News Articles

STATE MEETINGS: Montana, Dakotas


Montana announces sale of its building


BILLINGS, Montana (BP) – The Montana Southern Baptist Convention anticipates signing papers within the next few weeks for the sale of its building in Lockwood, a Billings suburb.

Pastor Greg Payton, the Convention’s president and board chairman shared the news during the Oct. 6-7 annual meeting of the state convention, 

“The executive board voted to sell the building in 2015, right before the real estate market dropped,” Executive Director Barrett Duke told Baptist Press. “The unsolicited offer we received [recently] was for almost what we originally asked for the building.”

The buyer has agreed to let MTSBC use the building through the winter. Temporary office space then will be leased as the Executive Board determines where best to house the convention office. 

Barret Duke, executive director-treasurer of the Montana Baptist Convention, leads a panel discussion with Willie McLaurin, SBC Executive Committee, Blake Newsom, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Nate Parrow, IMB, Hoon Im, Guidestone and Jason Tipton, NAMB. (Submitted photo)

Montana’s annual meeting took place at Elevation Church in Billings, where Roger Dayton is pastor. The gathering took place again this year with “Refresh” as its theme.

“Refreshing. That’s what we aim for,” Duke said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish [with this meeting] in our pastors’ lives every year.”

At least 166 people were present from 46 of Montana’s 127 churches. The total included 25 guests, including several from the Missouri Baptist Convention, which is in the second year of a state-to-state partnership with the Montana convention.

A worship team that combined voices from Elevation Church and The Rock Church in Laurel, Montana, opened each session. The guest speaker was Willie McLaurin, interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee. 

McLaurin preached from Acts 1:8, reminding Montana Baptists that the power of God is available to them to be faithful, fruitful witnesses for Christ. 

Greg Payton, pastor of The Rock Church, also preached. In remarks prepared for the state convention’s Book of Reports, he wrote: 

“We have faith that God will do a mighty work through His people in Montana. We long to see people become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We pray that the spiritually dry and barren land that makes up a large portion of our state will be transformed through the finished work of Jesus Christ. The work is hard, and the hours are long, but praise be to God – as the Prophet Elijah believed [in 1 Kings 18:41] – we can hear the rain!”

Lee Merck, Montana’s lead church planting catalyst, led the state convention to pray for Montana this year. On April 6, more than 70 people gathered online from 20 different MTSBC churches to pray for God to move in Montana. Again, on August 31, fourteen churches gathered online to spend one hour praying together for Montana. 

“While on Zoom, you could see pastors and wives, side by side, churches gathered in fellowship halls, and families gathered in their living rooms,” Merck said. “What a blessing! We have established 4/06 as the day of prayer and fasting for Montana, and we’ve set 10:02 a.m. and 4:06 p.m. as daily times of prayer for Montana.”

As a result, Merck said, “Ten Montana church plants and two replants reported 296 Gospel conversations, 58 salvations, and 36 baptisms. These same church plants reported ten participating in church planting residencies, and 28 in missional leader residencies.”

In his Executive Director’s report, Duke spoke of the partnership with the Missouri Baptist Convention, from which 32 Montana churches have benefitted; the nearly $133,462 received above expenses in 2021, which was apportioned to Montana convention activities in 2022; and raised concerns about the significant drop in reported baptisms over the last ten years, from 606 in 2012 to 402 in 2021.

“Your church is in the process of declining if you are not reaching new people,” Duke noted in his written report. “Besides, it’s what the Lord expects us to do.”

The business included the unanimous re-election for second one-year terms of President Greg Payton, pastor of The Rock Church in Laurel, and Vice President Randall Jackson, pastor of Choteau Baptist Church in Choteau.

The 2023 budget of $1,070,000 – up $51,320 from 2022 – passed unanimously, with $760,000 anticipated in Cooperative Program giving from Montana churches, and up to $160,000 for evangelism and church planting from the North American Mission Board.

For the tenth year, Montana will forward 25 percent of its Cooperative Program giving from churches to SBC national and global mission causes.

“Missions is the glue that holds the Southern Baptist Convention together,” Duke said. “The Cooperative Program is the evidence of our commitment to continue to rally around that unifying purpose.”

Montana’s Executive Board informed messengers that they voted unanimously to begin an agreement process with NAMB to become a NAMB Send State. 

“We’re looking forward to becoming a NAMB Send State,” Duke said. “This gives us the opportunity to have more resources available for church planting and it’s going to help us attract more church planters to the state.”

“We had a great meeting, a wonderful spirit,” Duke later told Baptist Press. “People came from all over the state and stayed throughout the entire meeting. We accomplished our goal of doing our business and being refreshed.”

Montana’s next annual meeting is set for Oct. 5-6, 2023, at Montana Christian College, in Kalispell.

Dakota Baptist Convention gathers in celebration


HURON, South Dakota (BP) – Two church plants, three resolutions, and a closer look at Native American ministry in the Dakotas were among the highlights of the Oct. 6-7 annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention.

The two fledgling churches are among the 11 church plants in both North and South Dakota, with still more in the pre-plant stage, according to the written report submitted to the messengers by Dakota Send Network Director Buck Hill.

Jeffrey Mueller, president of the Dakota Baptist Convention, calls the DBC Annual Meeting to order. (Baptist Press photo)

He “helped facilitate setting up some residency programs around the Dakotas, two church plants in the Black Hills [of South Dakota and is] working with new work in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Fargo, North Dakota,” Hill’s report shared with the 67 messengers from 34 out of Dakota’s 85 churches in attendance at the annual meeting, which took place in the exhibition hall on the state fairgrounds in Huron.

Hill also worked over the last year with setting up a new website – sendnetworkdakotas.com – along with a video to be released in a few months showing the work of the state convention and North American Mission Board.

“Once again Dakota Baptists demonstrated their commitment to our mission as a ‘network of Great Commission churches that partner together to strengthen established churches and start new churches’,” Executive Director Fred MacDonald told Baptist Press, including the DBC’s mission statement in his comment. “Our meeting was a true celebration of what God has done, is doing, and will do in, through and around us.”

The 92 attendees, including 25 guests, gathered with a theme of “Celebrating Intentionally. Together.” based on Psalm 118:24. Worship was led by the worship team of Restore Church of Yankton, South Dakota. The guest speaker was Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in Ontario, California.

Reports were given by several SBC entities and Dakota leaders. 

“People are hurting, and many of our churches, pastors, and members have sought to reach their community needs while coupling that with the gospel,” reported Chad McCord, a Dakota church relations missionary. “As a result, churches are seeing a growth in attendance, but more importantly, in disciples being made. 

“We thank God for each church that is seeking to grow God’s kingdom by their obedience to love others, to share the Good News, and grow infant disciples into growing mature disciples,” continued McCord, who also serves as associate pastor of Connections Church in Belle Fourche, South Dakota.

About 116,000 enrolled tribal members live on one of the 12 Indian reservations in the Dakotas, where DBC has 13 cooperating churches, reported Paul Young, pastor of Dakota Baptist Church on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. Young also is a Church Relations Missionary with the DBC.

“There are multiple churches on the Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River, Standing Rock, and Lake Traverse reservations, but none on the Turtle Mountain, Rosebud, Crow Creek, and Yankton, or Flandreau, reservations,” Young reported. “The most recent church plant is Creator’s Fellowship in Manderson, S.D., that started last year, but the most recent surviving plant before that was 20 years ago with Hilltop Baptist in Lower Brule.”

In business, a $495,860 budget was passed for 2023, up $12,936 from last year’s budget. This includes $435,000 in Cooperative Program giving from churches, up $8,600 from the 2022 budget.

At the 2022 annual meeting, messengers changed Dakota’s state mission offering from designated to overall budgetary support. Implemented in January, the Baker State Mission Offering already accrued more than $13,000 by the end of August, “significantly more than where we were last year at this date,” MacDonald said, “Our churches have responded well to the change because the Baker offering now touches everything we do.”

Dakota will continue to send 25 percent of its receipts for Cooperative Program causes outside the two Northern Plains states. This is unchanged from last year, the first year Dakota became completely self-supporting, MacDonald said.

“The Cooperative Program unites Dakota Baptists with their brothers and sisters across the SBC in reaching throughout the Dakotas, across North America, and around the world,” the executive director said. “In three years we will celebrate the 100th birthday of the most effective tool in taking the gospel to the nations.”

New officers: President: Josh Brown, pastor of Redeeming Grace Church in Rapid City, S.D.; Vice-President: Ian Harp, pastor of Huron Baptist Church in Huron, S.D.; Recording Secretary: Karen Holmes, member of First Baptist Church in Wolsey, S.D.; Assistant Recording Secretary: Tom Stewart, member of Hills of Grace Fellowship in Rapid City, S.D.

At the conclusion of the 2022 annual meeting, DBC’s Executive Board met and elected its officers: Chairman Dude Garrett, co-pastor of Journey Church in Fargo, N.D.; vice-chairman Chris Wallace, pastor of Hope City Church in Bismarck, N.D.

Three resolutions passed unanimously. One expressed gratitude and appreciation to the hosts. One expressed celebration and appreciation for church planting. The third “call[ed] on men of God throughout the churches of the Dakotas to intentionally serve and love their wives above any other ministry they serve in order to best represent, serve, and live in obedience to the calling that God has placed upon our lives.”

Andy Daniel, pastor of Mercy Gate Church in Box Elder, S.D., presented the resolutions.

“It was important to the Resolutions Committee, that we focus on our families as men of God,” MacDonald said. “Strong ministries are built through strong families.”

The 40th annual meeting of the Dakota Baptist Convention is to take place October 5-6, 2023, in Williston, North Dakota.