COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–The 1,230 registered messengers attending the 183rd annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention adopted a $32.15 million budget for 2004 and approved a three-year missions partnership in South Asia.
A highlight of this year’s annual meeting, which had as its theme “Experiencing Kingdom Growth,” was a Tuesday evening performance of “Experiencing God, the Musical” by several church choirs from across the state. The 70-minute musical, based on Henry Blackaby’s popular discipleship study, “Experiencing God,” was directed by Gary Rhodes, composer of the musical.
The SCBC’s 2004 budget goal of $32.15 million is the same as last year’s budget. The convention’s executive board did not recommend an increase because Cooperative Program receipts from churches for the year are lagging behind SCBC budget needs, according to the chairman of the board’s budget, finance and audit committee.
Through October, CP receipts had fallen behind budget needs by $579,000, reported Mike Moody, pastor of First Baptist Church in Honea Path. Moody urged churches to renew their support of the Cooperative Program, noting that in the past 10 years the dollar amounts of SCBC budgets had grown by $9 million, but the percentage of CP giving of churches had dropped by 1.2 percent to the current level of 8.2 percent.
Carlisle Driggers, SCBC executive director-treasurer, encouraged churches to begin working toward devoting 10 percent of their receipts to the Cooperative Program, even if it involves incremental steps each year. “We can do so much more together than we can do separately,” Driggers reminded messengers.
Forty percent of the $32.15 million budget, or $12,755,000, will go to support the work of the Southern Baptist Convention, while 60 percent, or $19,395,000, will undergird missions and ministries of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
South Carolina Baptists approved entering a three-year partnership with the International Mission Board’s South Asia region, beginning in 2005. The state convention’s current partnership with Taiwan ends this year.
Executive Board chairman Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, told messengers that South Carolina Baptists are again breaking new ground with the partnership by becoming the first state convention to work with an entire region, rather than a country.
While noting that 25 percent of the world’s lost population lives in South Asia, Blalock also observed, “Within this region, you can find a country with the largest percentage of Muslim conversions in the world.”
Wayne Dickard, pastor of Northbrook Baptist Church in Boiling Springs, was elected president by acclamation. A former director of missions for the North Spartan Baptist Association and pastor of churches in Greer and Anderson, Dickard has served as first and second vice president and as parliamentarian for the SCBC. He also has been a trustee of Anderson College and the SBC Annuity Board.
Other convention officers for 2004 include Danny Burnley, pastor of West Gantt First Baptist Church in Greenville, first vice president; James Merritt, member of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, second vice president; Stella McGee, administrative assistant for the Welsh Neck Baptist Association and member of Lakeview Baptist Church in Hartsville, recording secretary; and Wayne Revisky, pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Aynor, registration secretary.
All officers were elected by acclamation, except for Merritt, who received 288 votes over 197 for a second nominee, Chuck Everett, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Lugoff.
Jim Oliver, chairman of a special insurance study committee appointed in 2002 by the convention’s then-president, Randall Jones, reported that the best Annuity Board medical plan provided more than 20 percent better coverage than the average plan in the marketplace. The cost of the insurance is determined by the claims incurred by participants, he explained.
Oliver also announced that the Annuity Board will offer seven insurance plans in 2004, including a prescription plan.
Through resolutions, the messengers voiced:
— opposition to laws and judicial decrees that ban the display of Christian symbols and biblical words in public places, and support of all private citizens and government officials who have taken a stand for the right to display them.
— affirmation of baptism by immersion as the only biblical, historical and proper mode of Christian baptism. The resolution noted that churches no longer requiring baptism by immersion for membership have chosen not to be in good standing with the convention.
— vigorous opposition to gambling in all forms. The state’s Baptists were encouraged to contact federal and state officials to oppose any proposed federal legislation that would pave the way for a high-stakes electronic bingo operation by the Catawba Indians near Santee.
— support for the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment and any legislative efforts to define marriage as the God-ordained relationship between one man and one woman.
— encouragement to pray for elected government officials.
(For complete text of resolutions see www.baptistcourier.com.)
A motion to study incrementally increasing the percentage of Cooperative Program receipts forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention — from a 40/60 split with the state convention to a 50/50 one — failed. Messenger Hans Wunch, pastor of Doctor’s Creek Baptist Church in Walterboro, said he was concerned about the 100 International Mission Board missionaries whose appointments had been delayed by a $10 million shortfall in funding. He noted that half of the SBC’s CP budget allocation goes to the board.
But messenger Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston’s First Baptist Church and president of the SCBC executive board, pointed out that IMB President Jerry Rankin’s appeal in a full-page ad in the Nov. 6 issue of The Baptist Courier was for churches to increase their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering gifts by 33 percent. Rankin’s suggestion, Blalock maintained, is the best response to remedy the missionary funding crisis.
Mike Moody, chairman of the budget, finance and audit committee, also said the committee already annually reviews increasing the SBC’s percentage, in light of meeting the SCBC’s budget requirements.
Another motion urged those attending the convention to pray for the nation’s veterans and for those serving in the military on Veteran’s Day. Following its approval, messenger Timothy Squire, pastor of Sauldam Baptist Church in Ravenel, who made the motion, led the prayer.
Messengers also approved the second reading of a bylaw revision granting one additional messenger to churches for each $1,000 contributed annually to state convention work.
Before his address, SCBC President Hal Lane, an electric guitarist, and the other members of Soul Revival performed remakes of popular beach music tunes with Christian lyrics. The performance served as an illustration for Lane’s message in which he stressed the importance of upholding the essential doctrines of the Gospel, but maintained that there was not an essential style of evangelism.
“Pursue any method so we can get a hearing for the Word of God,” Lane urged. “Evangelism is not about you and how you like to be communicated with,” he added. “It’s about how you are going to get out there and reach those people for Jesus.”
The pastor of West Side Baptist Church in Greenwood highlighted three occupations in the New Testament relative to sharing the Gospel — farmer, fisherman and ambassador.
Emphasizing that farmers understand that “if you are going to have a crop, you’ve got to sow seeds,” Lane bemoaned the fact that some Christians have forgotten the principle of sowing Gospel seed and that “going to the barn [to get the seed] has become an end in itself.”
Observing that fishing in the first century was hard work and a cooperative effort, Lane reminded South Carolina Baptists, “We’re in the boat together, and we need our churches to step up and respond in terms of giving to the Cooperative Program.”
He also reminded Christians they are citizens of another Kingdom and, as ambassadors, their primary allegiance was to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. He urged believers to live clean, pure and morally right lives.
In the convention sermon, Eddie Leopard, pastor of Millbrook Baptist Church in Aiken, asked, “Do you really love the church?”
Asserting that Jesus called the church His bride, Leopard said, “I find it hard to believe someone can claim to love Jesus and not love what He loves.”
Some people get excited about sports and some pour their lives into their jobs or hobbies, he said, but Jesus wants believers to have “a zeal for His church.”
Ken Hemphill, national strategist for Empowering Kingdom Growth, was selected as the preacher for the 2004 convention, which will meet Nov. 16-17 in Columbia.
Todd Deaton is managing editor of The Baptist Courier, the convention’s newsjournal.