FARMINGTON, N.M. (BP) — New Mexico Baptists were urged repeatedly to get on God’s “Highway to Holiness” during the annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington Oct. 25-26.
Isaiah 35:8-10 was the basis for the convention’s theme, and BCNM President R. Maurice Hollingsworth led times of prayer for holiness during each of the convention’s three sessions.
The convention was preceded on Tuesday morning by the WMU Missions Celebration and the Pastors’/Laymen’s Conference and by a Missions Fair and the BCNM’s Missions Celebration Banquet the night before.
Registering for the convention were 241 messengers from 89 churches and 76 of their guests. Approximately 330 congregations with nearly 59,000 resident members are affiliated with the BCNM.
Messengers from six churches that had never had messengers seated at a BCNM meeting were seated at this year’s annual meeting.
Leading worship throughout the convention was This Hope, a group of five native Alaskans now based in Woodstock, Ga.
HIGHWAY TO HOLINESS
It is easier to sing and preach about holiness than it is to practice it, Jim Shaddix said in the first of his two messages during the convention.
Referencing the high standard Jesus set in Matthew 5:17-48, the pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver called holiness “a subject of great importance.”
Holiness requires Christians not only to separate themselves from certain things but to be “conformed to the life and mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Shaddix said during his message the following morning.
“If it meant a cross for [Jesus], it means a cross for us,” Shaddix said, adding that the Gospel should define Christ followers “24/7.”
During the convention’s annual sermon, Albuquerque pastor Larry Miller told messengers, “You are an Isaiah.”
Emphasizing that every Christian is called by God, the pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church encouraged them to revisit that call and to remember special moments in God’s presence.
God calls believers today, like He called Isaiah, to preach not what they want to preach but what God wants them to preach, “out of the fear, … reverence … holy awe” of God, Miller said.
Hollingsworth, during the president’s address, used Jesus’ story in Luke 18, contrasting the prayer of a proud Pharisee with that of a humble publican, to illustrate what a truly holy person will look like.
“Not a one of us deserves to be in this place,” said Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces. “We are all sinners,” he stressed, warning against forgetting “the pain of lostness.”
STATE AND NATIONAL LEADERS
While New Mexico Baptists “have been blessed with unprecedented harmony,” their state convention “is in process of incredible change,” BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce said during his annual report and challenge.
As the state’s Baptists carry out their commitment to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, it is important that they not forget New Mexico, Bunce said.
He addressed “seismic shifts” with which New Mexico Baptists have to deal:
— The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report that was adopted by the Southern Baptist Convention last year. Its implementation, Bunce said, has resulted in a reduction in funding from the North American Mission Board, requiring the state’s Baptists to become more responsible for the future of their convention.
— The recent decision to reduce ministries at the SBC’s national conference center at Glorieta. “But that doesn’t mean God is through with Glorieta,” Bunce said, adding that he has learned there is no reversionary clause to ensure that ownership of the property given by the BCNM to the SBC’s Sunday School Board (now LifeWay Christian Resources) would revert back to the BCNM if it ever ceases to be used for Southern Baptist ministry.
— The crisis of struggling pastors and wives, which, Bunce said, is more serious than the Glorieta issue.
— The unhealthy “culture of instant rebuttal” that has spilled into denominations and churches.
— Older adults who are “unchangeable and unmovable” and younger adults who are “disengaged.”
— Today’s scoreboard for churches and ministries being “the matrix of success rather than significance.”
— A shortage of pastors on the horizon.
In response to those challenges, Bunce said New Mexico Baptists must love the Lord their God with their entire being, make disciples and be holy.
The Great Commission does not say to go and plant churches or have great events, Bunce said. Those, he explained, are byproducts of a disciple-making process.
“These are great days of opportunity,” Bunce said, calling attention to Isaiah 35:4, which promises God’s coming presence, that His purpose is to defeat wickedness and that the result will be salvation.
Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board, said during the convention’s opening message, “We have to do something about penetrating darkness.”
Southern Baptists must “intentionally plant churches,” Ezell said, noting that while high-population areas must be targeted, NAMB is committed to partnering with Baptists in New Mexico and every state to plant churches.
“What is your missions legacy?” Ezell asked each individual to consider.
The Apostle Paul’s word to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-24 is relevant to believers today, Ezell said. It is about loving people, he said, closing his message by challenging New Mexico Baptists to be “faithful and focused,” like Paul expressed in verse 24.
Messengers moved quickly through the convention’s business sessions, easily passing each recommendation.
The Baptist New Mexican saw no opposition to items of business except one person who raised his nametag to vote against a recommendation related to the future of LifeWay Christian Resources’ conference center at Glorieta.
Resolutions Committee chairman Jay McCollum, pastor of First Baptist Church in Gallup, called the resolution “the Battle of Glorieta Pass” when presenting it to messengers during the convention’s closing session.
The resolution was New Mexico Baptists’ response to the decision in September by LifeWay trustees to begin offering only summer events for students and to pursue “viable options for the disposition of the property ….”
Significant changes in church practices, continued rising fuel and utility costs, Glorieta’s remote location, an aging infrastructure, a volatile economy, and changes in state convention structures have combined to make financial viability increasingly difficult at Glorieta, Jerry Rhyne, vice president of LifeWay’s finance and business services division and chief financial officer, told trustees at the time.
As a summer-only facility, Glorieta will reduce its staff from 23 to seven employees. During summer operations, the regular summer workforce will continue to be aided by summer staffers and volunteers. The LifeWay Christian Store on location ceased operation Nov. 1.
In the resolution’s resolve, “New Mexico Baptists strongly urge the Southern Baptist Convention and LifeWay Christian Resources to insure that Glorieta continues its vital ministry to the people known as Southern Baptists now and well into the future or until Jesus returns.”
Messengers not only raised their nametags, they spontaneously stood in enthusiastically applauding passage of the resolution, which had 12 “whereases” including:
— BCNM messengers in 1947 unanimously voted to purchase property that would become “the Western Assembly known as Glorieta”;
— New Mexico Baptists held the first camp at Glorieta the following year;
— The property was deeded to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Sunday School Board (now LifeWay) in 1950 “with the intent that a great Baptist training center would be established and maintained in the West”;
— “Baptists’ sacrificial investment of millions of dollars has contributed to the growth of Glorieta,” which “should continue so the lives of future generations will be impacted for the cause of Christ”;
— Glorieta has operated for 63 years “for the glory of God.”
Messengers also approved a resolution of support for legislation that would require notification of parents before minor girls could abort their unborn children.
Speaking to the resolution, Resolutions Committee member Sid West, pastor of First Baptist Church in Bosque Farms, noted that girls in New Mexico need parental consent to have their ears pierced or take an aspirin but not to abort their baby.
West urged passage of the resolution “for the sake of the baby in the womb” who, he said, is pleading with New Mexico Baptists for help.
The first resolution passed expressed appreciation for Emmanuel and First Baptist Churches in Farmington and First Baptist Church in Bloomfield for hosting events related to the annual gathering of New Mexico Baptists.
Messengers reelected convention officers by acclamation — president, R. Maurice Hollingsworth, pastor of First Baptist Church in Las Cruces; first vice president, Gary Wolfe, pastor of First Baptist Church in Otis; and second vice president, Kevin Parker, pastor of First Baptist in Aztec.
Messengers also approved a BCNM budget for 2012, which is 6.1 percent smaller than the 2011 budget but increases the percentage of Cooperative Program receipts to be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention after funds necessary for “shared ministries” are removed, from 30.5 in 2011 to 35 percent in 2012.
The last time the percentage was changed was in 1990, when it was raised from 30 percent to 30.5 percent.
The 2012 budget will require $3,963,043 in Cooperative Program receipts from New Mexico Baptist churches, a reduction of just over $47,000, or 1.17 percent, from the amount called for in the current budget.
While no increases in salaries for BCNM employees are included, the board’s chairman, Lamar Morin, told messengers that raises would be considered next year in light of CP receipts.
After an estimated $917,652 for shared ministries is deducted from CP contributions the BCNM receives next year, 35 percent of the remaining CP receipts, an estimated $1,065,887, will be forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministry.
The remaining 65 percent, $1,979,504, along with the amount that had been deducted for shared ministries and additional income of $1,604,233 from various sources — including BCNM camps, BCNM children and student conferences, Baptist New Mexican subscriptions and advertising and the SBC’s North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources — will be used to support a total operating budget of $4,501,389 for mission work in New Mexico.
New Mexico Baptists will celebrate the BCNM’s 100th birthday at next year’s annual meeting, Oct. 23-24 at First Baptist Church in Clovis, where the convention was birthed on June 19, 1912.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.