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One-day meeting expands Utah-Idaho attendance

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (BP) — The Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention conducted business, worshipped and heard messages over a day’s time in what would have taken two days in previous years.

The UISBC’s three-session, 11-hour (with time out for two meals) annual meeting Oct. 21 took place at First Baptist Church of West Valley City, Utah, where layman Rob Rowbottom is leading while awaiting a pastor. “Standing in the gap” was the theme, from Ezekiel 22:30.

“We have pastors here who could never come to be a part of their convention when our meetings were two days in the middle of the week,” Utah/Idaho Executive Director Rob Lee told Baptist Press. “But to get a Friday off, for many of them, that’s doable.

“That’s the greatest thing I’ve seen from going to a one-day annual meeting,” Lee continued. Unchanged were “the spiritual refreshment of being together, having meals together, hearing reports and being encouraged and challenged by the messages.”

A 1 percentage point increase in Cooperative Program giving was one of two notable financial announcements. The new budget of $1,765,574 — up $35,842 from last year — includes sending 27 percent of CP receipts to the SBC Executive Committee for dispersal to SBC global causes, up from 26 percent last year. The remaining 73 percent will be utilized in Utah/Idaho for its missions and ministries.

At the 2015 annual meeting, Lee had said, “The last five years have been challenging but now is not the time to retreat but to move forward. God is blessing.”

Now, Lee noted to the convention, “[W]e took a step of faith and adopted a plan to raise our CP percentage by 1 percent a year, to 30 percent by 2020. We have been ahead of budget all year long for the first time in 10 years.”

The budget anticipates $670,574 in Cooperative Program receipts from Utah-Idaho churches — up $35,109 from last year’s anticipated $635,465 — plus $95,000 from the York-Dillman State Mission Offering; $940,000 from the North American Mission Board for church planting; and $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources.

The other big financial news came from NAMB’s SEND Salt Lake missionary Travis Kerns.

NAMB, beginning this year, is calculating the average giving for the previous three years to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions and returning to the state convention for church planting the amount given that year that exceeds the average, Kerns said. NAMB this year returned $8,565 to UISBC.

Kerns also provided statistics to show the need for and effect of church planting in Utah over the last three years.

“Five of the 20 most unreached metropolitan areas in the nation are in Utah,” Kerns said, listing the Salt Lake City, Orem/Provo, Layton, Ogden and St. George metro areas as the five.

In 2013, Kerns continued, there was one church in Utah for every 44,000 people. In 2014, that dropped to one church in Utah for every 40,942 people. In 2015, it was one church for every 32,699 Utahns, according to NAMB research, Kerns said.

“When we started our Vision 2020 challenge three years ago we had 148 churches, missions and church plants,” Lee said. “We are up 29 from that time,” he said, taking into account a couple of churches that have closed and a plant that ceased this year.

The subject of church planting came up again in the evening session, when Mike Palmer, director of the Utah/Idaho Church Planting Network, presented his report.

“Just a few years ago we were celebrating five church planters in Utah and Idaho,” said Palmer, who also is pastor of Salmon Valley (Idaho) Baptist Church and Lemhi Cowboy Church in Tendoy, Idaho. “This year there are 23.” Next year he anticipates 40 to 50 in what he senses is a church planting movement.

“One of the coolest things is non-funded church plants,” Palmer said, recounting that a Nevada rancher liquidated his holdings to plant an Idaho church while a businessmen from elsewhere has sold his business and is moving to Idaho where he plans to use his proceeds to start a church.

Richard Nevarez, pastor of Rupert (Idaho) Bilingual Baptist Church, discovered about 200 Hispanic families living in Minidoka, Idaho, 13 miles northeast. He prayed about it and decided to start a church there and even received permission to use a community building at no cost from local officials, Richard Dugger, a NAMB church planting catalyst missionary, told the annual meeting attendees at Palmer’s request.

But no one came, two weeks in a row, Dugger recounted. The Lord impressed Nevarez that no one came because they didn’t know him. He noticed a bin of watermelons at a store and told his wife to buy the lot. Nevarez got to know people by knocking on their doors and offering to share a watermelon with them.

The first couple who invited him into their home put their trust in Christ and today 10 people participate in weekly worship at this new church plant, Dugger said.

“Door-to-door evangelism doesn’t work, if you don’t do it,” Dugger said his seminary evangelism professor told him.

In all, 108 messengers from 24 Utah churches and 17 Idaho churches, and 29 guests, registered for the UISBC annual meeting, up from 99 last year.

Frank S. Page, president of the SBC Executive Committee, was among the guests. He thanked Utah and Idaho Southern Baptists for the $581,000 they gave last year to missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program.

“The Cooperative Program is part of the Acts 1:8 strategy,” Page said. He gave updated stats: Southern Baptists have 51,200 churches, missions and church plants, and one out of five — 10,695 — are ethnic. “I want to see ethnics represented at every level of Southern Baptist life,” Page said.

Utah and Idaho Southern Baptists minister at the present time to 12 language groups, Lee said: Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chin, Karin, Navajo, Blackfoot, Russian and Urdu, with Iraqi refugees soon to arrive.

UISBC officers all were re-elected, each by acclamation: president, David Kite; first vice president, Michael Waldrop; second vice president, Mike Pless; and recording secretary, Chauna Sidwell. Kite pastors four cowboy churches in Idaho; Waldrop pastors Desert Ridge Baptist Church in St. George, Utah; Pless pastors Good Shepherd Fellowship (formerly First Southern Baptist Church) in Bountiful, Utah. Sidwell is a member at First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

In committee reports, Dinosaur (Colo.) Bible Fellowship was voted into the UISBC, making for a total of 177 churches, missions and church plants in the convention. The sole resolution expressed appreciation to First Baptist Church in West Valley City, lay leader Rob Rowbottom and members for the hospitality given to messengers and guests of the UISBC.

A 3 percent cost-of-living increase was given to all staff, with an additional 2 percent for administrative support staff, since no cost-of-living increases have been given the UISBC staff for the last three years, the administrative committee reported.

A celebration honoring Rob and JeQuita Lee’s 25 years of ministry in Utah/Idaho followed adjournment of the 2016 UISBC annual meeting.

“In some ways it feels like the first day,” Lee said in comments to Baptist Press, but then he noted “the relationships.”

“How we have grown and strengthened!” he said. “The people are just wonderful. God’s sent the greatest here, and the indigenous who have become part of this convention are incredible.

“There’s such a family feeling in our convention,” Lee said. “Being small, we go through the challenges and the celebrations together.”

The 2017 annual meeting is scheduled Oct. 20 at Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, with the annual sermon to be delivered by Bryan Catherman, who is planting a church in Rose Park, on the west side of Salt Lake City. Eddie Hancock, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Caldwell, Idaho, is the alternate.