BILLINGS, MONT. (BP) — Nearly 100 messengers from 65 of Montana’s 135 Southern Baptist churches and missions voted at their annual meeting for the 2020 Vision developed over the summer by pastors and leaders from across the state.
The annual meeting, with “Whatever it takes” as its theme, also celebrated the fellowship within the Montana Southern Baptist Convention and the partnership with the Tennessee Baptist Convention as well as the return of Doug Hutcheson to the MTSBC staff after a four-year assignment with the International Mission Board.
Montana’s Oct. 5-6 annual meeting was held at Yellowstone Baptist College, with various student body members serving, speaking and singing. The event also included a pastors’ conference focusing on encouragement; a “Refreshing” pastors wives’ fellowship and luncheon; and a barbecue dinner on the YBC lawn that featured bluegrass music and Frisbee-type discs thrown in promotion of evangelism opportunities anticipated as part of the 2012 “Hope: Find It Here” Across Montana 2012 thrust in conjunction with Southern Baptists’ God’s Plan for Sharing initiative.
The state convention’s first-ever contested election for president had both candidates deferring to the other, but in the end, B.J. Hallmark, retired area missionary and now associate pastor at Crossroads Memorial Baptist Church in Great Falls, topped Paul Jones, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings. Bruce Speer, pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Missoula, was elected vice president over Ken Kirby, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Billings. Executive Director Fred Hewett is the third official officer of the state convention.
A 2012 budget of $889,740 was adopted without questions or discussion, with $460,000 anticipated from Montana churches through their giving to the Cooperative Program, $364,740 from the North American Mission Board, $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $5,000 in interest/dividend income.
Montana’s percentage giving to global SBC causes through the Cooperative Program remains at 22 percent — unchanged since Montana became a fellowship in 1989. “The 2020 Vision report begins to move us toward 30 percent by the year 2020,” Hewett noted.
Speakers at the 2011 MTSBC annual meeting and the preceding pastors’ conference included Randy Davis, executive director of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, speaking on “I am a Pastor,” Doug Hutcheson recounting his deep-jungle outreach in South America as an IMB missionary and Lee Thomas of Louisiana, author of “Praying Effectively for the Lost,” as well as Hewett and the MTSBC’s outgoing president, William Johnson, pastor of Gallatin Valley Baptist Fellowship in Manhattan.
State staff also gave their reports, which included video testimonies of the ways God is working in Montana.
The 2020 Vision report was initiated last spring when Hewett directed the formation of a 12-member task force that spent about six months exploring how Montana’s Southern Baptist churches have penetrated lostness throughout the state. Task force members, in a panel presentation, said what they learned was troubling.
The 2020 Vision addresses the reality that “Montana Southern Baptists have not effectively evangelized our state and under the current structure and operations, we are making no progress toward that goal,” according to the 2020 Vision report.
Statistics compiled by 2020 Vision task force members stated the church-to-population ratio in 1990 was one church for every 7,500 state residents; in 2010 it was one church for every 7,468 members. Twenty years ago, one person was baptized for every 10.7 church members; in 2010 it took 12 members for every person baptized.
In addition, “83 percent of MTSBC churches are plateaued or in serious decline,” and “we have been slow to become engaged in the mission field here at home as well as beyond,” according to the 2020 Vision report.
The 2020 Vision report focused on the needs to penetrate lostness, engage in missions at home and abroad, and cooperate in denominational effectiveness.
“We have flatlined,” said B.G. Stumberg, pastor of Canyon Ferry Road Baptist Church in Helena. “We believe this [2020 Vision] is a way for us to reach the lost in Montana.” Every church is to be challenged to grow by 10 percent and to start at least one church by 2020, Stumberg said.
“We challenge our churches to learn missions, to give cooperatively and aggressively, and to be on mission” in Montana and across the globe, reported Darwin Scofield, pastor of Libby Baptist Church in Libby. “The Great Commission is our guiding principle.”
Daniel Lambert, pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Kalispell, noted, “The reality of where we are is unacceptable. Something has to change.” A structure needs to be built for stronger relationships, he said. “Our answer: Establishment of our LEAD networks, when we choose to relate together.” The LEAD networks provide a structure for small groups of pastors to be accountable to and encouraged by each other.
Paul Jones, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings who chaired the task force, said, “I believe we will look at what God has to do. When there are problems and hurdles to overcome, many people become fearful and only see the negative, but when we meet the challenges, this can be the finest hour for Montana Southern Baptists.”
The vote to accept the 2020 Vision passed overwhelmingly, though not unanimously. Paul Ostrander, pastor of Wicks Lane Baptist Church in Billings, said during the discussion he couldn’t endorse the measure because “it encroaches on the autonomy of local churches.”
Mike Andrews, pastor of First Baptist Church of Colstrip, said he agreed with Ostrander’s concern, but “I see this isn’t binding” on local churches.
The variety of messages added depth to Montana’s annual meeting.
“We are a blessed people; we need to be a broken people,” preached Randy Davis of Tennessee in a message from 1 Samuel 1, noting that “Hannah’s brokenness gave way to boldness,” which led to blessing.
“The reason America doesn’t have a revival is because we’re content without it,” Davis said, giving credit for the quote to Fred Wolfe, an SBC pastor for 50 years. “We have a word from God; it’s 2 Chronicles 7:14…. It’s like Jesus says, ‘Come and drink. You need me.'”
In his president’s address during the Tuesday evening outdoor barbecue, Johnson referred to the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12.
“Why do we come to Jesus?” Johnson asked. “He healed and cleansed all of them. Jesus is in the healing business. Jesus had compassion….
“If you are willing to do whatever it takes to reach Montana from this point forward,” Johnson continued, “surrender to God’s call tonight, pray for courage to carry out His plan even if you have never done it this way before, and pray that God will bring a great harvest in the days, weeks and years to come. Ten years from now, we will be able to say ‘we never saw anything like this before.'”
Hewett, speaking from Matthew 28:19-20 and from Acts 1:8, noted, “Our mission is the Great Commission; our strategy is Jesus’ strategy.
“We do not have to apologize for our mission; Jesus has delegated this mission to us,” Hewitt said. “Churches of Montana, we must expand, because we have Jesus’ power.
“It’s not about us,” Hewett continued. “It’s about expanding the reach of the Gospel…. If God isn’t satisfied, neither should we be.”
Next year’s annual meeting of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention is slated for Oct. 3-4 in Helena.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of The Montana Baptist, Louisiana Baptist Message and Dakota Baptist Connections, newsjournals for the respective state conventions.