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STATE MEETINGS: Indiana, Mississippi


Indiana Baptists resource each other

By Karen L. Willoughby/Baptist Press

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (BP) – About a third more Indiana Southern Baptists this year met Oct. 24-25 for the annual meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana than gathered last year.

Last year, 124 messengers from 65 of the state convention’s 450 churches gathered at Highland Lakes Baptist Camp and Conference Center for the annual meeting. This year, the totals at the same location were 161 messengers from 91 out of the 433 churches now affiliated with SCBI.

“We’re serious about connecting for Kingdom advancement, our new, succinct, vision,” Executive Director Ryan Strother told Baptist Press. “This vision is a shift in mentality from churches saying, ‘What can I receive from SCBI,’ to, ‘How can I participate with and perhaps be the resource for some churches.’”

In addition to times of worship, reports from state convention leaders and SBC entities, messengers heard about a new partnership with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary designed to aid pastors and leaders of smaller churches, and the newly minted five areas of focus of the Hoosier Heartbeats.

Messengers also approved a revised constitution and bylaws document, which for the most part consisted of updating language. Since it had been about 10 years since the last complete look at the documents, “We want our governing documents to be in order and as strong as they can be,” Strother said.

Major clarifications: SCBI will from now on require votes in two successive years to make bylaw changes; marriage is to be defined by the organization as only between a biological man and a biological woman; and a statement was added on the sanctity of human life.

The partnership with New Orleans will enable Indiana pastors and lay leaders to earn a six-course Pastoral Ministries certificate with eight in-person, two-day classes in Indiana led by NOBTS professors.

Strother said he became aware of the need for theological education when meeting with pastors around the state. In one church, a faithful church member without any training was called by the church as their pastor when their previous pastor died from COVID.

“In the Midwest you have a lot of very rural areas, with pastors faithfully ministering to normal size churches who don’t have the privilege of having had formal theological education,” the executive director explained. “This is a way we can boost the confidence of our pastors, to get them into a classroom setting with New Orleans professors. It’s being received very well.”

The five “Hoosier Heartbeats” are an intentional investment into Disaster Relief; development of an Indiana Children’s Services; IMB Advocates gleaned from former IMB missionaries now in Indiana; international teaching opportunities for Indiana pastors; and short-term mission trips arranged by SCBI, with teams from across Indiana, so each church doesn’t have to handle logistics.

Strother said he heard IMB President Paul Chitwood say at a meeting that IMB wants to have 500 new missionaries within five years. Chitwood also said 300 missionaries leave the mission field every year. “So we need 400 new missionaries every year to reach 500 more in five years,” Strother said.

“Given the rate of candidates who go on the field, you need 1,200 to 1,400 candidates a year. I’m thinking, how do we fill the candidate pipeline with Hoosier candidates? Now we’re activating that dormant group of leaders to connect with our pastors to help them know how they can encourage their members to get from the pew to the nations.”

Messengers unanimously passed a $3,165,457 budget for 2023, down $519,696 from the 2022 budget. The total includes $2,356,707 in Cooperative Program giving from churches. Of that amount, 36 percent (for the fourth year) is allocated for national and international SBC missions and ministry. 

Greg Byman was elected president to his first one-year term. He’s pastor of St. Joe’s Baptist Church in Fort Wayne, Ind. The other officers all were re-elected to a second, one-year term: First Vice President Jonathan LaFleur, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Terre Haute; Second Vice President Steve Davidson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Sellersburg; and recording Secretary Steve Taylor, pastor of Northeast Park Baptist Church in Evansville.

One of many noteworthy accomplishments over the last year in Indiana: “Our SEND Network Indiana team’s hard work in collaboration with our churches: Three recently planted churches, nine leaders in residencies, two church replants, nine new planters through assessment, five potential candidates for assessment, and 16 who were registered to start the L3 [NAMB’s Level 3 curriculum] pipeline training this Fall,” Strother wrote in his Executive Director’s Report. 

Two guest speakers at the annual meeting came from outside Indiana: “Minister of Encouragement” Dennis Swanberg, a Texas comedian, and Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in California.

Strother said when he asked last year’s officers, they suggested a survey be sent to pastors across the state, asking them, “If you had 30 minutes to learn from someone, who would that be and what would they teach you?” 

The 65 responses indicated the pastors were “frustrated and discouraged,” Strother told Baptist Press. So the executive team chose Swanberg, who after 23 years as a pastor in 1995 became a motivational humorous speaker. Iorg was named the second speaker to talk about leadership.

The next annual meeting of the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana is set for Nov. 6-7, 2023.

Mississippi Baptists increase budget, unveil new logo

By William Perkins/The Baptist Record

JACKSON, Miss. (BP) – A total of 759 registered messengers attended the 186th annual meeting of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Oct. 25-26.

Shawn Parker, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB), introduces the new MBCB logo to messengers attending the Oct. 25 evening session of the 2022 Mississippi Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at First Church, Jackson. Photo by William Perkins

Messengers approved without opposition a 2023 Cooperative Program budget of $30,676,380. Greg Warnock, chairman of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board (MBCB) Budget Committee and pastor of First Baptist Church in Brookhaven, proposed the budget during the final session of the 2022 MBC Annual Meeting at First Baptist Church in Jackson. It represents a 1.47 percent increase over the 2022 CP budget and forwards 39 percent of total giving to Southern Baptist causes.

Messengers also approved without opposition the slate of nominees for trustees to serve on MBC boards and commissions.

Lloyd Sweatt, pastor of Meadowood Baptist Church in Amory, was reelected without opposition to a second term as president of the Mississippi Baptist Convention during the meeting’s first session.

Also at the first session, the convention’s Sexual Abuse Response Team appointed by Sweatt earlier this year issued a preliminary report on its work and announced that the Executive Committee of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board has allotted $250,000 to be used immediately by churches toward membership and training with MinistrySafe, a Texas-based legal ministry that provides “a complete child safety system designed to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse,” according to the group’s website.

MBC member churches can sign up for the $250 per church subsidy at the MinistrySafe website. Enter code MS2022.

Brad Eubank, task force chairman and senior pastor of First Church of Petal, told messengers a final report on the team’s work will be issued at the 2023 Mississippi Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.

In the meantime, Eubank said, the response team is issuing special resources that can be used by churches including a First Steps bookletposter, and card. The resources are not copyrighted and may be reproduced.

Judson W. “Bill” Hurt, senior pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Columbus, was elected to a first term as first vice president. Scott Hanberry, senior pastor of Hardy Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, was tapped to serve a first term as second vice president.

Rounding out the officer selections for the coming year were Michael Weeks, pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Olive Branch, as recording secretary, a post he has held for 25 years. Will McNeese, pastor of Polkville Baptist Church in Polkville, will serve a first term as assistant recording secretary.

Shannon Davis, pastor of Conehatta Baptist Church in Conehatta, offered a motion to declare a day of fasting and prayer “for the Choctaw people that God would comfort them in their time of distress, specifically that God would open their hearts to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior.” The motion passed without opposition.

The new Mississippi Baptist Convention Board logo was revealed by board executive director-treasurer Shawn Parker during the Oct. 25 evening session.

The fresh design, which signifies the River of Life that is Jesus Christ and contains an abstract “M” and “B” for “Mississippi Baptist,” replaces the logo in use by the board for the past 20 years.

Next year’s annual meeting will be Oct. 24-25 at the same location. More information can be found at thebaptistrecord.org/.

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