GREENSBORO, N.C.(BP) — North Carolina Baptists approved an increase to their Cooperative Program budget and affirmed a resolution addressing ministry among immigrants during their annual meeting Nov. 2-3 in Greensboro.
A total of 1,518 messengers, plus 234 guests, rallied around this year’s theme, “Echo: Reproducing Gospel Life in Others.” The theme was taken from 2 Timothy 2:2 that describes how making disciples is a recurring process that is passed from one person to another and continues for generations: “what you have heard from me … entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Messengers approved a $29.5 million budget for 2016, representing a $500,000 rise over the current fiscal year. During last year’s meeting, messengers approved a reduced budget of $29 million — $1 million less than the 2014 budget. For the past 10 years, North Carolina Baptists have increased by a half-percent each year the amount of money allocated from their budget that goes to Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program. The 2016 budget includes a 3 percentage point increase, moving the total allotment from 37 to 40 percent ($11.8 million). The budget does not designate any shared expenses with the SBC.
“There have been hours invested in prayer and preparation spent looking through the lens of how our Cooperative Program dollars can be used effectively to impact lostness through disciple-making in North Carolina and throughout the world,” said Tony Honeycutt, chairman of the Budget Special Committee, according to a Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC) press release.
After presenting the budget for approval, Perry Brindley, president of the Board of Directors, opened the floor for discussion. Rodney Baker, pastor of Coats Baptist Church, asked Brindley to make a suggestion to the BSCNC’s executive committee (EC) to set aside $1 million in BSCNC reserve funds “to facilitate returning [International Mission Board] missionaries as church planters or church revitalizers.”
David Platt, IMB president, announced a plan on Aug. 27 to draw down 600-800 IMB staff and missionaries as part of a financial overhaul of the organization. One component of that plan includes a voluntary retirement incentive for missionaries age 50 and older that meet specific criteria. It is likely that some missionaries accepting the retirement offer will relocate from the international mission field to North Carolina.
The convention’s financial policy states that a particular reserve account, overseen by the state’s EC, is required to maintain an amount that ranges from 10-20 percent of the budget. The account currently holds slightly more than $4 million, about $1 million more than the required minimum. Baker wants EC members to allocate that overage to help returning missionaries become involved in ministry across the state.
“Their assistance to reach the people groups among us in North Carolina would be greatly beneficial,” Baker said.
Brindley acknowledged the request, but protocol required no action by the EC or convention messengers at that time.
Building healthy churches & reaching nations
In a move that advances the convention’s mission strategy — “Impacting lostness through disciple-making” — Milton Hollifield Jr., BSCNC executive director-treasurer announced a new initiative to help weak and dying local churches become healthy and vibrant. Hollifield received approval Nov. 2 by the EC to create a ministry team titled “Church Health and Revitalization Team.”
“The local church is the key for us as a convention of churches to be able to impact lostness through disciple-making,” Hollifield said. “Growing healthy, outwardly focused, disciple-making churches throughout North Carolina is necessary to seeing this strategic mission accomplished.”
Chuck Register, BSCNC executive leader for church planting and missions partnerships, announced an initiative to aid churches as they try to reach people with the Gospel in the 154 distinct people groups now living in the state. Peoples Next Door N.C. provides resources at peoplesnextdoornc.org on how to discover, engage and share Christ with internationals living in U.S. communities.
“God in His sovereignty has brought the world to our doorstep,” Register said. “He has given us the opportunity to reach some of the most unreached peoples of the world and to reach them right here in our cities, in our towns and in our neighborhoods. We can reach them here, and as we reach them here, we can watch the Gospel flow through them back to their homelands.”
Messengers affirmed a resolution addressing ministry among immigrants, stating “that local churches should seek to encourage distinctly biblical responses to the realities of immigration, framing our individual and corporate responses to the immigrants among us as a matter of Christian discipleship that should be informed, first and foremost, by the principles of Scripture.”
Jarrod Scott, pastor of Green Pines Baptist Church in Knightdale and author of the “Resolution on impacting lostness among immigrants,” addressed messengers from the floor of the convention, saying, “the call here is not to necessarily look at [immigration] just as every American might look at this, but to look at this like Christ has asked us to look at it.”
The BSCNC’s Executive Committee voted during their Nov. 2 meeting to reclassify a current staff position to reach the state’s rising Hispanic population. Antonio Santos, current leader of the church strengthening team, will fill the Hispanic strategy coordinator position, which will be assigned to the strategic focus team.
About 176 messengers and visitors attended the Heavenly Banquet on Nov. 3. People of Vietnamese, Chinese, Filipino, Hispanic and other cultures and ethnicities gathered to celebrate diversity and making disciples among all people groups. A band from Christ Community Fellowship Church, a Congolese congregation that meets at Open Door Church in Raleigh, led a time of worship through music. They sang in both English and French.
Ken Tan, consultant for leadership development, said he tries to invite a speaker of a different nationality every year. On this ninth year of the banquet, Ed Tablazon, pastor of Triad Journey Church, a Filipino-international congregation in Winston-Salem, shared the message.
He encouraged the attendees to multiply disciples of all peoples through relationships with Christ and with others, being transformed in maturing faith and reproducing one’s self in new disciples.
“Disciple-making, before it is a task, is a call to a relationship with Christ,” Tablazon said. He explained that discipleship is rooted in following Jesus, not a program, pointing to Matthew 4:19, “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'”
Cooperating for effective ministry
Each of the three current convention officers were reelected to their positions for the following year. Timmy Blair Sr., pastor of Piney Grove Chapel Baptist Church in Angier, will continue to serve as president for 2016; Cameron McGill, pastor of Dublin First Baptist Church, will serve as first vice president; and Joel Stephens, pastor of Westfield Baptist Church, will serve as second vice president.
Three motions were approved by messengers. Two of them increased attendance requirements for board and committee members. A third motion extended the ability for the Committee on Convention Meetings to request a speaker for the annual meeting from one year in advance to two.
Another resolution passed by messengers expressed appreciation for the late Hal Younts, who restored and maintained the 1802 Sandy Creek Baptist Church Meeting House, considered a vital piece of Baptist history.
The BSCNC Historical Committee led a tour of Sandy Creek Baptist Church during the two-day annual meeting. Nathan Morton, chairman of the historical committee, said the committee is more active than ever.
“True history seeks to record, preserve and state the events, personalities and the facts of the past to the same degree and in the same light in which they occurred,” he said.
The committee has:
— begun the application process with the state of North Carolina to place historical markers commemorating key events, places and personalities relating to N.C. Baptists.
— begun to take more active role of the Baptist collection held at Wake Forest University.
— launched pilot program of an online tool to assist all North Carolina Baptists in recording, preserving and writing their own local church histories.
— begun what it hopes to be annual tours of the Sandy Creek Baptist Church, which has historical significance for Southern Baptists and North Carolinians.
Morton announced Calvary Baptist Church in Mount Airy as this year’s historical writing award recipient for its book, “To God Be the Glory: the Centennial History of Calvary Baptist Church 1913-2013.”
Lee Pigg, pastor of Hopewell Baptist Church in Monroe, preached the convention sermon, calling fellow North Carolina Baptists to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples.
“We’ve been focusing for a long time as Baptists on making converts instead of making disciples,” he said in the closing session. “A convert in my definition is someone who simply does not want to go to hell. But a disciple is someone who is willing to follow Christ.”
The 2016 annual meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14-15 in Greensboro. David Platt is scheduled as next year’s convention speaker.