Ala. Baptists seek to be 'Life Changers'
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (BP) – Alabama Baptists approved a 2014 Cooperative Program budget that represents a $1 million decrease from this year's budget during their annual meeting. But messengers took a continued step forward in a multiyear strategy toward an even split of CP receipts with Southern Baptist Convention causes.
This year's Alabama Baptist State Convention annual meeting also featured the theme "Life Changers," the passage of resolutions on a variety of social issues, and drew 825 messengers Nov. 12-13 at Whitesburg Baptist Church in Huntsville.
Messengers affirmed a base budget of $41 million. The newly approved budget represents the convention's ongoing efforts to eventually implement a 50/50 allocation of CP dollars after the "shared ministries" category between their state convention and the SBC has been deducted. The allocation for 2014 is: 46.7 percent to Alabama ministries, 43.3 percent to SBC ministries, 10 percent to shared ministries. Any receipts beyond the base budget are to be divided 50/50 between Alabama missions causes and SBC missions causes.
Following the budget report, Alabama Baptists honored two churches for their CP giving:
-- Shades Mountain Baptist Church, Vestavia Hills, for highest giving total through the CP with $790,611.
-- Pisgah Baptist Church, Selma, for highest per capita giving through the CP with $345.07.
Alabama is full of life changers, Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said.
He encouraged those present at the annual meeting to be life changers, whether that be through giving, praying or serving.
Life changers "have eternal importance," he said.
And Alabama Baptists are making an eternal impact, he said. They remain the No. 1 contributor through the Cooperative Program and No. 2 in giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
"You don't realize it, but when you electronically or physically write out that check you become a life changer by giving to others," Lance said.
Life changers also are known for believing in others, serving others and reaching others, he said. "What if next year and in the coming years we prayed evangelistically in our churches for lost people? We are busy planning for the next Sunday or the next event, but there needs to be time in our churches to pray evangelistically," Lance said.
In 2013 as part of the Praying Across Alabama emphasis, Baptists made prayer a priority by gathering together at courthouses in every county across the state.
'We're in it for Christ'
Frank Page, president of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, challenged Alabama Baptists by telling them they can "do better together than we can do on our own" through the Cooperative Program.
"I want to be a part of a movement of God to plant churches in places that I will only read about," he said. "I want to work with patience with other brothers and sisters and see us join strings together."
Does that mean the CP is perfect? No, Page said.
"But does that mean it's being tweaked across this nation? Yes, it does," he said. "I want you to join me tonight in a commitment to missions and ministry together."
Page said he challenges young pastors not to give "blind commitment" to the CP but to take it apart, study it and put it back together.
"Take a looksee, and I believe in the end you'll say 'wow.' I believe you'll say it's a race we can run together," he said.
As the No. 1 giver through CP, Alabama Baptists gave nearly $18 million last year to national causes, Page said.
'Give it, preach it, live it'
John Killian, pastor of Maytown Baptist Church and president of the Alabama Baptist State Convention, told messengers during his address that "the message of Christ is the only hope this world will ever know."
"Give it, preach it, live it -- for all eternity hangs in the balance," he said.
Titled "Eternity in an Old Pot," Killian referenced 2 Corinthians 4, where the apostle Paul speaks of the power of the Gospel and the lasting nature of salvation that dwells in us.
Killian said "this glorious Gospel is the only hope for a darkened sinner." He noted that in the beginning of the chapter, Paul speaks of "our calling to ministry."
"Friends, you and I don't have power to convert," he said. "You and I are up against what Ephesians 6 calls spiritual wickedness in high places. … But verse 4 clarifies that the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine in hearts that we might believe."
'Leaders of change'
Kevin Wilburn told Alabama Baptists, "I stand before you this morning a concerned pastor." His words opened a convention sermon that capped two and a half days' worth of messages that addressed the nation's moral decline.
"We are in a battle for the soul of the church," Wilburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Scottsboro, said. "When an adoption can cost as much as $30,000 and an abortion is $300, something is wrong."
Preaching from 1 Kings 18:36–37, he challenged Alabama Baptists to be decisive and courageous in their commitment and to hold fast to the one true God as Elijah did when he challenged the priests of Baal.
"There is a need for entrepreneurial leadership to stand up and influence the culture that our churches are planted in," Wilburn said.
Southern Baptists' influence appears to be declining, he said, noting that the Southern Baptist Convention is in a 14-year slide in baptisms, with the exception of one year.
"What about your church? Is its influence sliding, its impact on engaging the culture slipping? You can panic or you can pray," Wilburn said.
Sometimes it's possible for Baptists to get so nostalgic that all they are doing is trying to recover something from times past, he said. Instead they should look for new strength from God, he said.
"God, would You send a fresh wind of renewal in my life? Alabama Baptists, we must rebuild the altar to the Lord. We do not have any power apart from His power to impact this culture," Wilburn said.
He challenged Alabama Baptists to be "leaders of change" rather than "losers of influence."
Killian was re-elected president. Also re-elected were first vice president, Travis Coleman, pastor of First Baptist Church, Prattville; second vice president, Jim Cooley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Haleyville; and statistical and registration secretary, Bobby DuBois, associate executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. The only officer not re-elected after serving since 1999 as recording secretary was Mary Sue Bennett, who is retiring in January. Elected to the position was Billie Davis, ministry assistant in the executive office.
Messengers adopted resolutions dealing with the nationwide educational initiative called Common Core State Standards Initiative and the ongoing concern over governmental support of parochial and other nonpublic schools. Other resolutions that covered a variety of social issues included the Affordable Care Act, women's health and safety, child sex abuse and biblical marriage.
The resolutions committee found no current problems with Common Core, resolutions committee chairman Craig Carlisle said, but it wanted to lay a foundation of concern in case issues arose in the future.
"We are not endorsing or opposing Common Core," Carlisle, pastor of Twelfth Street Baptist Church in Gadsden, said. "We are establishing a precedent of concern."
The resolution expresses the fear that "some tenets of Common Core could be utilized to enable the federal government to dictate state curricula." It calls on the state Legislature and the Alabama State Board of Education to "study and evaluate" Common Core and its effects on the educational system. The resolution also urges the state to establish its own standards and curricula for Alabama public school students.
On Support of Public and Nonpublic Schools is the title of the resolution urging state leaders to "protect the educational autonomy of nonpublic schools." The resolution outlines the parental responsibility for choosing the type of education appropriate for the child, references church schools as a ministry of local churches and affirms support for public and nonpublic schools before asking state leaders to protect nonpublic schools.
The Alabama Baptist Christian Life Commission submitted the resolution opposing the contraceptive services mandate after the issue was referred to them during the 2012 annual meeting. The resolution called the requirement issued by the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the Affordable Care Act a "threat to the free exercise of religion guaranteed in the Bill of Rights."
In addition to calling for withdrawal of the offensive mandate, the resolution commends the Southern Baptist Convention's (SBC) Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and GuideStone Financial Resources for participating in legal actions to overturn the federal regulation.
Messengers expressed appreciation to the Alabama Legislature and Gov. Robert Bentley for passing and signing the Women's Health and Safety Act, which requires abortion centers to meet standards similar to those offering emergency health care.
In 2012, messengers adopted a resolution urging the Alabama Legislature to adopt such a bill.
Alabama Baptists were urged to "cooperate fully with law enforcement officials in reporting allegations or accusations of sexual abuse." And messengers urged Alabama Baptists to "support safe and healthy" children's ministries and commended resources made available by the convention.
The resolution on Biblical Marriage called biblical family relationships "one of the most critical moral imperatives of our time." The resolution declared "the sacred institution of marriage is now under destructive attack throughout our society."
Messengers expressed "enthusiastic support for those policies of public and private organization which aim to strengthen the biblical marriage commitment." Churches and pastors were urged to make premarital and marital counseling a priority and the resources of Pathways Professional Counseling, a ministry of Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries, were commended.
Next year's meeting will be held Nov. 11–12 at Lakeside Baptist Church, Birmingham.
Compiled from The Alabama Baptist reports by Shawn Hendricks, managing editor of Baptist Press.