Alaska Baptists report increases in Bible study, baptisms
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (BP)--Alaska Baptists noted signs of progress and marked the official end of a five-year partnership with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina during their 59th annual meeting Oct. 5-6.
A total of 158 messengers from 42 churches and eight missions attended the meeting at Muldoon Baptist Church in Anchorage. The Alaska Baptist Convention has four associations that include 74 churches and 20 missions, according to the annual report, along with four new ministries begun during the past year.
BSCNC executive director-treasurer Jim Royston spoke during a missions celebration Oct. 4 and in the opening session Oct. 5.
Royston reported that North Carolina Baptists have sent 5,667 volunteers "that we know of" during the 2000-04 partnership. He cited large-scale construction projects at a number of Alaska Baptist churches, including the host church, where Longleaf Baptist Church of Wilmington worked on the roof.
Volunteers have helped lead Vacation Bible Schools, Backyard Bible Clubs, leadership training, revivals, FAITH evangelism, sports evangelism, camps, retreats, youth ministries, block parties and other activities, he said, in addition to construction, painting and renovation projects.
North Carolina Baptists also contributed funds for most of the projects. North Carolina Baptists' goal has been to assist Alaska Baptists in winning the lost and helping them grow in maturity, Royston said. He expressed thanks to Alaska Baptists for their invitation to work together.
"Our folks come up here and work, then they come home and realize they can do things like that at home, too," he said.
David Baldwin, executive director-treasurer for the Alaska Baptist Convention, thanked North Carolina Baptists for their many contributions, offering special praise for Talmage and Delores Williams, who served on-site as partnership directors for four of the five years the partnership was in effect.
Baldwin said ABC churches reported increases in Bible study attendance and baptisms over the past year. Two years ago, Baldwin had challenged Alaska Baptists to turn around a decline in baptisms. The ABC adopted a three-year "Light Up Alaska" emphasis that year. Missions and prayer were the focus in 2003, while church development was the theme in 2004. The final year will emphasize a variety of evangelistic efforts.
Budget income is currently "about a month and half behind" budget needs, Baldwin said, but the ABC has managed to keep expenses below income. Messengers approved a 2005 budget of $1.96 million, up from $1.93 million in 2004. The budget includes anticipated gifts of $711,100 from ABC churches, $1,156,116 from the North American Mission Board, and $72,000 from LifeWay Christian Resources. NAMB has 16 fully appointed missionaries in Alaska, Baldwin said.
Alaska Baptists forward 33 percent of Cooperative Program funds to the Southern Baptist Convention.
Evangelism/church development director Jimmy Stewart reported 649 baptisms for the year, up from 520 in 2002 and 643 in 2003. Resident membership for ABC churches increased from 9,312 to 9,686, he said, though average Sunday morning attendance declined from 6,331 to 5,942. Stewart noted that some churches had not completed their Annual Church profile. Total membership, according to the statistical tables, was up slightly, from 16,493 in 2003 to 16,506 in 2004.
"Whatever you've been doing, keep doing," Stewart said, "because the trend is up."
He said the ABC has begun a successful program of training youth as church leaders called "T3," for "Training Teens Today."
Leon May concluded two years of service as president of the Alaska Baptist Convention. In his president's address, May used Acts 1:6-11 to challenge messengers to do important "meantime stuff" while awaiting Christ's return. Failing to do the meantime stuff can lead to a loss of vision, he said.
"We live in the meantime and must do whatever we have been called to do in the meantime," he said.
Fred Stroud, pastor of First Baptist Church in Wasilla, brought the convention sermon.
"There are problems in the church today," he said, noting the often-cited statistic that 80 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining.
Drawing on Proverbs 29:18-27, Stroud said the church needs a fresh vision of the living God and of what God expects His people to do. God's vision is two-fold, he said -- that believers should be holy (1 Peter 1:16) and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). The vision must include faith that goes beyond human understanding. Stroud spoke about financial sacrifice as an example of living by faith.
Bobby Welch, SBC president and pastor of First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla., preached Oct. 6 as he neared the conclusion of a tour of all 50 states and Canada to promote his "Everyone Can Kingdom Challenge for Evangelism" campaign to encourage Southern Baptists to "Witness, Win and Baptize ... ONE MILLION!" in one year. Alaska, America's 49th state, was the 49th stop on Welch's tour, which concluded the following day in Hawaii.
Bruce Rowell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Palmer, was elected president for 2005. No others were nominated, and Rowell, who served in 2004 as second vice president, was elected by acclamation. Tom Hoffman, pastor of Fairview Loop Baptist Church in Wasilla, was elected first vice president. Gary Cox, pastor of University Baptist Church in Fairbanks, was elected second vice president. Ruby Stogsdill, First Baptist of Soldotna, was re-elected as recording secretary.
In an auxiliary meeting, Woman's Missionary Union members thanked Linda Hoffman for five years of service as WMU president and elected Carol Smith of New Hope Baptist in Anchorage as the new president.