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SBTC meeting buoyed by evangelism

LUBBOCK, Texas (BP)–From start to finish, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention annual meeting demonstrated the results of inviting people to faith in Christ.

The Oct. 26-27 sessions opened with the testimony of a teenager saved after a friend invited him to an SBTC-sponsored student evangelism conference last summer, and closed with 512 people, from youth to parents, professing faith in Christ and 68 others rededicating their lives stemming from the Gospel preaching and feats of strength of the weightlifters group Team Impact.

Lubbock-area pastors and churches joined with the SBTC’s evangelism department to focus the convention meeting on a citywide crusade event on Oct. 27, inviting Southern Baptist Convention President Johnny Hunt to speak in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center theater while Team Impact amazed some 2,400 teenagers and children in the exhibit hall.

Adults leaving the theater after hearing Hunt challenge Southern Baptists “to get back on track in evangelism” began to spontaneously applaud as they grasped the magnitude of hundreds of lives changed by the power of the Gospel in the hall opposite theirs. New converts received Bibles and local churches will contact them for further discipleship.

Meeting for the second time in West Texas since the formation of the state convention in 1998, the headcount of 889 messengers and 423 registered guests expanded to nearly 3,700 as local residents responded to the invitations from area Southern Baptists.

In his address to the convention, SBTC President Bob Pearle told the audience, “By standing firm and holding on to those distinctives that make Baptists who they are, we will continue to reach this world and not go the way of every other denomination.” The SBTC has grown from the 128 churches that formed the convention in 1998 to a current total of 2,197.

West Texans were elected to every SBTC office, including the new president, Byron McWilliams, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa. Pat Anderson, a member of Keeler Baptist Church in Borger, was elected recording secretary by a vote of 132-108 over Becky Illingworth, a member of Community Baptist Church in Royse City. Kevin Ueckert, pastor of South Side Baptist Church in Abilene, was re-elected SBTC vice president.

Messengers approved a 1.18 percent increase for next year’s $24.8 million budget to be funded through the Cooperative Program contributions of local churches.

“God’s people have continued to give through the Cooperative Program so we can reach Texas and touch the world,” said Dale Perry, SBTC executive board chairman and pastor of Friendly Baptist Church in Tyler.

The unity SBTC churches find in “gospel ministry and voluntary cooperation” was underscored in a resolution affirming the Cooperative Program “as our unrestricted vehicle for funding missions.”

However, the convention stopped short of describing the Cooperative Program as “the distinctive that binds Southern Baptist churches,” language offered in an amendment by messenger James Salles, pastor of West End Baptist Church in Beaumont, but defeated on a 146-118 ballot vote. In an additional amendment, Salles contended that SBC leaders who had minimized their CP participation undermine the cooperation between churches of all sizes and financial ability, but only a dozen or so messengers favored adding that sentiment to the resolution.

The adopted resolution stated that the SBTC, since its inception, “has demonstrated a sacrificial commitment to fulfilling the Great Commission through commitment to the Cooperative Program.” The SBTC continues to forward to the SBC more of the undesignated receipts from local churches than it keeps for in-state ministry, advancing 55 percent to support SBC missions and ministry around the world and across the nation.

“In spite of the economic downturn, God has blessed and we have an abundance of resources for new church plants,” stated Joe Davis, the SBTC’s chief financial officer, who reported a new record of $1,146,497 for the Reach Texas State Mission Offering.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, in his report to the convention, described the missional methodology of Jesus as decisional, intentional and even confrontational. While contextualization is sometimes necessary, Richards reminded, “We should not lose our distinctives in Christ and begin to worship at the altar of relevance.”

In an apparent reference to the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force on which he serves, Richards said that whether structural changes occur in the SBC or not, “We must have a fresh movement of the Spirit of God in our personal lives and in our churches” before a Great Commission resurgence can occur.

When considering a resolution on the sufficiency of Scripture that affirmed “nothing as sin unless it is forbidden explicitly or implicitly” in the Bible, messengers agreed to the recommendation of Houston messenger Paul Pressler, clarifying that “the consumption of alcoholic beverages is intrinsically wrong.”

“I would like it understood that this committee’s recommendation will allow nobody to take this resolution and say this convention has in any way approved the consumption of alcoholic beverages,” Pressler stated.

While one messenger from Granbury spoke against the amendment, preferring “where Scripture speaks clearly, we’ll speak clearly,” all but a handful of messengers agreed to the change and the resolution passed as amended.

Other resolutions encouraged a gospel-centered ministry, discipleship in every area of Christian life, prayer for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force appointed by Hunt at last year’s annual SBC annual meeting, and appreciation for the leadership and church of outgoing SBTC President Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

The H. Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award was presented to Lamar Cooper, interim president of Criswell College, recognizing his long tenure with the Dallas-based school as provost and professor of Old Testament and Hebrew. In presenting the award, Pressler noted Cooper’s prior service to Southern Baptists as director of denominational relations at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, vice president for academic affairs at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and addressing the culture on moral issues.

A motion seeking the SBTC’s assistance for churches regarding changes to articles of incorporation was referred for consideration by the executive board. The effect on churches by the new Texas business organizational code is described on the SBTC website at sbtexas.com.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 16-18 at the Corpus Christi Convention Center.
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

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