Okla. Baptists renew focus on Sunday School
The meeting, with its "Connect" theme, provided an opportunity for Oklahoma Baptists to conduct business, elect officers, gather as a community of faith and share their vision for 2013.
The "ReConnect Sunday School" initiative calls on Oklahoma Southern Baptist churches to revitalize adult and children's educational Sunday Schools as a means of evangelism.
Also, a preview of a 2013 service evangelism initiative called "Serve Oklahoma" was presented to help mobilize Oklahoma Southern Baptists to get outside the walls of their church buildings to transform their communities for Christ.
"The annual meeting is designed to bring [the state's Baptists] together for worship and projects centered on the common mission to serve others and reach people for Christ," Anthony Jordan, the BGCO's executive director, said. "The initiatives will be an avenue through which we'll accomplish these goals."
Messengers approved nine resolutions, including one on prayer and encouragement for elected officials, one on the sanctity of life and personhood, one on the covenant of marriage, one on religious liberty and one on the Armed Forces.
The religious liberty resolution, which took note of the controversial HHS contraception/abortion mandate, states, "We advocate religious liberty for all people and call for action in two areas. We call on the president to instruct the Department of Health and Human Services to withdraw the mandate for healthcare plans to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices as a violation of religious liberty. We also call on the president to ensure the religious liberty of military chaplains to minister according to their religious consciences without fear or coercion. We wholeheartedly support the ministry of chaplains in the United States military."
Messengers elected Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church in Broken Arrow, as president, along with Johnny Montgomery, pastor of First Baptist Church in Red Oak, as first vice president, and Danny Ringer, associate pastor of First Baptist Church in Elk City, as elected second vice president.
A 2013 BGCO CP allocation goal of $25.6 million was approved. The budget is up from $24.9 million in 2012. Of the new budget total, $3.4 million is designated for shared ministry causes between the Southern Baptist Convention and the BGCO, with the remainder divided at 46 percent ($10.2 million) to the SBC and 54 percent ($12 million) to remain in Oklahoma. The percentages were unchanged.
In his address, Jordan preached from the Old Testament account of Nehemiah, whose heart was broken when he learned that the walls and gates of Jerusalem were still destroyed and who determined in his heart to see them repaired. Jordan pointed out some leadership principles he gleaned from Nehemiah:
-- "God's leaders see what others ignore. Nehemiah saw the rubble, while others ignored it."
-- "God's leaders see what others can't see and don't see. Nehemiah envisioned walls rebuilt and city gates re-hung."
-- "Leaders have the ability to hear differently. Nehemiah heard the voice of God speaking to him, even though he was far from Jerusalem."
-- "God's leaders risk what others will not. You don't have to rely on your ability ... but God's. He is our source."
Jordan said he sees rubble all across Oklahoma -- "in 90-some casinos, the fact that we are No. 5 in the number of teenage pregnancies, the churches are in turmoil.
"But the greatest rubble is plain, everyday apathy," Jordan said. "And I see the apathy more demonstrated in our Sunday Schools than in any other place.
"But, I want to tell you it's not a worn-out tool. It connects people, it's transformational, it's inspirational, it's doing life together ... it's me caring about you and you caring about me."
With a brief look at the progress made at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center, Jordan cast an eye to the future and said there is more to be done there.
"There is a debt to be removed," Jordan said. "Under God, we have a responsibility to rise up and get the remaining debt paid. Also, we need to rise up and convert the amphitheater -- what the youth call 'the old tabernacle' -- into a cafeteria and more meeting space and add motel rooms.
"Finally, we need to move our disaster relief vehicles from their current housing at Boys Ranch Town. It's time to rise up and build a new facility to house our disaster relief equipment and free the space at Boys Ranch. We're serving the world through disaster relief."
In conclusion, Jordan said, "I ask you to take hands with me and others. Can we arise and build? We can because we serve a mighty God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills."
Other speakers included Douglas Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City; Jim Shaddix, a preaching professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Bobby Kelly, a professor of religion at Oklahoma Baptist University.
Melton, who served as BGCO president for two years, preached from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David and Goliath, urging messengers to face their giants.
"In our churches and conventions, we face a giant. It is the giant task of reaching a lost world with the Gospel," Melton said. He called on Oklahoma Baptists to be obedient to God like David, who despite popular opinion did what was right.
"David did not retreat in battle because he was where God wanted him to be, and that is the way we should be in these challenging days."
Shaddix, who also serves as pastor for teaching and training at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and who previously served as a pastor in Colorado, said that by some accounts "anywhere between 92 to 98 percent of the Colorado population" is unreached.
Shaddix implored Oklahoma Baptists to keep the cross at the forefront. "A gospel without a cross is no gospel. Don't share a gospel without a cross in it. It won't save anybody," he said.
Kelly, preaching from Romans 8:18-39 on what he called the apostle Paul's most stirring passage, held up various U.S. bills and noted that the words "In God We Trust" are printed on them all.
Preaching the convention's annual sermon, Kelly said there are times when believers need to be reminded what the nation's motto really means.
"We find our confidence shaken and cry out for someone to rescue us," Kelly said. "Paul knows suffering, having been stoned, beaten, shipwrecked and imprisoned, yet in this passage he speaks of the glory that will be revealed in us."
Messengers also heard a report on BGCO Conference Center and Camps. Scott Phillips, leader of the convention's church & family equipping team, said attendance at the summer 2012 CrossTimbers Mission Adventure Camp was 2,564.
"There were 326 decisions for salvations and 622 total decisions," Phillips noted. "One in four children who go to CrossTimbers Mission Adventure Camp will make a decision. Half of those decisions will be for salvation.
"Last year, when I shared this report, I told you we were at capacity, that we could not get more kids in. But that's only if the camp were located where it was," Phillips said.
"Unexpectedly, God has done more than we could ask or imagine. This spring, through the generosity of the Green family and Hobby Lobby, God provided us with a new camp [the Newburn Conference Center in Davis] that is more than double the capacity for what we have known for the last years, for potentially more than 500 students housed in the facility on any given week of camp," he said.
Andy Harrison, program director at Falls Creek, said this past summer marked the highest number of salvation decisions on record at the camp.
"There were 2,469 students who gave their life to Christ [in 2012]," Harrison said. "Hearing numbers like that never gets old. God has blessed us tremendously."
Based on reporting by the staff of the Baptist Messenger in Oklahoma.