La. Baptists mark 200 years of ministry
A brass key in the shape of the state of Louisiana was given to every person present Nov. 12 in the worship center at First Baptist Church in West Monroe, where John Avant is pastor.
The keys were distributed as part of the 200th anniversary of Baptist ministry in the state, celebrated during the Monday evening session of the LBC's 165th annual meeting, with 703 messengers registering from 267 churches.
"You are the key to our future," said David E. Hankins, the convention's executive director. "It is our calling to reach Louisiana with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."
With a theme of "Refresh: Awaken and Go," the two-day event was designed to continue the "Awaken -- It's Time" thrust launched at last year's annual meeting to point Louisiana Baptists toward revival and spiritual awakening that would start locally and spread nationally.
Hankins reminded messengers of the 21 Days of Prayer for repentance leading to revival that began last January. To date, more than 550 churches have participated, and a new 21 Days of Prayer, authored by Louisiana pastors, is slated to start in January.
Hankins also noted the parish-wide prayer meetings -- most often at courthouses -- in each of Louisiana's 64 parishes, which culminated in a prayer meeting April 29 in front of the state capitol in Baton Rouge.
"So, has all this activity produced an awakening? No," Hankins said. "We've heard good reports, but I think all of us would agree that the widespread awakening we long to see, that we need to see, has yet to occur.
"We know we cannot schedule an awakening," Hankins continued. "We cannot program it or demand that God send it, but we can continue to prepare ourselves, pray and plead with God to send one."
The messages of each of the speakers reinforced the need for repentance, prayer and God-directed action. Other reports noted the activity of God's people across Louisiana over the last year and plans already set for 2013.
Steve Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, led three sessions of Bible study. The first was on the need for pastors to be refreshed physically and spiritually. The second was on the need for God's people to be awakened to a bankrupt culture and a church that isn't shining brightly enough to attract people. The third was that the Christian life is a journey to be filled with doing good while giving a witness of Jesus. "'As you go' starts at home," Lemke said, referring to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20.
In his president's address, LBC President Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, spoke from Revelation 2:12-17 on the lack of purity among God's people and on the 1904-05 revival in Wales, which started after years of prayer with young people confessing and dealing with all known sin, obeying the Holy Spirit immediately and proclaiming Jesus Christ.
Chuck Pourciau, pastor of Broadmoor Baptist Church in Shreveport, brought the convention sermon from Acts 11:19-26. "It's really all about missions," Pourciau preached. "Every member is a missionary."
Johnny Hunt further unpacked the concept of living life as a missionary. Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga., and a former Southern Baptist Convention president, brought the final message Tuesday afternoon from Luke 14.
"Have a Kingdom life table," Hunt said. Invite non-Christians to share a meal and use the opportunity to share the Gospel, Hunt said. "People aren't being saved because they're not hearing the Gospel."
During times set on the program for business, Bailey was re-elected by acclamation to a second one-year term. Richard Blue, pastor of Walker Baptist Church in Walker, was elected by acclamation as first vice president. Dwayne Monk, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Choudrant, was elected second vice president with 57.3 percent of the vote over Bert Langley, longtime director of missions in the Evangeline and Gulf Coast Baptist Associations.
Messengers approved without discussion a $21,627,235 Cooperative Program budget for 2013, up $87,375 from 2012. LBC plans to send 36.74 percent -- or $7,945,846 -- of CP gifts from the churches to SBC missions and ministry through the Cooperative Program, up from 36.49 percent -- $7,859,895 -- last year.
The LBC will retain 63.26 percent of Cooperative Program dollars from churches for mission needs in Louisiana, and 50 percent of income that exceeds the budget. The budget does not include any calculations for shared LBC-SBC ministries.
In other business, the LBC Executive Board approved a minor bylaw change and declined to recommend a motion presented in 2011 that nominees for LBC president "must be a member of a church which contributes at least 7.5 percent" through the Cooperative Program.
"We believe it is not the wisest course of action to codify a required percentage," according to the Executive Board's printed response in the Book of Reports. Among four stated reasons for declining the recommendation, the board noted its objection to "implying the required threshold percentage is the new goal for everyone, thus encouraging minimum, rather than maximum giving."
The board also noted, "It is not too much to suggest that, without the Cooperative Program, the Louisiana Baptist Convention would be reduced to a mere fellowship of churches with no sustained joint-ministry enterprises."
The LBC Executive Board did recommend that a statement noting five expectations of LBC officers be attached as a footnote to the LBC constitution, including "A commitment to cooperative missions, especially mission endeavors of Louisiana and Southern Baptists as evidenced by strong congregational support of the Cooperative Program."
After some discussion, a slate of six resolutions was passed by messengers, including one objecting to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette offering a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) minor course of study. The other resolutions voiced concern regarding protecting religious liberty; opposed any attempt to frame same-sex marriage as a civil rights issue or to legalize same-sex marriage; commended the use of a "Sinner's Prayer" in evangelism; and encouraged church members and churches to practice financial responsibility according to biblical principles.
The 2013 annual meeting will be Nov. 11-12 at the Riverfront Convention Center in Alexandria. Bill Dye, pastor of North Monroe Baptist Church, is to bring the annual sermon. Stewart Holloway, pastor of First Baptist Church in Pineville, is the alternate. Benji Harlan, LBC church music strategist and NOBTS professor of church music, is to lead worship. Fred Guilbert, minister of music at Philadelphia Baptist Church in Deville and chair of the Louisiana College division of fine arts and media, is the alternate.
Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, official newsjournal for the more than 1,600 churches and nearly 600,000 members affiliated with the Louisiana Baptist Convention.