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N.C. Baptists celebrate missions giving

GREENSBORO, N.C.(BP) — North Carolina Baptists gave more than $32 million dollars to Southern Baptist missions and ministries in the last fiscal year, leading the 42 state conventions in cooperative giving through both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering (more than $14.6 million) and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (more than $6 million).

Messengers to the 2016 Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) annual meeting, Nov. 14-15, voted to approve a budget that increases the percentage of Cooperative Program funds forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention causes for the 2017 fiscal year to 40.5 percent (or $11,417,637), representing a half-point increase over last year’s allotment. The total budget for 2017 comes to $30,375,000, which is up nearly 3 percent over 2016.

Milton A. Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer, celebrated the sacrificial giving of North Carolina Baptists in his annual report at The Sheraton Four Seasons in Greensboro.

“Financial gifts from North Carolina Baptist churches enabled us to forward the largest contributions from North Carolina Baptists to Southern Baptist causes in our history! … To God be the glory! It is our hope that this level of support for North Carolina Baptist churches will continue to grow in the coming years as North Carolina Baptists continue to embrace the importance of cooperative giving,” Hollifield said.

Rising to the occasion

The positive financial report came after a year marked by the devastation of Hurricane Matthew and the International Mission Board’s implementation of austerity measures to counteract deficit spending in previous years.

Messengers approved a goal of $2.1 million for the 2017 North Carolina Missions Offering, which supports Southern Baptist disaster relief, and collected a special offering of $6,473.96 for Hurricane Matthew relief and recovery.

Mike Sprayberry, director of North Carolina Emergency Management, expressed appreciation to North Carolina Baptists for their partnership in disaster relief and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

David Platt, IMB president, thanked North Carolina Baptists for giving and supporting the IMB as it took steps to balance the budget.

“Thank you for the way you lead your churches and the way you personally give to the Cooperative Program and to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering,” Platt said. “Thank you specifically for the way you have given over the last year as we’ve walked through some challenging days in the IMB.

“It’s in light of your giving that I’m happy to announce to you tonight that after years of spending millions more dollars than we have received, the IMB just last week approved a balanced budget for 2017, and I’m pleased to announced to you that … next year we’ll not only have a balanced budget but we will increase the number of Southern Baptist missionaries spreading the Gospel around the world,” he said as the crowd applauded.

“Thank you for clapping,” Platt said, “but I’m the one clapping for you.”

Messengers also approved a motion to designate any undesignated Cooperative Program receipts in excess of $30.375 million so that one-third goes to church planting, one-third to the Southern Baptist Convention and one-third to be divided equally among the Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina, the Biblical Recorder and Fruitland Baptist Bible College.

Making an impact

North Carolina’s annual meeting drew 1,538 messengers and 320 visitors. Its theme was taken from Luke 14:23, called “Impact: Compelling the lost to come to life.”

Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC’s Executive Committee, challenged those in attendance to turn their hearts toward collaborative missions and ministry, explaining that it is the only way to give all Southern Baptists a voice.

“Cooperative, collaborative ministry gives everybody a spot at the table and a place to do ministry,” he said, acknowledging the fact that the SBC has grown increasingly diverse, which only furthers the need for unification within the convention.

Page encouraged messengers to embrace a spirit of unity, but not for the sake of unification itself. “We must understand always the why of what we do,” Page said. “It is because of the lordship of Jesus Christ.”

Three separate times during the sessions of the annual meeting, Chris Schofield shared from Joel 2.

“Revival doesn’t start with my brother or sister, does it?” asked Schofield, director of BSC’s office of prayer. “It starts with me.”

One video related the story of how a local association uses a block party trailer to reach communities in its area. Another shared the story of a former lesbian who found a “real family” with brothers and sisters in a local church.

Schofield led messengers in prayer that God would awaken His people to the reality of His judgment.

“Most people are bored in our Baptist churches,” said J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, during one of the theme interpretation times. “They are tired of always sitting around.”

Greear stressed that the church should not be a “country club for Christians” but instead “a hospital for sinners.”

“Many of us have demonstrated we care more about our tradition than the salvation of our grandchildren,” Greear said. Church leaders need to help their people turn outward, he continued, “empowering people to carry the Gospel outside of the church.”

Schofield mentioned a couple of times that the church has a desperate need for God.

“We’re losing this culture of people to paganism,” he said. “The world is saying to your church, to us, ‘Where is your god?'”

Schofield also urged unity. “Never in recent history has there been a desperate need for the church to be revived than today,” he said. “Revival has got to start through the restoration of the spiritual life of God’s people through the power of God’s Holy Spirit. We need the Lord today. We need Him like we’ve never needed Him before. If we’re ever going to impact lostness in this culture, the church must be restored through revival and awakening.”

Schofield noted, “There’s apathy and complacency, and churches aren’t concerned about what concerns the heart of God. We must weep over the spiritual famine that is in the land.”

Remembering the past, looking to the future

Messengers approved a resolution of appreciation to Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library for maintaining the largest collection of historical documents related to the work and ministry of North Carolina Baptist churches. The resolution acknowledges the library’s effort to digitize thousands of documents, making them available to researchers online. Special recognition was given to the library’s director of special collections and archives, Tanya Zanish-Belcher, and a copy of the resolution will be presented to both the university’s president and the dean of the Z. Smith Reynold’s Library.

When convention President Timmy Blair opened the floor for miscellaneous business, Nicholas M. Muteti, senior pastor of Forestville Baptist Church in Wake Forest, asked that the board consider creating a better strategy to bring about diversity within the convention and the SBC.

“For the last 19 years, I’ve been attending this convention, and every year I look around and don’t see enough work done for the diversity of the local church,” Muteti said, expressing a desire for a new strategy for reaching minorities across the state.

Muteti’s sentiments will be shared with the board during its next meeting.

Convention business

Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church was elected as BSCNC president. Mark Harris, a messenger from First Baptist Church Charlotte, nominated McGill. He ran unopposed.

Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church, was elected first vice-president. Stephens ran unopposed and was nominated by Rick Speas, messenger from Old Town Baptist Church in Winston-Salem.

J.D. Grant, pastor of Scotts Creek Baptist Church in Sylva, was elected second vice-president over David Ethridge, minister to young adults at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh. Grant was nominated by Perry Brindley, messenger from Pole Creek Baptist Church in Candler. Shannon Scott, messenger from Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Raleigh, nominated Ethridge.

Messengers approved four motions that amend portions of the convention’s bylaws. The approved changes provide greater flexibility in scheduling Board of Directors’ meetings; eliminate limitations on employees, trustees and directors of affiliated educational institutions from serving as members of committees and boards for the convention and related entities; clarify the roles of members elected to the Committee on Convention Meetings; and address sections of the bylaws to provide consistency, clarity and correction where needed.

The 2017 BSC annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 6-7 in Greensboro, and will include a special prayer service as the convention sermon.