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Toward 1 million baptism goal, LifeWay sends $1.6M to states

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources will invest more than $1.6 million in 14 Baptist state conventions to fund evangelism projects aimed at helping Southern Baptists achieve 1 million baptisms in 2005.

The funds represent LifeWay’s response to the Southern Baptist Convention’s challenge to double baptisms in the coming year and reverse four consecutive years of declines in baptisms throughout the SBC.

The LifeWay initiative began last December, when the company hosted a state executive directors meeting in Nashville. Ted Warren, LifeWay’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, communicated President James T. Draper Jr.’s vision for Southern Baptists to reach 1 million baptisms in a single year –- a vision shared by LifeWay’s executive management group. Warren then invited the state executive directors to request funds from LifeWay if they had plans to double baptisms in their states in 2005.

Fourteen state conventions responded with a wide range of proposals that met the standard, including state fair evangelism, youth encounters, evangelism training involving LifeWay’s “Share Jesus Without Fear” and FAITH Evangelism Strategy, university evangelism, statewide “wave” evangelism, outreach Bible studies, revival training and community evangelism events.

LifeWay has notified the 14 state conventions of their awards. They are: Alabama, the Dakotas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New England, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania/New Jersey and Southern Baptists of Texas. Several of the state conventions got together and proposed regional evangelism plans.

“These projects demonstrate LifeWay’s desire to partner with state conventions when we share a common vision,” Draper said. “These are very creative partnerships. God has given us the vision to baptize 1 million people next year, and he has blessed LifeWay with the resources to help state conventions see a doubling of baptisms in their states using evangelism tools that work best for them. We asked the states to dream big, and these 14 states most certainly did, and we are excited about what God will do through us in the coming year.”

“We understand that doubling the number of baptisms in any state convention is impossible apart from God,” Warren said. “But we believe God is honored when we trust Him for impossible things that we know will bring Him great glory and honor. We believe this is a God-given vision that He will equip us to achieve.”

At the Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis in June, Draper told messengers he attributed the four-year decline in baptisms to a lack of denominational focus. “It’s hard for someone to argue to the contrary when more than 10,000 Southern Baptist churches did not baptize a single person last year,” he said. “Perhaps the main reason for the decline in baptisms is that our denomination is simply failing to reach people for Christ.”

Last year LifeWay invested $6.7 million in state conventions through its ministry investment plan, student ministry and other evangelism and discipleship initiatives. “The addition of $1.6 million to help churches double their baptisms in 2005 shows that they share our urgency to tell people about the love of Christ,” Draper said.

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