N.M. Baptists commit to 'Pressing On'
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (BP) -- With the theme "Pressing On," New Mexico Baptists approved marriage and pro-life resolutions, various recommendations and a $4.8 million budget during their annual meeting.
The gathering drew a total of 365 messengers from 112 churches and 165 visitors from across New Mexico, California, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. According to the Baptist Convention of New Mexico's (BCNM) annual meeting report, there are now 343 affiliated congregations with a total of 85,685 members.
Two churches sent their first messengers to this year's meeting, which was held Oct. 22-23 at Sandia Baptist Church in Albuquerque.
New Mexico Baptists gathered in Albuquerque on Monday, Oct. 21, for their annual Missions Fair and Missions Celebration. They attended the WMU Missions Celebration and the Pastors' and Laymen's Conference the next morning. The annual meeting consisted of three sessions: Tuesday afternoon and evening and Wednesday morning.
Messengers passed a resolution in support of the biblical definition of marriage. That same day the New Mexico Supreme Court heard arguments on the issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples in the state.
The resolution states:
-- their opposition to "any attempt to re-interpret current New Mexico law to allow 'same-sex marriage,'"
-- their encouragement of legislators "to continue to affirm the sanctity of marriage as designed and defined by God,"
-- their love for "those who struggle with same-sex attraction and who are engaged in the homosexual lifestyle,"
-- their opposition to "any form of gay-bashing,"
-- their affirmation "that pastors as well as all believers should proclaim both in church and in the public square the truth of God's word on human sexuality, marriage, purity, and love with all boldness and without fear of reprisal,"
-- their urging of "fellow Southern Baptists to consider how they and their churches might engage in compassionate, redemptive ministry to those who struggle with homosexuality" and
-- their commitment to "proclaim that Christ offers forgiveness of sin for those who turn from their sins and believe on Christ for the forgiveness of sin."
The BCNM's Christian Life Committee urged Baptists to participate in the Day of Prayer and Fasting for the Preservation of Marriage on the opening day of their annual meeting.
Messengers also passed a resolution encouraging Albuquerque voters on Nov. 19 to vote for the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Ordinance," which, if approved, would make the state's largest city the first in the country to enact a ban on abortions 20 weeks or more into pregnancy.
Presiding during the convention were BCNM President Tar Henderson, pastor of Gila Valley Baptist Church in Gila, and First Vice President Jonathan Richard, pastor of First Baptist Church Estancia. Both were elected by acclamation to second and final one-year terms; and Dennis Dunn, pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Albuquerque, was elected by acclamation as second vice president.
Henderson closed the convention with his president's address on Wednesday morning while Clovis pastor Alan McAlister brought the annual meeting sermon on Tuesday afternoon. Joseph Bunce, the BCNM's executive director, wrapped up the Tuesday evening session with his report.
Leading a Bible study in each of the convention's sessions was Chuck Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian Autry, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, brought messages during each session.
"I don't want to pastor a church of the frozen chosen," McAlister, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Clovis, said. He made the comment after sharing the story of a ship that was caught in the Antarctic ice cap in the 19th century.
McAlister used the Apostle Paul's admonition in Philippians 3:12-14 as his text. "Live in the present," he said. "The task of sharing the gospel with everyone everywhere "is not done. ... There's work to do."
It is easy for Christians to become weary and weakened from having to deal with life's frustrations. They may not consider the danger that others are in, McAlister warned. He concluded by inviting everyone to join him in asking God to do whatever He needed to do in their lives to get them involved in the task of sharing the Gospel across the state and to the ends of the earth.
Bunce, BCNM's executive director, challenged messengers based on Jeremiah 25-29 to realize they are living in unfamiliar territory. "You and I have got to learn to do ministry in Babylon," he said.
"Do we curse our culture?" Bunce asked.
"We must bring Christ to our culture," he responded. "It is only Christ who is going to change this world."
New Mexico Baptists should celebrate what they have accomplished together, Bunce said. He called attention to the millions of dollars they have sent to support Southern Baptist Convention missions and ministries through the Cooperative Program and the annual offerings for North American and international missions.
The state's Baptists, he added, need "to pour love and care into those who are captured in sin."
Henderson, BCNM's president, said New Mexico Baptists must have a clear perspective of what God wants of His chosen people. God wants what the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17: "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (NIV).
"Everything that we do is important to God Almighty," Henderson said during the convention's final message.
Christians have a responsibility to live lives of witnesses for Christ, he said. Henderson stressed the necessity of putting away the things that characterized the sinful nature and putting on "heavenly garments."
"We have the power; we just have to tap into it and be obedient ...," he said.
Autry, executive director of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, said Jesus is "the Lord of empowerment who wants to refresh this Land of Enchantment [New Mexico's nickname]."
Many Christians fail to drink the living water Jesus makes available to them, Autry said. They "will overflow as Spirit-filled followers of Christ" when they are committed to sharing the life Jesus gives them with others, he said.
"We live in the midst of darkness," he said.
Calling attention to Philippians 2:12 and the verses following, Autry challenged New Mexico Baptists to "shine as stars" in the darkness.
"God knows we live in the midst of darkness," he said. The more Christians are like Jesus, the brighter they shine in the darkness.
Kelley, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, said
"Paul knew that this Gospel was a Gospel of power."
"You will not be fruitful in a ministry if that is not your core conviction," Kelley said.
Acknowledging the challenging times America is experiencing, Kelley said, "Because of what Jesus did, we know how the story ends!"
"Kapow!" Kelley shouted repeatedly while leading a Bible study in the convention's second session. He described the many truths Paul shared about Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11.
"He took all His power and privileges as God, and he emptied it all out," Kelley explained. "He who was God also became man, drawing together in one person all of God that God could be and all of man that man could be."
Paul tells believers "to look and act like Jesus," Kelley continued. While it is a problem that many Christians today do not share the gospel, the "core problem" is "that more of us don't look and live like Jesus."
Calling attention to Philippians 4:6, Kelley said in a later session that those who pray catch "a glimpse of God's calm face" and experience His peace, which is "not an emotion and feeling ... (but rather) an active force protecting and guarding our heart."
"The greatest days we have ever had in our history lie ahead if you, if I, will be people of prayer," Kelley concluded.
Messengers moved quickly through each of the convention's business sessions. They passed all recommendations with little or no discussion and no opposition.
One proposal included the approval of a recommended merger between the BCNM's two camp corporations and the BCNM. Now approved, the organizations can begin the process and submit documents for messengers to affirm during the 2014 BCNM annual meeting.
Messengers also approved an Executive Board recommendation to strike all references to the BCNM's Historical Committee from the BCNM bylaws.
Messengers approved the BCNM's budget. It will require 2.2 percent more from New Mexico Baptist churches than is needed to meet the convention's 2013 budget.
Next year's budget calls for $4,035,055 in Cooperative Program (CP) receipts from the churches -- an increase of $86,881 from the amount required for the current budget.
The budget includes an increase in salaries for BCNM employees of 2 percent for administrative staff and 3 percent for support staff.
An estimated $926,847, or 23 percent, will be deducted for shared ministries from CP contributions the BCNM receives next year. Following this deduction, 35.25 percent of the remaining CP receipts -- an estimated $1,095,643 -- will be forwarded to the SBC for national and international missions and ministry.
The percentage to be sent to the SBC will be increased from 35 percent this year to 35.25 percent next year.
The remaining 64.75 percent, $2,012,565, along with the amount above that had been deducted for shared ministries and additional income of $1,929,244 from various sources -– that include BCNM camps, BCNM children and student conferences, Baptist New Mexican subscriptions and advertising and the SBC's North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources -- will be used to support a total operating budget of $4,868,656 for mission work in New Mexico.
Leading worship during this year's convention were Lamar Morin, leader of the BCNM's leadership development team; the New Mexico Singing Churchmen; and Richard Bowling, worship pastor of First Baptist Church, Bloomfield.
The 2014 state convention will be held at First Baptist Church, Deming, Oct. 21-22.
John Loudat is editor of the Baptist New Mexican, newsjournal of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).