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Mont. Baptists to sell site, stay in Billings

[SLIDESHOW=41568,41569]BOZEMAN, Mont. (BP) — Montana Baptists are downsizing from their Billings headquarters for a building to better accommodate their smaller, less centralized staff, messengers voted at their 2015 annual meeting.

Fred Hewett, Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) executive director, said the current site is too large, as the office staff has decreased from about 12 to three since 2008.

“Fewer jointly funded missionaries and then dispersing them around the state so they would be more accessible to the field is why the building is today too large for us,” Hewett told Baptist Press. “But to be good stewards of the building, we decided to sell it and reallocate those equity dollars to a smaller building and … other mission endeavors here in Montana.”

The building is currently on the market and a new site will be chosen after the sale, Hewett said. The proposal to relocate specifies that the state office will remain in Billings.

“Beyond the Status Quo” was the theme for the meeting Oct. 6-7 at Crossroads Church in Bozeman. In his message, MTSBC President Bruce Speer encouraged pastors to become a “change agent” for church growth, rather than being stuck in complacency.

“The Bible defines faithfulness in John 15 as fruitfulness,” Speer told messengers. “Showing up is not faithfulness. Faithfulness is producing something. And the one thing God wants me to produce more than anything else is reaching lost people.”

In business sessions, messengers approved a 2016 budget of $1,353,000, anticipating $542,000 in Cooperative Program funds from participating churches. The state will forward 25 percent of CP receipts, or $135,000, to Southern Baptist Convention national and international causes, the same percentage forwarded in 2015.

The 2016 budget is slightly less than the $1,140,000 budget that messengers approved in 2015, but anticipates a growth in CP giving of about $19,000.

“Our CP giving in 2015 was the best CP year we’ve ever had,” Hewett said, “and it exceeded our CP giving of 2014, which had been our previous best year we’ve ever had.”

Newly elected officers are president Darren Hales, MTSBC church strategies team member and pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, and vice president Lee Merck from Church of The Rockies in Red Lodge.

Messengers approved a new MTSBC staff position for 2016, a next generation ministry director, to help churches reach and disciple teenagers and young adults.

“If we’re truly going to reach this state for the glory of God, we’ve got to do a better job of reaching the next generation,” Hewett said.

As the new MTSBC president, Hales hopes to energize Montana Southern Baptists.

“I just want to be a great cheerleader for our convention,” Hales said. “I just want to be an encouragement to our pastors, to our churches, to the people of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention … to see how I can pray for them [and] walk alongside them.”

Outgoing president Bruce Speer accepted a plaque of appreciation from Tennessee Baptist Convention Executive Director Randy Davis in commemoration of 10 years of partnership between the two state groups.

In addition to Speer, Davis and Hewett, annual meeting guest speakers included Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Theological Seminary; Frank Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee; Daniel Lambert, senior pastor of Easthaven Baptist Church in Kalispell; B.J. Hallmark, associational coordinator of the Triangle Baptist Association; and Darwin Payton, director of mission for Yellowstone Association and pastor of The Rock Church in Laurel.

Pastors and other church leaders said they left the meeting feeling encouraged, motivated and challenged.

“There’s such a spirit of harmony and a spirit of unity here,” Merck said, “and it’s a great atmosphere for worshipping the Lord, and a lot of encouragement.”

Jacob Oiler, in his first annual meeting, was encouraged by leaders’ willingness to share ideas.

“People here are so transparent in the way they talk about their experiences … Each person goes up, goes to their Bible, and it all comes back to ‘we all do this because of the lost.’ So all of these meetings and all of these programs are all because of the lost — and that’s so important,” Oiler said. “I love how it always comes back to that.”

All MTSBC annual meeting messages and business sessions are available to watch on the Montana E-quip website at Montana.e-quip.net.