RENO, Nev. (BP) — With “Advance” as its theme and Mark 16:15 — Go into all the world and preach the gospel — as its guiding Scripture passage, the Nevada Baptist Convention’s annual meeting reflected the energy of a state convention focused on “reaching the lost; making disciples who make disciples,” Executive Director Kevin White reported.
The 2017 budget of $2,139,354 is an increase of $159,108 over the current budget of $1,980,170 last year. The 2017 budget includes $1,067,154 in Cooperative Program giving from churches, $1,006,000 from the North American Mission Board for church planting, $65,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $1,200 in interest income.
Nevada’s Cooperative Program giving to SBC entities remains unchanged at 50 percent for the next year, though interest in increasing it in the future was expressed, White said.
“We’re looking at a new initiative to reach the next generation — youth and collegiate-age students — to engage them to be disciples who make disciples,” White said. “We want to see more indigenous Nevadans surrendering to the Gospel ministry as pastors, planters and missionaries. We want to be engaging them at an early age to find God’s call on their lives and help them on that journey.”
Worship, celebration and fellowship were paramount during the convention’s Oct. 18-19 sessions, attended by 124 messengers from 51 of Nevada’s 202 churches, at South Reno Baptist Church where Joe Taylor is pastor.
Messengers also passed two key resolutions:
— On political involvement: Since “the Scriptures adjure Christians to be involved as citizens in the public square,” messengers urged “our churches, as they are led by their pastors … [to] engage in the political process by researching the candidates and ballot questions,” helping their members vote “to reflect Biblical values in the upcoming election.”
— On marijuana: Messengers urged a “No” vote on recreational marijuana legalization Nov. 8 because it is “a mind-altering drug and is far more potent than the marijuana of generations past” and a “gateway drug, leading to and encouraging the use of even more powerful drugs.” Messengers noted that “no tax revenue from the sale of legalized recreational marijuana has been earmarked for the establishment and maintenance of a public health framework needed to restrict youth access, enforce clean indoor air statutes and reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, and address workplace and motor vehicle safety issues.” And the resolution stated that “the promised financial and social benefits to the states that have already legalized marijuana have failed to produce the promised results.”
In new business, Nevada messengers approved a four-year partnership with the International Mission Board’s Northern Africa/Middle East (NAME) team to help with work among people arriving from Syria, Iraq and Libya to refugee camps in Turkey, Greece, Italy and Germany.
“We have missionaries on furlough here, where the wife grew up in Nevada,” White said. “We thought it would be awesome for Nevada to have a partnership with one of our missionaries” involved in “engaging refugees with the Gospel.” An added goal of the partnership, he said, is “helping our churches have a stronger global vision.”
In other new business, a motion was passed to form a committee to track legislative bills and pass on to churches items of particular interest.
Ted Angle, a layman at Fellowship Community Church in Reno, was elected president by acclamation. A retired natural resource specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, Angle was the state convention’s vice president the previous two years. Damian Cirincione, executive pastor at Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas, was elected vice president by acclamation. He served on the state convention’s executive board the last two years.
Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, and Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary (formerly Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary) in metro Los Angeles were guest speakers.
Rob Boyd, pastor of Green Valley Baptist Church in Henderson, metro Las Vegas, brought the annual sermon.
“The theme of our convention was ‘Advance,'” Boyd said. “As pastors, we are called to advance the Kingdom of God. So what does it mean to advance? The best analogy I find is in John 15 where Jesus tells us to bear fruit. And to whom do we bear fruit? By abiding in the vine. Just as a branch receives its nutrients from abiding in the vine, so we receive our strength by abiding in Christ.
“Our human tendency is to be independent and rely on our own strength, but the Bible tells us to be dependent,” Boyd continued. “Just as a branch is totally dependent on the vine, so we should be totally dependent on Christ. For when we abide in Christ we will bear much fruit and advance the Kingdom of God.”
Eleven churches were added to the Nevada Baptist Convention. The 202 churches worship in a variety of cultural contexts: American, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Cambodian, Thai, Vietnamese, Haitian (French), Filipino, Pakistani, Mynamar, Iranian, Brazilian, Romanian, and Native American.
“It was just a great spirit,” White said of the annual meeting. “I had several who hadn’t been to the convention in a long time, who said you could really feel the spirit when you walked in the door, and it was really nice to feel that.
“It was a thrill for me to see the number of young guys who hadn’t been there before, planters. That was a blessing,” the executive director continued. “Another blessing for me was that one of our church plants, a year and a half old, was number 14 in Cooperative Program giving in Nevada — Liberate Church, pastor Brett Capaci, in North Las Vegas.”
The pre-event for the Nevada convention was a pastors and wives dinner on Monday evening at the Atlantis in Reno, attended by about 110 couples.
“We called it a ‘Coming Home Dinner,'” White told Baptist Press. “We did this instead of a pastors’ conference; we’re trying to do some different things.
“It was a good time of fellowship and testimonies talking about God’s faithfulness,” he said. “Pastors have expressed a joy in and desire to hear what God is doing around Nevada.”
Commenting on the convention in its Nevada context, White told Baptist Press, “We’re about 18-19 percent ahead of budget so far this year; the churches’ Annie Armstrong Easter Offering was up by 6 percent; the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering also was up with a goal of $175,000; and the Silver State Mission Offering goal of $25,000 was met in January and eventually reached $33,800.
“We’re getting back into the boom again; Reno and Vegas are growing rapidly again,” White said, referring to the state’s overall economy. “But I believe it [the state convention’s financial growth] is because of some of the moves we as a convention have made.
“Going 50-50 with SBC entities and getting more of the funds that come into the state back to the churches that are the frontline of ministry has really paid dividends,” White said. “They see the benefits of the Cooperative Program more.”
The pastor of one church strongly opposed to traditional Southern Baptist ways of working together lamented to White a lack of finances was stalling church members’ desire to give local teachers a care basket as a community outreach, White said. The state convention provided the money out of the Silver State Mission Offering, a fund that helps churches reach out in their communities, and “that pastor has said, ‘That act changed my church. It really showed the love of Jesus to our community,'” White recounted.
“That’s the kind of stuff we’re trying to do,” White said. “The main focus of our convention has not changed: church planting and church revitalization.”
The Nevada convention’s 2017 annual meeting is set for Oct. 17-18 at Life Baptist Church in Las Vegas, where Paul Gotthardt is pastor.