HOUSTON (BP)–More than 1,300 Texas Baptists gathered at Reliant Park Area in Houston for the fifth annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, passing a budget of nearly $14 million, encouraging the Adopt-an-Annuitant program and celebrating the theme “Following Jesus.”
About 955 messengers representing 369 churches and 364 visitors registered for the Oct. 28-29 meeting that returned to the city where the SBTC was formed in 1998 with 120 churches. The convention has now grown to 1,208 churches, 75 percent of whom are uniquely affiliated with SBTC. An estimated 250 people also attended the gathering who did not register.
A 2003 budget in the amount of $13,867,268 was approved by acclamation, increasing to 52 percent the amount sent to the Southern Baptist Convention for distribution by the Executive Committee through the Cooperative Program. SBTC continues to lead all state conventions in the proportion given to the SBC.
“The proposed budget increase is 56 percent, so the increase is not as large percentage-wise as prior years,” reported Joe Davis, SBTC’s chief financial officer. Last year’s budget was marked by a 106 percent increase from the 2001 budget. “But you also see that the dollar increase is $4,964,000, just under a $5,000,000 increase, which makes this our largest dollar increase in our history.”
Davis reiterated that the remaining 48 percent of the budget provides funding for the state convention’s ministry in Texas to grow.
“You see that almost 37 percent of our in-state budget is dedicated to missions and evangelism,” Davis said. “No other two ministry areas combined equals the missions and evangelism area. The new church starts line item alone is $1.2 million dollars.”
Davis also stated the 2003 budget is more “aggressive” in nature than previous budgets due to the amount of needed funds per month to meet the SBTC Cooperative Program giving goal.
“Our Cooperative Program receipts through September of this year have averaged $1,106,000 per month. The proposed Cooperative Program (CP) budget for 2003 requires $1,110,000. So, the proposed budget for 2003 is running just ahead in CP requirement of what we have averaged thus far this year.”
The expectation of continued growth of the SBTC, Davis said, will play a factor in supporting the 2003 budget.
“We have added about two churches every three days since the beginning of the year, and we expect growth to continue at some level.”
Convention messengers also passed six resolutions, including a resolution promoting the Psalm 139 Project of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; a resolution affirming the centrality of Christ as the only way to salvation; a resolution on church and state relations requesting all government bodies to respect religious liberty laws; a resolution calling all print and electronic journalists to treat with integrity and respect the Christian worldview by means of fair, accurate and unbiased reporting; and a resolution encouraging churches to adopt one or more annuitants with a gift of $250 per month. SBTC messengers also expressed appreciation to Sagemont Baptist Church in Houston for preparations in the form of a resolution from the annual meeting.
Messengers elected officers by acclamation, including George Harris, pastor emeritus of First Baptist Church Castle Hills of San Antonio as president; David Galvan of Primera Iglesia Bautista Nueva Vida in Garland as first vice-president; Steve Swofford of First Baptist Church in Rockwall as second vice president; and Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth as recording secretary.
SBTC President George Harris drew from Philippians 3:13-4:1, telling the audience, “Don’t quit now. There’s too much in the present to be done, too much of the past to be lost, and too much in the future to be gained.”
Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, delivered the convention sermon on King David’s proclamation of the natural revelation of God in creation and ultimately through the provision of Jesus Christ. Pointing to the examples of former Dallas pastors George W. Truett and W.A. Criswell, Brunson said a passion for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ must remain the focus of the SBTC.
In an Oct. 29 message, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard Land warned against “words of Jesus theology” that elevates Scripture attributed to Jesus as more authoritative than the rest. “Our Savior, our Lord, he who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, put himself under the authority of Scripture, up to and including the crucifixion. How dare we even contemplate doing less. How dare we have a lower view of Scripture than Jesus Christ.”
Land was presented the 2002 Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award during business proceedings by Pressler himself.
“I’m grateful to present the award to Richard Land. We have a marvelous country and Land’s presence, his leadership, shows our genuine concern in our nation,” Pressler, a retired Texas judge, said of the ERLC president. “There are so many ways that Land has blessed the convention. For those that would put down Southern Baptist conservatives, we present to you Dr. Richard Land and Paige Patterson and others who are as brilliant as anyone could be. Land changed all of our Southern Baptist testimony in Washington, D.C., and all the land.
“We move from [Foy] Valentine who was a founder to National Abortion Rights League to Land who has stood firmly for the rights of all unborn,” Pressler added. “Land is changing America. He has credence in the White House, in Congress, in America.
“Land is the future of the SBC, the future of America and the leadership that we are proud to have as the SBTC and the SBC.”
Land responded to the accolades of Pressler by expressing gratitude for the Presslers’ commitment to Southern Baptist causes.
“I would not be in the ministry today if it were not for the ministry of Paul and Nancy Pressler in my life. I know, more than some, the enormous price he has paid in order to stand for the truth of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is the measure of the man that he does not look upon it as a sacrifice,” Land said. “Very few men in Christendom have stood in the gap as mightily as Judge Paul Pressler. Without his courage and conviction and millions of Southern Baptists who stood with him, I would not have the position I have today. I would not have the opportunity to have the influence. I’m not changing America — Bible-believing, Christ-centered, evangelistic Southern Baptists are changing America.”
In his report to the convention, SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards said, “Four years ago in this city, God raised up a state convention. ‘Incredible’ is the word to describe what has happened in the last 48 months. The SBTC has experienced 1,000 percent growth to 1,208 affiliated congregations.”
Richards also added that SBTC churches have given a combined total of $43 million since the inception of the new state convention.
“Lives have been changed, people have been saved and some have answered the call to ministry all because of the obedience of God’s people,” he said.
As a part of Richards’ report to convention messengers, SBTC ministry staff members publicly signed an affirmation of the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message to express commitment to the values, beliefs and doctrines of the SBC and the SBTC.
“Our signing this document is saying we will keep in trust the faith system that you, the churches, have adopted as a convention,” Richards said. “The SBTC is a confessional fellowship, and we unashamedly and without reservation affirm our commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message Statement 2000.”
SBTC missions and evangelism director Ruben Hernandez reported God used SBTC churches to baptize 19,022 people in 2001 after 2000’s total of 7,717.
“May the Lord continue to use us to win many more for Jesus Christ and to lead them in obedience to our Father’s holy command,” Hernandez said.
Robby Partain, SBTC senior associate for missions and church planting, reported 157 new churches have been planted by SBTC personnel and churches. To demonstrate the SBTC commitment to starting new churches, 22 church planters and their families were recognized in a special commissioning ceremony.
“As a state convention we say that missions and evangelism are at the forefront of what we do,” Partain said. “These planters and their families are the forefront. They are on the frontlines of our state mission field. They are our missionaries.”
In other action, several proposed amendments to the SBTC constitution were approved for a second year as required for ratification, addressing affiliation requirements and fraternal relationships.
The 2003 annual meeting will be Oct. 27-28 in Corpus Christi.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SBC COMMITMENT.