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Prayer, new partnerships highlight Montana conv.

BILLINGS, Mont. (BP) — Six church plants and a new three-year partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention were among highlights of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.

The convention, known in-state as Refresh Montana, held its Oct. 5-6 sessions at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Billings, where Paul Jones has been pastor for 28 years.

“Ministry in Montana is challenging on many levels,” Executive Director Barrett Duke told the 203 attendees, which included 89 messengers from 52 of the state convention’s 135 churches. “But you have proven that through dedication, hard work and God’s leadership, great things are possible.”

This year’s annual meeting focused on spiritual refreshing, with Duke noting to Baptist Press, “We kept business at a minimum and focused on worship, equipping, encouragement and fellowship. I believe everyone who attended left spiritually refreshed and better equipped to lead their churches to impact their communities for Christ.”

Prayer permeated the two-day gathering that also encompassed fellowship, preaching and reports as well as special recognition of Doug Hutcheson, retiring this year as the convention’s church strategies team leader. He was given a fly rod handmade by Greg Payton, pastor of the Rock Church in Laurel, and a pair of chest-high waders with boots attached.

Business was handled in just one of the four sessions. Elected as new officers by acclamation were Lee Merck, pastor of Church of the Rockies in Red Lodge, president, and Chad Scarborough, pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelby, vice president.

The 2018 budget was approved: $1,303,766, a reduction from the $1,380,567 budget for the current year, reflecting a $90,000 decrease from the North American Mission Board, though NAMB will supply $100,000 toward the budget, $400,000 for church planting, $40,000 for church planter development, $15,000 for church planting evangelism and $85,000 for existing church evangelism.

The Montana budget includes nearly $587,766 from Montana churches, along with $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $16,000 in interest income.

Montana Baptists maintained for the fourth year the 25 percent of receipts going to national and international SBC causes, for a total of $146,942 for the 2018 budget year.

“CP giving remains strong,” Duke told messengers. “I’m grateful for the trust our churches are showing through their support for our state and national cooperative work.

“Our September CP giving was outstanding,” Duke added. “We are now about $20,000 ahead of the same time last year in CP giving.”

New partnerships

No old or new business was discussed and no resolutions were made by MTSBC messengers. Open Door Baptist Church in Thompson Falls, where Jim Hantz is pastor, was welcomed into the state convention.

In his executive director’s report, Duke announced the implementation of a three-year partnership with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and introduced Barry Calhoun, SBTC’s mobilization director. Both men spoke of the similar frontier spirit of people in both state conventions.

Duke also announced a new partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and introduced Mark Tolbert, professor of preaching and pastoral ministry and director of the Caskey Center for Church Excellence at NOBTS. Tolbert said because of the an anonymous donor’s generosity, five pastors of small churches in Montana would each receive an annual $5,000 scholarship for tuition and books that they could use for online study so they wouldn’t have to leave the state to get their theological education.

Six new churches were launched so far this year, reported William Johnson, leader of MTSBC’s church starting team. They are in Gallatin Gateway, Helena, Missoula, Thompson Falls, Bridger and Billings. Two more are anticipated soon, in Livingston and in Columbia Falls.

Montana’s disaster relief teams have had an extremely busy year, reported Dan Stewart, the convention’s disaster relief coordinator. Montana’s shower and laundry unit went to Louisiana last fall to help with flood relief and “stayed on mission for almost three months,” Stewart reported. That unit also served on five separate assignments this summer in Montana, helping with the 45 major fires in the state.

Montana’s mud-out and recovery trailer was deployed for more than 18 weeks this year in the state and is being readied for deployment to Texas, where “there are 100,000 homes in need of mud-out,” Stewart told messengers.

Yellowstone Christian College President Bruce Cannon, in a report to messengers, spoke of nearly being to the finish line of the accreditation process. It has cost about $200,000, Cannon reported, but the final paperwork is to be submitted by November and a decision made in February 2018.

The college anticipates by the end of the year being able to offer four professional degree programs in addition to its two Christian ministry degrees — psychology and sports management — as well as business and exercise science, Cannon said. The college now has just under 100 students, Cannon told Baptist Press.

The Friday morning session included a time of corporate prayer that lasted more than an hour.

“We prayed for 10 different areas of need,” Duke told Baptist Press. “Prayer for each need was opened with a prayer by a different pastor in the state convention, except the prayer for missions, which was opened by Paula Rasmussen, Montana’s women’s director. After each opening prayer, everyone prayed silently for a few minutes for that need.

“It was a powerful time in the Lord,” Duke said about the prayer time that can be viewed online at http://montana.e-quip.net/presentations/4182. “One person present took the model back to her church and organized a similar prayer time,” Duke told BP.

Featured speakers during the meeting included Darren Hales, the convention’s outgoing president and pastor of Big Sky Fellowship in Helena; Stephen Rummage, pastor of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., who also led a preaching workshop; Steve Bass, NAMB’s vice president for convention relations in the western U.S.; Ashley Clayton, SBC Executive Committee vice president for the Cooperative Program and stewardship.

The 2018 annual meeting of the Montana Southern Baptist Convention is set for Oct. 4-5, but the location is not yet set.