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Opportunities to transform lives abound, Draper tells trustees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The number of opportunities God places before the Sunday School Board “sometimes makes me feel like a skier fleeing down a mountain at breakneck speed, just ahead of an avalanche,” President James T. Draper Jr. told the agency’s trustees during their semiannual meeting Feb. 9-11.
“We are in the blessed position of not having to seek out opportunities. Our challenge is to make the best choices among the opportunities we have,” he said.
Draper said today’s opportunities will be “just the beginning” if the board focuses over the next 10 years on five characteristics identified last fall by its executive management group: to hear God, become a kingdom enterprise, be flexible, be excellent stewards and have outstanding personnel.
“Those of you who have been trustees for a while know that I have talked often about the tension we deal with regarding ministry and business,” Draper said. “At our fall executive management group retreat, we discussed this matter thoroughly … We concluded that we operate as a business, but we exist for the purpose of ministry.
“If our resources do not assist in transforming lives for eternity, we are not achieving our God-given purpose for existence. We are stewards of incredible resources, and we must carry out our work with character, integrity and purity.”
Among highlights Draper cited from the past year:
— At the invitation of the International Mission Board, a nine-person team from the Sunday School Board went to Kenya last summer on a mission trip, resulting in 1,271 professions of faith and the starting of five new churches. A repeat trip is planned this year to involve as many as 30 employees.
— The board funded associational Christian education positions in New York, Chicago and Riverside, Calif. These staff members work with churches to strengthen education ministries and foster spiritual growth.
— Free literature, hymnals and other items were provided to help new churches, and the board has established a toll-free number (1-800-357-7029) to assist churches that experience disasters, such as fires or floods. Free literature and discounts for items not covered by insurance is provided on virtually everything the agency produces. When pastors’ libraries are destroyed, the board sends resources to start a replacement library.
In other reports, trustees learned:
— The SBC Executive Committee is expected to vote in its Feb. 16-17 meeting on a charter change and supporting bylaw amendments related to a proposed new name for the agency, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
— Following a record fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 1997, with revenues of $284.1 million, first quarter revenues for 1997-98
totaled $74.7 million, a 12.7 percent increase over the same quarter last year. Funds provided from operations, monies available after expenses, reached $5 million or 13.8 percent above the same period in 1996-97.
— Progress in implementing the new Vista computer system included a reduction in the waiting time for callers to the Customer Service Center from 4 minutes, 16 seconds in May 1997 to 23 seconds in January 1998
. Similarly, improvements in waiting time for callers to the Customer Accounts telephone number were achieved.
— Internet ordering has resulted in approximately 4,300 churches obtaining personal identification numbers, enabling them to order seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Churches placing orders by Internet thus far total 2,760.
In other areas related to the church growth group, trustees heard reports on a new initiative, FAITH evangelism strategy through the Sunday school; the success of the 1997 Vacation Bible School, with 6.2 million pieces of materials distributed; work in progress to develop Bible study curriculum for the next millennium; explorations leading toward spiritual transformation as an element in all the resources the board provides; a new vocational guidance resource, “God’s Call,” and the goal to collect the names of 10,000 people who have felt God’s call in their lives; and cooperative efforts with the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board in the areas of evangelism, church planting and church development.
In a report from the retail group, trustees learned of two recently acquired Christian stores in Toledo, Ohio, bringing to 74 the total number of retail locations. Construction is in progress on five facilities to expand, relocate or establish new stores. This year, Baptist Book Stores launched a Ministers Discount Plan which now has 6,000 participants and has been extended to furloughing missionaries.
Broadman & Holman products and authors have received national media attention in recent months, with attention from talk shows, as well as print and broadcast news media. A line of academic books is in production, as well as a new line, “The Life at Work Company,” dealing with topics related to work and faith.
While affirming the positive reports from all major areas of the board, Ted Warren, vice president and chief operating officer, urged trustees to hold the administration accountable “for having high expectations of ourselves and our performance” and “to high standards of being excellent stewards.”
In other matters, trustees approved:
— a recommendation that, for budgeting purposes, the average price increase of 2.5 percent be used for church literature and magazines for 1998
-99, effective with the spring (March-April-May) 1999 issues. Rather than implementing across-the-board increases, each product is evaluated annually for price and manufacturing cost. Information by title will be provided at the September 1998
trustees meeting.
— A recommendation to increase conference center rates by 4 percent for Oct. 1, 2000 through Sept. 30, 2001. This projection of rates will enable meeting planners to schedule conference at least two years in advance.
Elected as trustee officers were: chairman, Ken Speakman, director of the international division of The Gideons International, Nashville, and secretary, Roy Mason, senior pastor of Derita Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C. Kent Workman, pastor of New Work Fellowship, Crofton, Ky., was re-elected vice chairman.

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  • Charles Willis