IRVING, Texas (BP)–Rapid growth, record-setting support of the Cooperative Program, and the first state entity to recommend adoption of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 are the hallmarks of the newest state convention affiliated with Southern Baptists, according to Jim Richards, executive director of the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention. Since its formation in November of 1998, SBTC has grown from 120 congregations sending messengers to the first meeting, to more than 400 affiliated churches.
“Since January of this year, we have averaged adding two churches every three days,” stated Jim Richards, SBTC executive director. “We’re now at 405 churches and fully expect by end of year to be at 500.”
Ten percent of the member churches were begun by SBTC within the last two years. Ruben Hernandez, SBTC minister of evangelism and missions, has coordinated the planting of 46 new church starts.
Over 60 percent of the member churches are affiliated solely with the SBTC, while fewer than 40 percent maintain dual membership in SBTC and Baptist General Convention of Texas. Richards noted that many more of the dually affiliated churches are voting to be singularly affiliated with SBTC.
SBTC is one of only two state conventions committing half of its receipts from churches to undesignated support of the Cooperative Program. Along with Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, SBTC currently forwards 50 percent of CP receipts to the Executive Committee of the SBC for distribution.
Several other state conventions approach the half and half distribution of receipts, but retain some of the SBC portion to promote the Cooperative Program or fund other priority items such as annuity contributions. And many of the newer state conventions have committed to increasing the percentage of receipts forwarded to the SBC each year as a part of the current Partners in the Harvest emphasis of Cooperative Program promotion.
A proposal of SBTC’s executive board calls for increasing the CP portion to 51 percent in the 2001 budget. The unprecedented action by a state convention will be considered at the Nov. 14 SBTC meeting in San Antonio.
In contrast, the Baptist General Convention of Texas executive board is recommending to messengers meeting Oct. 31 that funding to most SBC entities be reduced or eliminated.
“The SBC is always very pleased when our state convention partners challenge the churches to give more to worldwide ministries,” stated David Hankins, vice president for the Cooperative Program. “It’s commendable on the part of Southern Baptists of Texas to be aggressive in moving more resources out to the world.”
Richards said he sees the recommendation to SBTC messengers as an affirmation of the missions and ministry plan of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The SBTC will explore other avenues to increase funds to the SBC without minimizing mission and ministry in Texas,” Richards added. Previously approved plans call for increasing the percentage of receipts forwarded to SBC endeavors by another one percent every two years until a 55/45 split is achieved.
“Our approach is not Texas first, it is Jesus first. Jesus gave the Great Commission, which is a balanced approach. Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost part of the world are to be reached simultaneously,” Richards said, adding, “The Cooperative Program is the way to do it.”
The SBTC Executive Board voted in July to ask messengers to approve the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as its doctrinal document, making it the first state convention governing body to have recommended such an action.