COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP)–Approximately 1,450 messengers celebrated in pageantry, stirring music and revival-like messages the successes of the South Carolina Baptist Convention’s 10-year Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis during their Nov. 12-13 meeting at First Baptist Church in Columbia.
In addition to launching the next chapter of the spiritual growth initiative extending through 2007, messengers also adopted a $32.15 million Empowering Kingdom Growth budget and heard a plea for prayer from Gov.-elect Mark Sanford.
This year’s convention was the best-attended meeting since 1998, when 1,454 messengers registered. Last year, registered messengers numbered 1,298. Convention officials were pleased with the high attendance — especially in the absence of controversial issues — attributing it to South Carolina Baptists’ enthusiasm for EKG.
Hal Lane, pastor of West Side Baptist Church in Greenwood, was elected convention president by acclamation. Lane served as first vice president in 1999-2000 and as president of the Pastor’s Conference in 1997.
Lane currently is chairman of the SCBC’s Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee and serves as a trustee for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and is a curriculum and commentary writer for the Explore the Bible series published by LifeWay Christian Resources. He has been a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Committee on Committees and Nominations, Resolutions and Tellers committees.
Other officers for 2003, also elected by acclamation, are Jerry White, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Greer, first vice president; Fred Stone, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pickens, second vice president; and Louise Powell, a member of Laurel Baptist Church in Greenwood and administrative assistant for Abbeville Baptist Association, recording secretary.
In keeping with Empowering Kingdom Growth 2002-2007, the budget was renamed as the SCBC Empowering Kingdom Growth Budget.
The 2003 budget of $32,150,000, a 3.4 percent increase over the current budget, continues to designate 60 percent for state convention work and 40 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes.
Observing that EKG had provided South Carolina Baptists with “a focus larger than that which separates us,” Rick Fisher, chairman of the budget, finance and audit committee and pastor of Lexington Baptist Church, noted that not only had the budget grown by $9 million during the decade, but that this year will mark the eighth straight that the budget has been met and exceeded.
Troy Gregg, chairman of the SCBC executive board and retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Chesnee, announced the reorganization of the state convention staff that created the offices of prayer and spiritual awakening, personal evangelism, and church administration and buildings.
Encouraging churches to increase their support of the Cooperative Program, Henry Stanford put a face on missions by introducing messengers to Paulo Teixeira, a Brazilian who accepted Christ in a church that South Carolina Baptists helped build. Paulo came to the United States to attend seminary and now leads a mission of Rosewood Baptist Church in Columbia that reaches about 55 Portuguese-speaking people.
Praising South Carolina Baptists for “the way that you go out and work to change lives,” Gov.-elect Sanford urged them to “redouble your efforts” in praying for him as he selects the state’s new administration. Sanford, who requested to speak to the convention, addressed messengers during the Tuesday afternoon session.
“Pray that I will run an administration that will glorify God,” Sanford said, observing that biblical concepts are “very strong tools” in bringing about moral change in society.
“What does Jesus expect of his people?” Executive Director-Treasurer Carlisle Driggers asked during his convention message, in which he urged South Carolina Baptists to “be about bringing the Kingdom of God on earth.”
Recounting how EKG was born in 1991 out of the convention’s desire to better serve churches, Driggers said the emphasis has led to a new awareness of the call of Jesus to be about the work of the Kingdom. He cited a rise in the number of baptisms annually, a turnaround in a trend in budget shortfalls, an increase in the number of churches, greater participation in volunteer missions efforts, and a felt unity among Baptists.
Driggers told messengers that the next five years of EKG will focus on spiritual renewal. Among initiatives spotlighted were a prayer movement, 600 new churches, 100,000 baptisms, leadership development and innovative church services.
Driggers commended members of Marion Baptist Church for their EKG focus, calling their pastor Daniel Inabinet to the platform. Inabinet presented a check for $1,500 on behalf of the congregation designated for “church multiplication.”
After observing the success of Empowering Kingdom Growth among South Carolina Baptists, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted its own version of EKG at its annual meeting in St. Louis last year. Driggers has been asked to co-lead the national initiative with James Merritt, an Atlanta-area pastor and the SBC’s immediate past president.
Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, delivered the meeting’s closing message.
Chapman began his address by sharing about some give-and-take fun with his son-in-law. When Chapman visits, the son-in-law asks his children: “Who’s got the power?” Their reply usually is, “Daddy’s got the power.”
Chapman quipped, “Then they come over to my house and I say ‘Who’s got the power?’ They say ‘Daddy,’ but I say ‘No, Grampy’s got the power.’ We tease about who’s got power.”
Chapman continued, “But, in our spiritual pilgrimage, the question is a serious one — for without Christ there is no real power.”
Noting that every Christian should ask themselves what is the source of power in their lives, he said, “Today, out of great love for the church, we need to ask, ‘Where is the power? Does something occur in my worship experience that makes me a different person?'”
Chapman pleaded for Christians to center their lives on the work of God. “It’s not about the church. It’s not about the pastor. It’s not about the people,” he reminded messengers. “It is about a focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified.
“What is your passion?” he asked. Stating that most believers would say it should be Jesus, he countered, “Whatever your passion is, it is what you talk about all the time.”
Chapman said he was praying for God to transform the Empowering Kingdom Growth emphasis into a spiritual movement. He added, “I pray that every Southern Baptist will ask themselves, ‘Am I a Kingdom person? If not, how can I be? If so, how shall I live?'”
Using the Lord’s Prayer as the text for his presidential message, Randall Jones, pastor of Langston Baptist Church in Conway, reminded messengers of the four keys to the Kingdom: the gospel, prayer, faith and the Holy Spirit. These keys open the chains of sin, the vault of the miraculous, and the door to victorious living, he said.
“All who possess the key need to use it to set their friends and neighbors free,” Jones urged.
“We are good at singing victory in Jesus,” Jones noted. “But most of us never get around to claiming it” in our own lives, he added.
Stressing that the mission of the Kingdom is a “co-mission,” Jones called on Baptists to join “hearts and hands together, to support one another to reach the lost, for out there in the fields people are dying without Jesus.”
Messengers approved nine resolutions, making amendments to only two. Among the resolutions adopted was one urging support for Empowering Kingdom Growth as the five-year strategy for spiritual awakening in South Carolina.
Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, suggested changes to the resolution on Iraq to distinguish between the people of Iraq and its government. Blalock, who recently returned from a trip to the Middle East, encouraged messengers to pray for the people of Iraq, while supporting the U.S. armed services in opposing Saddam Hussein’s “regime.”
Messengers also approved a resolution that encourages churches to share the good news of the gospel to all sinners, including homosexuals, and to affirm ministries that “bring God’s healing to those who struggle with homosexuality.” Messengers incorporated an amendment offered by Chuck Everett of Trinity Baptist Church in Lugoff that read, “The answer to all sinful choices in people’s lives can be found through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.”
In other resolutions, messengers:
— Commended the state General Assembly for making available a state license plate bearing the words, “In God We Trust.”
— Affirmed belief in the biblical doctrine of creation and opposed the teaching of the theory of evolution as fact in public schools.
— Encouraged churches to offer comfort and assistance to crime victims.
— Affirmed the belief in the biblical image of marriage.
— Urged churches to demonstrate love in denouncing domestic violence.
Messengers approved creating an archive at the convention building in Columbia for documents and papers of churches and associations. Don Bowick, chairman of the history committee, recommended that the documents in the historical collection housed at Furman University that belong to the SCBC be transferred. Future documents should be sent to the convention’s offices, where a reference librarian will be employed.
Three motions were referred to the appropriate board or committee.
Quinn Hooks, pastor of Cope Baptist Church, made a motion for the constitution and bylaws committee to study changing messenger qualifications to allow for more participation from smaller churches.
Curtis Bundy of Calvary Baptist Church in Anderson, moved that the convention request the executive board to designate 10 percent of monies received above the annual budget to the Adopt-An-Annuitant program.
A motion by Allen Thomason, pastor of Chesterfield Baptist Church, concerning the 2002 Baptist Faith and Message was ruled out of order because it was presented in resolution form.
Tom Tucker, pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Rock Hill, requested that a committee be formed to study the 30-plus percent increase in insurance costs through the Annuity Board.
Next year’s Nov. 11-12 annual meeting also will be at Columbia’s First Baptist Church.