 100 churches were represented at these sessions,” said Kenny Qualls, chairman of the executive director search committee, MBC first vice president and pastor of Springhill Baptist Church in Springfield. “We made it clear we wanted input from our churches as well as the MBC staff.”

Qualls said about 300 surveys were returned.

“They affirmed that this state has a passion to see souls saved and firmly believe in the inerrancy of Scripture,” Qualls said. “They also affirmed their unwavering commitment to the Southern Baptist Convention and to the Cooperative Program.”

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  • Don Hinkle