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SBC leaders praise faithfulness of churches in new Texas convention

ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)–Announcing that Southern Baptists of Texas Convention churches gave $1.5 million through the Cooperative Program during the month of January, SBTC Executive Jim Richards told the 450 people gathered for the Feb. 5 Cooperative Program Luncheon, “We’re delighted to be a partner with our Southern Baptists as co-laborers in the Lord.”

Richards related the successful outcome of last year’s Partners in the Harvest campaign designed to raise $1 million for SBC entities that had been defunded or received a reduced level of funding from another state convention.

Individuals and churches contributed $100,000 to the campaign. In addition, half of the in-state surplus received from SBTC churches was contributed to the one-year offering, providing nearly $1.4 million. “Our desire was to see our Southern Baptist ministries not only continue, but expand.”

Richards explained that the Executive Committee and Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission would each receive 15 percent of the offering. The six Southern Baptist seminaries will split the remaining 70 percent evenly.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Kenneth Hemphill expressed thanks to God for the privilege of participating in kingdom work on earth, the leadership Richards offers through the SBTC, and the churches “who believe in the global missions cause of Jesus Christ.”

SBC Executive Committee President Morris H. Chapman thanked SBTC churches for their part in “the plan to give to assist Southern Baptist entities that might have been slighted by others.”

“When our forefathers began the Cooperative Program in the 1925 era, the whole heart and objective of everyone, including the state conventions, was that there might be 50 percent kept in the state and 50 percent given to missions through the SBC. This convention leads the way with a commitment of 51 percent,” Chapman said to the applause of the crowd.

“In your giving through the Cooperative Program, you contributed $2.3 million and that was compared to $1 million the year before — more than doubled. You just accepted your one thousandth church as a part of this convention and I congratulate you for all of the tremendous work.”

Noting that the Southern Baptist Convention had reported seven consecutive years of record-setting increases in undesignated giving, Chapman said giving last year fell by “three-fourths of one percent.” He described record-setting increases in designated giving as a result of churches giving outside the traditional Cooperative Program plan what would ordinarily be called Cooperative Program dollars. “By the time it gets to the Executive Committee it’s called designated funds even though it’s distributed through the CP formula.” The result has been eight consecutive years where the SBC EC has received more total dollars for Southern Baptist causes than ever before.

Cooperative Program funds received last month by the Executive Committee increased by 11.88 percent over January 2001, Chapman said, contributing to the $1.5 million increase during the first quarter of the fiscal year over the last year. Record levels of missionary appointments, baptisms in the United States and overseas, as well as volunteers serving around the globe are further indications of God’s blessing upon the denomination, Chapman said.

“In the letter I sent to many of the Baptist churches that are in the state of Texas, I made the comment that the Disaster Relief units have performed a tremendous ministry in these past few months in the aftermath of 9-11,” Chapman recalled. He expressed consternation that his remark was criticized in “a commentary somewhere for daring to suggest Southern Baptists had done such a great job when our state conventions did that.”

Chapman noted that the common understanding is that the denominational designation is “Southern Baptist” regardless of state or associational or church affiliation.

“To commend Southern Baptists is to commend all of our states that send Disaster Relief teams.” He pointed out that Southern Baptists prepared nearly all of the meals served by the Red Cross in Disaster Relief units.

While the denomination has been dependent upon news going out through state convention instruments in the past, Chapman said the development of the Internet provides a primary means of communications today. By posting Baptist Press releases on the Internet by three o’clock each afternoon, Chapman said, “You can read it as quickly as the religion editor of the New York Times and Time magazine. That makes all the difference in the world in having an opportunity to get our perspective on the news to all Southern Baptists,” he added.

Chapman said that during January 638,875 people viewed one or more pages of the denominational websites maintained by the SBC Executive Committee, noting that these websites provide information directly to Southern Baptists and other interested people. The primary portal for SBC Executive Committee websites is www.sbc.net.

North American Mission Board Vice President John Yarbrough thanked SBTC for “making a difference not only in Texas, but around the world.” Gifts to the Cooperative Program through SBTC go toward the support of 5,154 missionaries, the ministries of 280,000 volunteers, and over 2,700 chaplains endorsed by NAMB for Southern Baptists. “Because of your faithfulness and because of the power of God, we’re seeing extraordinary things occur,” he shared.

In addition to feeding more than 725,000 meals in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Yarbrough said a new church start is being planted “in the ashes of Ground Zero.” When volunteers assigned to clean dust-covered apartments were asked why they gave their time freely, Yarbrough said he related, “John Ashcroft has said the men who flew those planes served a god they believed sent his sons to die for him. We serve a God who loved us so much that He sent His Son to die for us.”

In addition to the thousands saved in relief work in New York City, Yarbrough said the number converted through world hunger projects grew from 2,700 two years ago to 15,551 last year, utilizing $1.4 million in gifts from Southern Baptists. “People come to know Christ as we feed them the bread of life and bread for their souls.”

Richards also recognized Barrett Duke, vice president for research at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Michael Sims, Annuity Board area director for church retirement, Al Gilbert, special assistant to the president of the International Mission Board as well as Malcolm Yarnell, vice president for academic affairs at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary who brought the benediction.

Richards introduced guest speaker Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, as a teacher, writer, and speaker on evangelism who continues to do the work of an evangelist.

Kelley said, “No one is in this room because of the weight of tradition. You’re here because you have made a choice to cast your lot and focus the energies of your church, in addition to what you’re doing in your communities, with a denomination that is built solidly on the Word of God — His holy, inspired, inerrant Word. That was your choice,” he insisted as the audience affirmed him with applause.

“You’re also here because you’ve made a choice that you want to be a part of an all-out emphasis on evangelism and missions. You want to create something that’s never existed before, a state convention so committed to keeping bureaucracy slim and the missions money at the point of the arrow that it’s giving fifty-one percent of its money to the work missions and theological education.” Kelley added, “That’s the Texas I grew up in. That’s the kind of church I was a part of when I was a Southern Baptist growing up in Texas.”

Before delivering his message, Kelley praised Hemphill’s work at Southwestern Seminary as one who based his pastoral ministry on soul winning and evangelism. “He does not simply show up at denominational meetings, but he is an evangelist at heart,” Kelley said. “To have a man like that leading at Southwestern seminary is a wonderful treasure for Texas Baptists.”

Kelley spoke from Acts 18 of the direction and promise Jesus offered to Paul as he ministered in Corinth. When Paul was arrested as a result of his ministry in Corinth and sent before the Roman ruler for judgment, Kelley speculated that Paul used the time to work on his sermon. “If those Jews were thoughtful enough to gather a crowd, he thought he’d preach one last time.” However, Kelley noted, when Paul got ready to preach his very last sermon in Corinth, he opened his mouth and was interrupted the Roman ruler’s dismissal of the case.

“Jesus kept his promise at the very moment when it was impossible for that promise to be kept. When the mob was angry and charges had been made, the best friend Paul had was a pagan Roman judge who was completely disinterested. Jesus stepped in and kept his promise,” Kelley said.

“There were other beatings ahead of Paul, shipwrecks out there, even executions as a criminal. He could have stayed safe in Corinth and missed all that, but God never called us to be safe. He called us to be faithful,” Kelley concluded.

He added, “There have been folks trying to take apart everything the Southern Baptist Convention has been in the last few years. But there have been Southern Baptists who have said we’re going to stand on the promises of God. If we stand and stand together, there may be trials and tests, but we will stand on the promises of God.”

Yarnell of Midwestern Seminary closed the luncheon, telling SBTC churches, “What you’re doing is critical. We were hurt, but you have stepped into the gap and brought healing where there was pain.”

Having served as a professor at Southwestern Seminary when the school’s funds were cut dramatically by the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Yarnell said, “That hurt really bad because it was about theology. You are proof that God is still at work in the great state of Texas.”

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  • Tammi Reed Ledbetter