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Okla. Baptists reflect results of ‘unity & love’

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (BP)–Oklahoma Baptists sang praises to God as they gathered for their 96th annual meeting at First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, Nov. 13.

The 960 messengers adopted 10 resolutions, elected officers, approved a $22.1 million 2002 Cooperative Program budget and heard reports from agencies during the day-long meeting without having to make use of the five microphones set up on the floor for discussion or comment.

Executive Director Anthony Jordan, in his address to the convention, focused on the prayer of Jesus in John 17 for unity and love among believers.

“Many state conventions are in turmoil, and unity and love have taken a beating and growth has taken a back seat,” Jordan said.

Jordan said he believes Oklahoma Baptists have escaped the battles others are facing because of their love and unity.

“Oklahoma Baptists are far from uniform in identity,” he emphasized. “We are not cookie-cutter churches that look alike, but are unified with the same purpose of accomplishing great things for our Lord.”

Most reports to the convention were praise testimonies about what God has done through Oklahoma Baptists in the area of student work, child care, retirement centers, the Baptist Foundation, Oklahoma Baptist University, Falls Creek assembly grounds and Oklahoma’s mission partnerships with the country of Malawi and with the city of Phoenix, Ariz..

Student specialist Bob Lee reported more than 1,000 professions of faith on the state’s college campuses last year, with more than 4,000 students involved in Bible studies and 2,600 participating in missions in Oklahoma and around the world. He said students raised $400,000 for missions and for student work in newer convention areas.

Baptist Foundation President Bob Ross, who has announced his retirement, was recognized for 25 years with the foundation. Since he became president, its assets have grown from $52 million to $200 million.

Ross, who responded to God’s call to ministry at Falls Creek, said he sees the day coming soon when endowment income through the Foundation will exceed Cooperative Program income.

Mark Brister, president of Oklahoma Baptist University, reported an enrollment of 1,933 students from 41 states and 15 other countries and 119-fulltime faculty at the university which holds the top rank academically in the state, according to a report in U.S. News and World Report.

Rue Scott, partnership missions coordinator, said during Oklahoma’s partnership with Malawi more than 1,000 have been saved and 34 new churches have been established, which in turn have started other churches. But he said there is still much work to be done, and “souls of people depend on you going to Malawi to tell them about Jesus.”

In the Phoenix area, partnership coordinator Bill Agee reported more than 2,000 Oklahoma Baptists ministered there in the last two years. He said more than 100,000 people per year are moving into the Phoenix area, and 60 percent claim no religious affiliation.

Steve Thomas, campaign director for “For Sake of the Call” Falls Creek campaign to raise $34 million for improvements at the camp, said in its 85-year history 2.5 million have attended Falls Creek and 168,000 teenagers have made decisions for Christ. He reported $8 million has been raised so far toward the Falls Creek redevelopment.

In a report noting concern, Victor Cope, Native American pastor of First Indian Baptist Church, Moore, and chairman of the convention’s Native American Task Force, said out of 280,000 Indians in Oklahoma, 250,000 of his fellow Native Americans “would go to hell if Jesus came back today.” He said 90-95 percent of the Indian population is lost, and as that population doubles in the next 50 years, the initiative of reaching people for Jesus is a daunting challenge.

“The average Sunday school attendance among Indian churches is 21, with 29 in worship services and five baptisms per year per church,” Cope said.

He said the federal government recognizes 47 tribes in Oklahoma, and because of the different languages, customs and traditions, it is difficult to reach Indian people.

“Satan has kept our people divided,” Cope said. “As long as we have division, we will never reach our Indian people.”

The report of the Native American Task Force calls for cooperation with the BGCO in strengthening churches, reaching lost people and developing leaders.

Messengers adopted resolutions on the attack on America, prayer, stem cell research, support of the Southern Baptist Convention and its cooperative ministries, persecution of saints and the anniversary of the Baptist Messenger newsjournal.

Wendell Lang, pastor of First Baptist Church, Pryor, was reelected president without opposition. Walter Mullican, pastor of Portland Avenue Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, who last year served as second vice president was elected first vice president over Mike Napier, pastor of First Baptist Church, Noble, who is moving to First Baptist Church, Owasso, as education and outreach minister, and who was subsequently elected second vice president over Audie Dorrough, pastor of First Baptist Church, Ninnekah. Reelected were Lonnie Latham, director of missions in Tulsa Association, recording secretary, and Marlin Hawkins, retired controller for the BGCO, historical secretary.

In the convention’s annual sermon, Ledtkey McIntosh, pastor of Glorieta Baptist Church, Oklahoma City, joked that he never drank alcohol, did drugs, was never in prison, and had been married only once, “but they asked me to preach anyway.”

He said the ministry of the church is to take the gospel to a hurting world that is helpless because its people are going in the wrong direction.

“When people come to our church, we can give them food and clothing, but we need to tell them we know someone who can get them out of that mess,” McIntosh said.

He said churches need to understand where their might comes from.

“Preachers, education programs or choirs will never save anyone,” he said. “Folks get saved by Jesus Christ and him alone. We need men in our pulpits who will preach Jesus.”

National WMU President Janet Hoffman told messengers Oklahoma is a special place for her because she made a profession of faith at First Baptist Church, Tulsa, as a child and met her first missionaries at Falls Creek at GA camp.

“My spiritual and physical roots are in Oklahoma,” she said.

Hoffman said WMU is eager to partner with Oklahoma Baptists in their theme of “Empowering Kingdom Growth,” and suggested four ways to do that: Pray for and give to missions, do missions, learn about missions and develop spiritually towards a mission lifestyle.

She said without prayer, nothing else can happen, and WMU has always partnered with churches to promote missions giving, which resulted in the second-highest international missions offering in history last year.

“Oklahoma is a perfect example of doing missions,” she said, “with your partnerships in Malawi and Arizona, and you can’t do missions without learning a heap about it.”

Special guest Claude Thomas, pastor of First Baptist Church, Euless, Texas, and former pastor of Council Road Baptist Church in Bethany, Okla., told messengers that 45 minutes on Sept. 11 changed America’s landscape forever. But he said it is possible to have a heart filled with gratitude in the face of landscapes that are constantly changing.

“We have to realize who God is,” Thomas said. “He is separated by his name. We are told to ‘bless his holy name.'”

Thomas added that Christians must remember what God has done — his forgiveness, healing, merciful love, restoration and, finally, believers must rest in where God is.

“He is on his throne and he rules and reigns forever, no matter what is happening,” Thomas said.

In the closing message, reelected President Wendell Lang encouraged messengers to renew their passion.

“When we lose spiritual passion, deacons become devils, ushers become ugly, members become messy, choir members become cross and preachers become pious,” he said.

He noted that Romans 4 has a plan for restoring the joy of salvation.

“We need to remember the doctrine of imputation where our sin is put to the account of Jesus,” he said. “Then we must renew our intimacy, spending more time with God, recall the delight of imitation becoming a friend with God, and reject the danger of intimidation, becoming spiritually elite.”

He said Christians being in the presence of God and realizing they are joint heirs with God brings back passion.

“We’re passionate because we’ve had God infused in us, not because we feel like it,” he said.

The 2002 convention will be Nov. 12 at First Baptist Church, Moore.

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  • Dana Williamson