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Okla. baptisms up 6.7% in ’09

MOORE, Okla. (BP)–Oklahoma Baptists reversed a four-year downward baptism trend in 2009, registering 14,569 baptisms, up 6.7 percent from the previous year.

It was “the largest jump since 1999,” Randall Adams, leader of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s church outreach team, said during a state evangelism conference at First Baptist Church in Moore.

“We had a small increase two or three years ago, but it was only 100 baptisms,” Adams said. “It has been 10 years since we’ve had a large increase.”

Adams said he believes the BGCO’s partnerships with associations across the state played a major role in the increase.

“Whenever we do associational partnerships, we work together to develop strategies to start new churches, do evangelism and promote Sunday School growth,” he explained. “We sit down at a table together with directors of missions and pastors to pray and see what their dreams are that they don’t think they can do for whatever reason, maybe finances for example. Then we’re able to help some of them see those plans and dreams come true. Even in these last four years of [baptism] decline, we have seen increases in those particular associations.”

Three individuals were honored with a Faithful Sower Award in Evangelism during the Oklahoma convention’s Jan. 25-26 “Take It Personally” conference. The award is presented annually to individuals who have done something extraordinary in evangelism or who have led their church to do something extraordinary in evangelism.

Honorees this year are James Cline, a member of First Baptist Church in Antlers; Billy Morgan, pastor of Freedom Biker Church in Duncan, and Estelle Teeter, a member of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.

Cline, a meth dealer, went to church eight years ago after his children begged him to go.

“I was so high on meth, I didn’t think God could touch me, but halfway through the sermon, I walked down to the preacher and told him I needed to be saved,” Cline said. “I am now dealing a new drug called Jesus.”

Cline started a dirt track race team, and last year, 25 members of the team were saved.

Morgan’s biker church was started in a machine shop with 13 people, growing to more than 500 people in worship in late January. Morgan said the church, which welcomes sex offenders, alcoholics, those living in adultery and homosexuals, baptized 83 during the October 2008-September 2009 reporting period, and an additional 36 people since last October.

Teeter, 86, is involved in after-school tutoring and teaches a class of the oldest members in her church. Just last month, a 95-year-old woman from the class was baptized. Teeter has been reading God’s Word daily since July 7, 1938.

Also recognized were churches and associations who were leaders in baptisms (total and ratio of resident members to baptisms) during 2009, by category of resident membership.

Leaders in total baptisms during the 2009 church year, with resident membership range in parenthesis, were Fairfield Baptist in Stilwell (1-99), 27; First Baptist in Cole (100-199), 50; Freedom Biker in Duncan (200-399), 83; First Baptist in Fort Gibson (400-699), 63; Timothy Baptist in Muskogee (700-1,499), 87; and Church at Battle Creek in Broken Arrow (1,500-plus), 324.

Leaders in baptisms in ratio of resident members were Gans Baptist (1-99), 1.86; First Baptist in Cole (100-199), 2.8; Freedom Biker in Duncan (200-399), 2.7; First Baptist in Fort Gibson (400-699), 9.14; Timothy Baptist in Muskogee (700-1,400), 12.01; Church at Battle Creek in Broken Arrow (1,500-plus), 4.70.

Leaders among Baptist associations in the state were the Capital Baptist Association with 2,233 baptisms and, in ratio of resident members, Johnston-Marshall Baptist Association, 18.81, and Cherokee Native American Baptist Association, 12.09.

Baptism statistics for the Southern Baptist Convention, along with the number of churches and members and other statistics, are released each April from Annual Church Profile information filed by SBC churches.
Reported by the staff of the Baptist Messenger (www.baptistmessenger.com), newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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