Reach Houston initiative set before SBTC messengers
Messengers were challenged to join the Reach Houston church planting and church revitalization initiative; they approved a motion to forward 2016 budget surplus directly to Southern Baptists' Cooperative Program and joined with the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas for a historic worship gathering.
Nathan Lino, pastor of Northeast Baptist Church in Humble, was elected as the convention's new president without opposition, as were the vice president, Dante Wright, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, and recording secretary, Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin.
The convention officially launched its Reach Houston initiative to increase church planting and revitalization in the greater Houston area, described by various experts as the most ethnically diverse megacity in the United States, surpassing even New York City, and on a trajectory to pass Chicago as the nation's third-largest city by 2020.
In a video presentation on the new initiative, Houston pastors voiced their support of the initiative. Admitting that Houston already has numerous churches, Champion Forest Baptist Church pastor David Fleming said, "'We could start a new church every week running 2,000 in attendance and still not keep up with the growth that is happening right here in Houston."'
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards, underscoring the need for a strategic focus on Houston, said a search is underway for a Reach Houston coordinator to live in the city and direct church planting and revitalization efforts. Former SBTC missions director Terry Coy was presented as interim coordinator as the search continues.
During its meeting following the annual meeting, the convention's Executive Board formally approved a recommendation to set aside $1 million to facilitate returning IMB missionaries as church planters or church revitalizers for the Reach Houston initiative.
Joint worship with BMAT
SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard, pastor of First Baptist Church in Forney, welcomed representatives from the Baptist Missionary Association of Texas to a historic joint worship service on the closing night of the annual meeting, with its "'Walking in Unity"' theme drawn from Ephesians 4.
In addition to sharing in the support of two institutions, Pritchard told the crowd, "'We share a mutual commitment that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, hold to the truth that marriage is defined in the Bible as one man and one woman mutually committed in relationship till death parts them, are together on the right of the unborn for life, and are both confessional fellowships."'
He reminded that "'SBTC and BMAT together with the Lord Jesus Christ can be really strong in this difficult day in which we live, sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit."'
The Baptist Missionary Association of Texas was founded in 1899 by 45 churches that left the Baptist General Convention of Texas over a perception that the board structure might override the autonomy of local churches. Five years ago BMAT and SBTC approved a working ministry relationship based on their shared affirmation of a high view of Scripture and basic Baptist distinctives.
A further report on the joint worship service can be accessed at http://texanonline.net/archives/5180.
A panel of SBC entity heads, an attorney and several Texas pastors explored the relationship between churches and the state as the cultural landscape continues to move away from Christian values.
Acknowledging the natural conflict between Christians and the world, the panelists agreed that civil disobedience could be necessary at times, but they differed on when to initiate intentional pushback to ungodly encroachments.
If the cultural or legal mandate is in direct contradiction with Scripture, then Christians should stand in opposition, GuideStone Financial Resources President O.S. Hawkins said, adding they must be willing to deal with the consequences of their actions.
"'This is an issue that ought to be nuanced,"' Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen added. "'We don't want to gin ourselves up to be makeshift anarchists or insurrectionists where we kind of shoot from the hip."'
Pastors should take particular care to guard their pulpits, said Steve Washburn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pflugerville. With few constitutional limits, pastors can preach about all manner of people and issues, including politics, he said, but politicians cross a line when they presume to speak about the morals of God.
A further report on the panel discussion can be accessed at http://texanonline.net/archives/5174.
Messengers passed eight resolutions during the meeting addressing the Texas legislature's Pastor Protection Bill and defunding of Planned Parenthood as well as personal holiness, sexual purity in marriage, love for all people, the dignity of human life and the sufficiency of Scripture. Resolutions also were approved to express appreciation to outgoing SBTC President Jimmy Pritchard and to Champion Forest Baptist Church for hosting the meeting.
A further report on resolutions adopted by SBTC messengers can be accessed at http://texanonline.net/archives/5181.
Messengers approved a 2016 budget of $27,743,629, which is less than a 1 percent increase from 2015. This budget is funded by $27,391,629 in Cooperative Program gifts and $352,000 from partnerships with the North American Mission Board and LifeWay Christian Resources.
As part of the budget proposal, messengers approved a recommendation from the convention's Executive Board to send 100 percent of all 2016 Cooperative Program receipts that exceed the budget to SBC Cooperative Program national and international missions and ministry.
The convention continues to send 55 percent of its budget for SBC causes -- the highest percentage of any Baptist state convention -- while designating 45 percent for Cooperative Program ministries in Texas.
Final attendance numbers included 775 registered messengers from 263 churches and 945 registered guests for a total of 1,720 registered in attendance from 303 churches.
The SBTC's 2016 Bible conference and annual meeting will be Nov. 13-15 at Great Hills Baptist Church in Austin. Messengers approved Gregg Matte, pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church, to deliver the 2016 convention sermon, with Cody Whitfill, pastor of River Valley Christian Fellowship in Bastrop, as the alternate.