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DEL CITY, Okla. (BP)–More than 4,000 Oklahoma Baptists celebrated their heritage through 100 years of ministry during a centennial celebration Nov. 14 at First Southern Baptist Church in Del City.
Gene McFall, portraying Oklahoma’s favorite son Will Rogers, was at center stage, guiding the program through a parade of choirs, music and ministry highlights from the last 100 years.
McFall, who carried a rope through the presentation, told the crowd at the conclusion that just as a rope is an essential tool for a cowboy, the Cooperative Program is an essential tool for Oklahoma Baptists.
“The Cooperative Program is the rope, the lifeline, which supports our mission efforts all around the world,” McFall pointed out. “As you leave tonight, each of you will be given a strand of rope. As you hold it in your hand, remember you hold the lifeline of missions. When you get home, place the rope in a prominent place where it will remind you that we must continue to pray and give generously so our missionaries can continue to carry the message of Christ to all nations. More than 10,000 missionaries are counting on you to hold the line.”
The two-hour program began with a video segment on how Oklahoma Baptists started with a small group gathered to form the first Baptist church in Indian Territory.
The video was followed by a parade of churches representing the state’s 43 associations, followed by children from ethnic groups that Oklahoma Baptists minister to across the state and the Native American Choir representing the tribes of Oklahoma.
McFall explained how two groups of Oklahoma Baptists came together on Nov. 9, 1906, to form the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and how the convention has grown to include more than 1,700 churches with 765,000 members, making it the largest denomination in the state.
“From what I been hearin,’ Baptists always either start with a meal or a song,” said McFall, acting as Will Rogers. “Since there are too many here to feed, let’s get started with [a medley by] the Singing Churchmen, Singing ChurchWomen and Oklahoma Baptist Symphony.”
Then Rogers introduced Anthony L. Jordan, BGCO executivee director-treasurer, who said because of people who had a dream and a vision to reach others for Christ in Indian Territory more than 100 years ago, “we are standing to not only remember them tonight, but to truly honor Jesus Christ, the perfector and author of our faith and the writer of every story.”
McFall recognized Woman’s Missionary Union, who he said has held the rope since 1876; Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children; Oklahoma Baptist University; Indian work; the Baptist Messenger newspaper; Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center; the Cooperative Program; Baptist Village Retirement Communities and Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief. All the ministries were celebrated in video segments.
At the conclusion of the Falls Creek video, the Churchmen, ChurchWomen and symphony performed a medley of Falls Creek theme songs written by longtime church music department director Gene Bartlett, who led Falls Creek music for 20 years.
At the conclusion of the program, Jordan, surrounded by children from many ethnic groups, called the convention to prayer.
“All the work you’ve seen explained tonight could have happened only through the mighty work of the hand of God,” Jordan acknowledged. “I am convinced we have set our course to be a missional people. We are dedicated to reaching people from every background. Every boy and girl ought to be able to hear about Jesus in their own language.”
Stretching out his arm to the children around him, Jordan said, “Look at our family. This is who Oklahoma Baptists are. My heart wells up with joy because God has so blessed this people called Oklahoma Baptists. Pray that God will bless this land we love so much. May God bless America.”
Jordan’s remarks were followed by the singing of “God Bless America” by vocalist Wintley Phipps and a display of fireworks.