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Utah-Idaho Baptists celebrate growth

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (BP) –- Utah-Idaho Southern Baptists celebrated 13 church plants, including five that worship in a Hispanic context, and four newly-constituted churches during their 49th annual meeting in Idaho Falls.

The Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention’s vision is to reach a total of 300 churches by 2020 and 1 percent of the nearly 4.5 million population of the two states.

“Our vision is to have 100 [Hispanic] churches by 2020, and our prayer is that the Lord will enable us to achieve this,” Hispanic church planting strategist Leonardo Lopez said in his report to messengers at Calvary Baptist Church of Idaho Falls.

Fulfilling Vision 2020 is just the first step, said Rob Lee, the convention’s executive director. “We are to strengthen and encourage disciples by following [the apostle] Paul’s example,” he said. “He won converts, established churches and trained Christians to do the same.”

Business sessions at the Oct. 22-23 annual meeting included adoption of a $2,040,483 budget for 2014, an increase of $59,670 from 2013. This includes $722,483 in Cooperative Program giving from Utah-Idaho churches, $1,163,733 from the North American Mission Board, $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $94,267 from the convention’s York-Dillman State Missions Offering.

Twenty-five percent of the Cooperative Program dollars received – budgeted at $180,621 for 2014 — is to be sent for disbursement to SBC national and international missions. This percentage, unchanged from last year, is up 4 percentage points from 10 years ago.

“I want you to know: We do not hold onto this money,” SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page said during his Wednesday afternoon message to Utah-Idaho messengers. “Within four days, it’s on its way to be used to see the nations reached for Christ.”

Page’s stop in Idaho was one of 22 visits he plans to make this fall to speak at state convention annual meetings. He preached the Wednesday afternoon’s sermon from Revelation 2:1-7.

“I believe God wants us to wake up,” Page preached. “That’s what’s happened in the Southern Baptist Convention: We have forsaken our first love. … We’ve grown cold. The warm winds of revival are desperately needed.

“It’s time to get it right — and quickly,” Page said.
The Vision 2020 Committee has worked hard to “get it right,” said Kirk Baker, outgoing president of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention (UISBC), in his opening statement in conducting the meeting.

“We want to build and stand strong together,” Baker said. “We believe as our churches get stronger, the state convention gets stronger.”

Baker reminded messengers of what they first heard a year ago as the result of the Vision 2020 team’s work. The state convention has realigned itself into three priorities: sharing Christ, strengthening churches and starting churches.

Each of the three priorities received separate focus in one of the business sessions. That focus was carried into informal discussions that took place around eight-person tables during meal times and other breaks.

Facilitators during each of the breaks encouraged those around each table to talk about their needs and how they could pray for or partner with each other.

The theme for the pastors and wives conference that preceded the annual meeting was “Reaching the Next Generation.” The theme for the annual meeting was “Standing on the Gospel.” This year’s meeting drew 87 messengers from 32 of UISBC’s 155 congregations. Registrants also included 29 guests.

Several of this year’s speakers noted how the need for a Gospel presence in Utah and Idaho can be daunting.

“Fifty-four people die every day in Utah; Fifty three wake up in hell,” said Travis Kerns, coordinator for the Send Salt Lake outreach as one of the North American Mission Board’s 32 “Send” metropolitan areas.

First Vice President Clint Henry said “all but one-half of 1 percent of the people who live in Provo [Utah] are not Christian.” Provo is the most under-evangelized city in the nation, he added. There are entire towns within the two states that are without any evangelical witness.

“We’ve learned to be aware of lostness but not be moved by it,” Henry said. “We need to pray for the lost and for our own heart.”

Four new churches that joined the UISBC are Morgan Grace Fellowship of Morgan, Utah; Vietnamese Fellowship of Christ in Salt Lake City; Desert Ridge Baptist Church in St. George, Utah; and Gospel (formerly Oasis) Community Church of Price, Utah.

The convention’s five new Hispanic church plants are a direct result of the Hispanic Church Planting Institute, which meets each Friday at Cornerstone Church in Salt Lake City, said Lopez, the convention’s Hispanic church planting strategist. From there, students are sent out to start new work. The fall 2013 semester opened with 28 students.

To help further the convention’s church-planting efforts, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) joined two years ago in a partnership with UISBC. At the request of SBTC, NAMB redirected $70,000, originally earmarked for SBTC, to UISBC to help in additional church planting, said SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards.

“There are a lot of personal and missiological connections between Texas and Utah-Idaho,” Richards said in addressing messengers. “It’s an open-ended partnership. We’re definitely looking at five years.”

During this year’s convention elections, Jim Panagoplos, pastor of First Baptist Church of Roy, Utah, was elected without opposition as president. Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho, was re-elected without opposition to a second term as first vice president. Russ Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Provo, Utah, was re-elected to a second term as second vice president. Arie Sparkman, wife of director of missions Ray Sparkman of Treasure Valley Southern Baptist Association, was re-elected for a fifth one-year term as recording secretary.

Messengers approved one resolution that expressed appreciation to Calvary Baptist for its hospitality in hosting the annual meeting.

Next year, Utah-Idaho Southern Baptists will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their convention Oct. 21-22 at Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, north of Salt Lake City.


Karen L. Willoughby is a national correspondent for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).