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S.C. Baptists urged to ‘launch out’ with Gospel

COLUMBIA, S.C. (BP) — Churches were urged to “launch out” and spread the Gospel as messengers gathered for the South Carolina Baptist Convention annual meeting Nov. 15–16 at Riverland Hills Baptist Church outside Columbia.

“‘Launch Out’ is not a suggestion, it is a command from our Lord,” 2016 convention President Tom Tucker told messengers at the outset of the SCBC’s 196th annual meeting, taking his inspiration from Luke 5, where Jesus said to Peter, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a great catch.”

“We’re sitting on the dock of the bay, wasting time,” Tucker said, invoking a popular song from the 1960s. “We’re told to launch out and tell someone that Jesus loves them. If you are saved, you’ve got a story.”

Tucker, pastor of Sisk Memorial Baptist Church in Fort Mill, and other speakers, including SCBC executives and team leaders, encouraged messengers to share with their churches the state convention’s vision of seeing “every life saturated and transformed by the hope of the Gospel, beginning in South Carolina.”

Gary Hollingsworth, SCBC executive director-treasurer, reported that South Carolina is one of a few states poised to experience significant population growth over the next five years.

“We have both the opportunity and the obligation to reach people in South Carolina with the Gospel,” Hollingsworth said, noting that South Carolina is projected to have the third-highest growth rate in ethnic population in the U.S. The state’s 2,131 Southern Baptist churches together have 598,005 members.

“The world is coming here,” he said, “and the vast majority of them will not know Jesus as Savior. The lost world is not pouring into our buildings to see what we are doing. We need to be out there together for the Gospel.”

During business sessions, messengers elected officers, approved the 2017 budget and adopted resolutions on issues ranging from concern for pastoral health to expressing support for church-school partnerships. This year’s attendance of 756 messengers was down from last year’s 965.

The 2017 SCBC budget of $28.6 million remains unchanged from the last five years. The budget allocates 54.5 percent of revenues for in-state ministries, 41 percent to Southern Baptist Convention causes through the Cooperative Program, the same as the 2016 allocation, and 4.5 percent directly to the International Mission Board.

Keith Shorter, pastor of Mt. Airy Baptist Church in Easley, at the close of the annual meeting began serving as the new president, having been chosen president-elect at the 2015 meeting. Elected to join him on the slate of 2016-2017 officers are First Vice President Bryant Sims, pastor of First Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Greenwood; Second Vice President Lisa Willard, wife of the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Darlington; Recording Secretary Adrianne Smith, a member of Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, and Registration Secretary Larry Zaky, pastor of Hemingway First Baptist Church in Hemingway.

Marshall Blalock, pastor of Charleston First Baptist Church, was chosen president-elect to serve in 2018.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, spoke Nov. 16 on the imperative to combat the “scourge” of internet pornography, even among fellow Christians.

“Pornography does not kindle sexuality, it strips it away. It creates the illusion of anonymity,” Moore said. “It is destroying our witness, our spiritual power, [and is ruining] marriages within our churches.”

SBC Executive Committee President and CEO Frank S. Page noted the SBC’s growing diversity. One in five of the SBC’s more than 51,000 congregations identify as ethnic, he said. Other speakers included D.J. Horton, pastor of Anderson Mill Road Baptist Church in Moore; David Gallamore, pastor of Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley; former SCBC president Jerry White, and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.

Messengers adopted resolutions on pastoral care, biblical sexuality and the freedom of conscience, biblical illiteracy and pastoral responsibility, church and school partnerships, and evangelism to unreached people groups and places.

Full-text versions of the resolutions can be accessed here.

Music leaders included the South Carolina Singing Churchmen, the Anderson University Gospel Choir, the Sisk Memorial Praise Team and the Baptist Student Union Bluegrass Band from North Greenville University in Tigerville.

The 2017 annual meeting will be held Nov. 7-8 at Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia.

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  • Butch Blume