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Utah/Idaho to form regional church planting teams

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (BP) — Old way: State convention strategist oversees all church planting in the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. New way: Regional church planting teams oversee church planting.

Messengers to the UISBC annual meeting unanimously approved a Church Planting Network that sections the two states into five regions and provides a locally-led five-person team to support incoming church planters.

“Just as local government knows its situation better than does the state, and state than federal, a locally-driven church planting strategy works better than does one generated by the state convention,” Travis Kerns told messengers as he explained the concept. Kerns is the North American Mission Board missionary for its Send North America outreach in Salt Lake City.

“If we do everything from a local level, we could be better stewards and more effective with the funds and resources we have,” Kerns said. “We love stewardship and we love effectiveness.”

Mike Palmer, pastor of Salmon Valley Baptist Church in Salmon, Idaho, and Lemhi Cowboy Church in Tendoy, Idaho, and Kerns — independent of each other — came up with the same “what-if” thought about the same time Billy Edwards announced his retirement as the convention’s staff member responsible for church planting oversight in the two states, Kerns explained.

Each regional Church Planting Network consists of a local lead pastor who can galvanize the help of other churches in the region, a church planter already serving in the area, the church planting catalyst for the region, plus Palmer and Kerns.

Budget, other business

Despite significantly trimming the UISBC’s budget for 2016, messengers to the two-state convention’s Oct. 20-21 annual meeting at Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, unanimously approved a 1 percentage point increase in Cooperative Program giving for SBC national and international missions and ministries, which also would receive half of any CP gifts above the budget.

The anticipation is that CP giving is to increase 1 percentage point in each of next four years’ budgets, so that Utah/Idaho Southern Baptists will be giving 30 percent of churches’ CP giving to SBC causes outside the two Rocky Mountain states by 2020.

“The last five years have been challenging but now is not the time to retreat but to move forward,” Executive Director Rob Lee told the convention. “God is blessing.”

The 2016 budget of $1,729,732 is $276,432 less than the $2,006,164 budget for 2015. This includes $635,465 in anticipated Cooperative Giving from Utah and Idaho churches, $940,000 from NAMB, $60,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources and $94,267 from the York-Dillman State Missions Offering.

Messengers also unanimously approved changes to the constitution and bylaws stemming from the Supreme Court embracing same-sex marriage and to tighten requirements for affiliation with the two-state convention.

Churches affiliated with the UISBC, in order to be “cooperative in faith and practice,” must show acceptance of “the most current Baptist Faith and Message”; must not knowingly take any action “which affirms, endorses, supports, or approves in any way homosexual conduct or same-sex marriages”; and must provide “an annual church statistical profile and information.”

One messenger asked if part of the intent of the constitutional change is to disaffiliate from churches that do not turn in an Annual Church Profile.

“Yes, we’re very serious,” said Kerns, who gave the report by the convention’s constitution and bylaws committee. “What we’re saying to churches is, ‘Are you in or not?'”

Resolutions passed by the convention called for continued prayer for Saeed Abedini, imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, whose family waits in Idaho for him; for affirming biblical marriage; for the defunding by local, state and federal government of Planned Parenthood. Messengers also expressed appreciation, by a resolution, for pastor Paul Thompson and members of Eastside Baptist Church for their hospitality.

The convention also expressed “deep appreciation” for the “incredible partnership” of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention at the conclusion of its five-year commitment to Utah and Idaho.

According to a plaque of appreciation for the SBTC that was read to messengers, the Utah/Idaho convention “will continue to serve you through our prayers, praise, and partnership in providing Disaster Relief volunteers in your times of need, trainers to equip your churches about the … Mormons, opportunities for mission service here, and to lift up your arms as you have need of fellow brothers and sisters to strengthen your ministries and ministers.”

A new slate of officers was elected, each unanimously: president, David Kite, pastor of four cowboy churches in Idaho; first vice president, Michael Waldrop, pastor of Desert Ridge Baptist Church in St. George, Utah; second vice president, Mike Pless, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Bountiful, Utah; recording secretary, Chauna Sidwell, a member at First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

The UISBC’s “Consider Your Calling” theme based on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 was reflected in three theme interpretations: on evangelism, Russ Robinson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Provo, Utah; discipleship, Clint Henry, pastor of Central Valley Baptist Church in Meridian, Idaho; and stewardship, Jim Panagoplos, pastor of First Baptist Church in Roy, Utah — as well as the pastor’s conference that preceded the annual meeting with guest speaker Richard Owen Roberts of Wheaton, Ill.

Final attendance totals were 91 messengers — 53 messengers from 20 churches in Idaho, and 38 messengers from 16 churches in Utah — plus 27 registered guests. The UISBC includes 171 church-type congregations, four of which were accepted into fellowship during the annual meeting: Christ Fellowship and Redeeming Life Church, both in Salt Lake City; Crossroads Church in Sandy, Utah; and Redemption Church in Ogden, Utah.

The 2016 annual meeting of the Utah/Idaho Southern Baptist Convention will be a one-day event to better serve bivocational pastors on Oct. 21 at First Baptist Church in West Valley City, Utah.