LAS CRUCES, N.M. (BP)–New Mexico Baptists, meeting Oct. 28-29 at First Baptist Church in Las Cruces, were reminded of the message they have been commissioned to proclaim across their state and to the ends of the earth.
The theme for the 97th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico was “3:16 — The Numbers of Hope.” A total of 315 messengers from 113 churches were registered for the event, according to Cricket Pairett, the convention’s assistant recording secretary. A total of 503 people were present for the convention’s highest-attended session Tuesday evening.
The final hour of the four-session convention was devoted to a multimedia presentation of the musical “3:16 — The Numbers of Hope,” which is published by LifeWay Christian Resources and based on Max Lucado’s book of the same title.
A mass choir from churches across the state, during which the BCNM Executive Director Joseph Bunce presented the salvation message of John 3:16.
At the close of the previous evening’s session, Bunce had encouraged New Mexico Baptists to love people like God does, urging them to invite the tired, the poor and even the outcasts of society to trust in Christ — keeping “the main thing the main thing.”
“I pray that we, as a convention, will love people more than anything,” Bunce said. When he extended an altar call, many attendees moved to the front of the auditorium and fell to their knees in prayer and commitment.
The convention’s outgoing president, Rick Sullivan, used his President’s Address to recount this past summer’s final project of New Mexico Baptists’ four-year mission partnership with Baptists in Maranhão state, Brazil.
Sullivan, pastor of First Baptist Church in Artesia, said John 3:16 should give believers a sense of urgency and a burden for those who are hopeless. “We must have a clear sense of priority,” he said and he urged the state’s Baptists to be “rescuers.”
During the annual sermon, Steve Kulback, pastor of First Baptist Church in Logan, reminded convention participants that “God’s grace is proactive” and Christians’ possession of eternal life is guaranteed.
Acknowledging that life “is full of letdowns,” Kulback encouraged members of the state’s second-largest faith group to remember that one day there will be no more trials. He concluded his message by leading everyone in singing “What a Day That Will Be.”
HUNT, BLACKABY, IORG
Further supporting the call to proclaim the message of John 3:16 were Southern Baptist leaders Johnny Hunt, Richard Blackaby and Jeff Iorg.
“Whatever we’re passionate about is what our people will be passionate about,” said Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Despite the radical change Jesus brings to the lives of those he saves, it is possible for a believer’s soul to become consumed by trouble, Hunt said. He reminded his audience that they are, nevertheless, “not without answers” and “not without truth” and urged them to pray Psalm 119:88 — “Breathe into me life-giving, transforming power.”
Pastors can work so hard trying to lead their churches that they forget God is for them and loves them, Richard Blackaby said during the first of two Bible studies he led during the convention.
Blackaby, president of Blackaby Ministries International of Greenville, S.C., said God has deeply impressed upon him his responsibility to model God’s love for people who have seen and experienced little of it.
“Unbelief robs people” of what God offers them, Blackaby said the next day. He urged New Mexico Baptists to pray, “Take my faith to another level.”
“Any category (of people) you can think of,” God loves them all, said Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., during the convention’s final session.
“God loves them enough to take action,” Iorg said, urging Baptists to wrap their “ARMS” around people: Accepting them as they are, Reaching them where they live, Meeting their needs with “reckless abandon” and Sharing the Gospel message with them.
Close to 1,000 people attended five evangelistic events during the Crossover evangelism effort, held the weekend prior to the state convention. Assisting six Las Cruces-area churches in the initiative were the Baptist Student Union of New Mexico State University, Rio Grande Baptist Association and the state convention.
At least 400 youths and young adults attended a concert featuring recording artists Steve Fee, Meredith Andrews and Phil Wickham at NMSU’s outdoor amphitheater on Friday evening, and 68 of those young people indicated they prayed to receive God’s gift of salvation.
Another 25 people professed faith in Jesus Christ during Crossover block parties.
The convention was preceded by the annual meeting of New Mexico Baptists’ Woman’s Missionary Union, the Pastors’/Laymen’s Annual Meeting and the state convention’s annual missions banquet.
Messengers zipped through each of the convention’s business sessions, passing every recommendation without questions, discussion or opposition.
Elected by acclamation as officers for the coming year were Bruce Kirby, pastor of First Baptist Church in Raton, president; Garland Moore, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Milan, first vice president; and Gavin Vaughan of Hermosa Drive Baptist Church in Artesia, second vice president.
Messengers also approved nominees for state convention boards and committees, as well as the largest budget in the convention’s history, which will require $4.47 million in Cooperative Program receipts from the churches, an increase of $81,632, or 1.86 percent, over the current budget.
The 2009 budget includes a 4 percent increase in salaries for BCNM employees.
After the exception of $41,426 for exempt obligations (post-retirement benefits, church-retirement plan, Baptist Building note and notes payable minus additional lease income) is applied, 30.5 percent of the Cooperative Program receipts, an estimated $1.35 million, will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministry causes. No increase in the percentage was proposed for next year.
The remaining 69.5 percent — $3.08 million — along with additional income of $1,928,397 from various sources — will be used to support a total operating budget of $5.05 million for Southern Baptist work in New Mexico.
Messengers also approved amendments to the articles of incorporation of Inlow Baptist Camp and Conference Center and the New Mexico Baptist Foundation and Church Finance Corporation.
The Inlow amendment reduces from nine to six the number of consecutive years a board member may serve before having to rotate off for one year. The foundation amendment grants the organization permission to reduce the number of its board members from 21 to as few as 15.
Messengers approved four resolutions this year:
— Expressing appreciation to the host churches for the convention and pre-convention meetings.
— Expressing appreciation for Dayton King and Kelly May of the convention’s evangelism/discipleship team, who ended their years of service with the convention that week.
— Commending and encouraging the work of New Mexico Baptist disaster relief volunteers.
— Urging themselves “to lovingly proclaim (God’s) Word, to demonstrate His love for our neighbors in tangible ways and to build relationships with them that will enable us to introduce them to His amazing grace …”
Las Cruces music ministers Gregg Higgins of Calvary Baptist Church and Mike Edwards of First Baptist Church led music for the convention sessions. The New Mexico Singing Churchmen, led by David Red of the convention’s leadership development team, opened the Tuesday evening session with a concert.
Hal Hill, manager of LifeWay Christian Resources’ national conference center at Glorieta, invited participants to attend the 2009 annual meeting, which is scheduled to be held at the conference center Oct. 27-28.
Outgoing president Sullivan closed the convention by urging the messengers to “deploy to share the Good News.” Incoming president Kirby gaveled the meeting into adjournment and closed the convention’s 97th annual meeting in prayer.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican (bcnm.com), newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.