WRAP-UP: State conventions underscore church planting, ethnic diversity, moral issues
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Church planting and increased ethnic diversity were celebrated in many of the state Baptist conventions' annual meetings this fall. In California three congregations involved in reaching a different ethnic group were featured, including Chinese Baptists ministering on an Indian reservation, one Anglo church engaged in reaching Hispanics and another hosting six different congregations -- Afghani, African American, Arabic, Armenian, Hispanic and Korean.
The many languages of churches in the Hawaii-Pacific Baptist Convention were highlighted as various people read Scripture in their native languages at each session. Nine ethnic groups in national attire sang "People Need the Lord" in their native language as they filed in carrying flags from their nations of origin.
During worship at the Baptist Convention of Maryland-Delaware's annual meeting, groups from Burmese, Chinese, Haitian, Kenyan, Korean and Nepalese churches shared hymns and praise music in their native languages, and an international dinner featured American, Chinese, Haitian, Hispanic, Korean and Nepalese foods.
Kansas-Nebraska Southern Baptists highlighted church planting opportunities in the region's growing Hispanic population. North Carolina Baptists witnessed the commissioning of 34 North American Mission Board missionaries being sent out to plant churches in some of the least evangelized areas of the country and Canada. Arizona Baptists toured a mission fair to discover new opportunities for ministry.
Colorado Baptists heard of new coalitions of associations formed to strengthen church planting in an effort to reach a diverse population. Florida Baptists learned of 117 new church starts through an emphasis on church planting regionalization, one of six recommendations being implemented in line with the Great Commission Resurgence.
Appreciation for NAMB
Tribute was paid to the North American Mission Board in both Florida and Ohio. Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director John Sullivan praised NAMB's help in planting churches, calling the SBC entity "the best partner we have in the state of Florida."
Ohio Baptists affirmed their partnership with NAMB, expressing gratitude for the mission board's response to concern voiced at last year's state convention meeting over the level of funding by the mission board. Messengers rejoiced over the designation of Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland as SEND North America cities for NAMB's national initiative to heighten church planting.
Commendation of the "sinner's prayer" as "a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church" was supported through identical resolutions passed in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The resolution encourages "all Christians to enthusiastically and intentionally proclaim the Gospel to sinners everywhere, being prepared to give them the reason for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15), and being prepared to lead them to confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9), including praying to receive Him as Savior and Lord (John 1:12)."
The resolution, written by Eric Hankins, pastor of First Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., had been submitted for consideration at the SBC annual meeting in June and was changed substantially by the Resolutions Committee. However, both resolutions observe that a "sinner's prayer is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel," citing Matthew 6:7, 15:7-9, and 28:18-20.
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed a resolution on evangelism and missions calling for "a clear and complete gospel presentation" and the "invitation to repent of one's sins and to believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to receive God's salvation."
An intentional focus on prayer and spiritual awakening was offered in Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina and Utah-Idaho. Louisiana Baptists completed a yearlong focus that featured 550 churches participating in a season of prayer, with parish-wide prayer meetings held in 64 locations. Tennessee Baptists approved a unified revival theme for 2013 encouraging solemn assembly and seasons of prayer, confession, repentance and reconciliation in churches.
Resolutions related to evangelism and revival arose in several states, including a call by Dakota Baptists for a renewed commitment to personal soul-winning, prayer by New England Baptists for national leadership and revival for America based on the current state of declining morality across the nation.
Northwest Baptists passed a resolution affirming a focus on gospel impact among local churches while North Carolina Baptists approved a resolution calling for the pursuit of holiness. Oklahoma Baptists embraced a call to fervent prayer and intercession for spiritual awakening as well as affirming Sunday School as a primary ministry for discipleship and evangelism.
Messengers in several states challenged Southern Baptists to consider biblical values when exercising the right to vote. Baptist General Convention of Texas messengers encouraged "individual Texas Baptists to seek God's guidance in making their election decisions" and to be informed voters.
Nevada Baptists noted a growing intolerance of Christian views and standards, urging that they hold fast to biblical standards, particularly in regard to the sanctity of life and marriage. Dakota and New Mexico Baptists also urged careful consideration of biblical values in regard to the election while Oklahoma Baptists called for prayer and encouragement for elected officials.
Messengers in Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention spoke more directly to the issue of religious liberty, with Alaska Baptists commending Christians who uphold a biblical worldview, citing the Chick-fil-A restaurant chain led by Dan Cathy as an example.
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention recognized Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission President Richard D. Land for his defense of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, racial reconciliation, a traditional definition of marriage and other moral stances during his 24-year tenure.
Alabama Baptists supported a statewide pro-life coalition as well as human needs ministries accompanied by a strong gospel witness. Both Oklahoma and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention addressed the sanctity of life, supporting passage of personhood amendments.
Arkansas Baptists specifically opposed a medical marijuana referendum which ultimately failed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Meeting after the election results were in, Michigan Baptists passed a resolution urging members to work as agents of reconciliation in a divided nation.
Resolutions by South Carolina and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention declared support for the sovereignty of Israel to exist as a nation.
Definition of marriage
Opposition to same-sex marriage was expressed in Alabama, with messengers also calling on churches to deal compassionately with homosexuals, a concern expressed by Alaska and West Virginia Baptists as well. Louisiana Baptists objected to a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) minor course of study being offered at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and also opposed attempts to legalize same-sex marriage by framing it as a civil rights issue.
West Virginia Baptists also affirmed marriage as between one man and one woman in an "exclusive union delineated in Scripture," a view expressed this year by Oklahoma and Southern Baptists of Texas Convention messengers as well.
Immigration and other topics
Kentucky Baptists appealed for ministry to the state's growing foreign-born population, recognizing all men and women are "endowed with the image of God," condemning bigotry and encouraging repudiation of harassment or exclusion from human rights based on immigration status.
Appreciation for the military once again was expressed in various state conventions, including resolutions in Arkansas, Northwest, Oklahoma and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
Louisiana Baptists encouraged church members and churches to practice financial responsibility according to biblical principles, while Nevada Baptists recognized the struggles of church members in a challenging economic environment, pledging prayer "that their needs will be met and Kingdom work will flourish." Southern Baptists of Texas Convention passed a resolution affirming the Cooperative Program as "our unrestricted vehicle for funding missions."
Other subjects addressed included affirmation by Illinois Baptists of belief in God's triune nature; support of South Carolina Baptists for governments to streamline adoption procedures while churches support and individuals commit to adoption; encouragement by Tennessee Baptists for ministers to meet for prayer and mutual encouragement; appreciation for ministry to college students by West Virginia Baptists; and a call from South Carolina Baptists for lawmakers to close loopholes that allow the sweepstakes gaming industry to "mirror the dark video poker industry."
Tammi Reed Ledbetter is news editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.