La. Baptists urgent for future generations
"Let me tell you why," Bailey said in his report to messengers. "Of my mother's generation, 65 percent said they were followers of Jesus Christ. In my grandchildren's generation only 15 percent profess faith in Jesus. This is very disturbing to me as it should be to you all.
"Certainly, we could try and reach people who look like us, but the Bible commands us to reach all men. That is why this commission's work was so very important," Bailey said, referring to his formation of the President's 2020 Commission, with the approval of the LBC Executive Board, at the state convention's annual meeting last year in West Monroe.
The 2020 Commission was tasked with developing a seven-year ministry strategy to be recommended to the convention for maximizing the effectiveness of Louisiana Baptists in reaching the lost through the year 2020.
The commission was comprised of 400 Louisiana Baptist leaders divided into 20 subcommittees to analyze specific areas of ministry supported by Louisiana Baptists. The committees met throughout the year, including a two-day summit in April, which was the only time the entire 2020 Commission met in one location.
With a theme of "Opportunity Louisiana: For the Gospel, For Our State and For this Time," Bailey and LBC Executive Director David Hankins unveiled the plan to messengers Monday evening.
"The task before us was not to change the mission, or even to restate it more cleverly," Hankins said of the commission's work. "I believe it was to create avenues for impact and involvement in LBC life by non-Anglo leaders and their congregations.
"To impact the lostness, we must engage all people," Hankins said, noting that "four in 10 people are not Anglo in this state. The makeup of this state's population is changing and we must change with it.
"So, how can we as Baptists best reach these lost people?" Hankins asked. "The commission has identified two audiences, presented four avenues to reach both audiences, and recommended 10 actions in order to accomplish this goal.
"Our theme sprang from Ephesians 5:16 where Paul challenges believers to 'make the most of every opportunity,'" Hankins said. "This was our intent, to maximize the opportunities the Lord places before us in Louisiana."
The four avenues to engage those audiences and the 10 actions steps employ the acronym KAIROS (Key Actions in Reaching Our State, drawing from a Greek word which loosely means the right or opportune moment).
The first avenue -- congregational revitalization -- employs the first four actions: equip churches with a proven evangelistic church growth process; assist churches with the development of a disciple-making process; challenge congregations to regularly and intentionally promote biblical financial stewardship; and engage Louisiana Baptist congregations in compassion ministries.
The second avenue -- church planting -- has just one of the 10 actions but entails the importance of partnering with churches and other entities to plant healthy, biblically sound, multiplying churches.
The third avenue –- communications -- includes actions 6 and 7, launching Operation Highways and Hedges, a multi-year, multi-platform media strategy and providing training for leaders and churches in the use of social media and the Internet.
The fourth avenue -– collaboration -- has the final three actions: create mentoring and ministry networks; increase financial support through the Cooperative Program and the special mission offerings; and lead Louisiana Baptists in the arena of moral and cultural concerns. (The full 2020 Commission report can be accessed at www.lbc.org).
"This plan, or KAIROS, will lead Louisiana Baptists in the effective engagement with ministry to all people groups in the state," Hankins said.
The need for the plan was made even more evident as Bailey gave his report to the 692 messengers representing 291 churches.
"There are presently five generations today," Bailey said. "There is the 'Greatest Generation' who is pre-1928 and it makes up 3 percent of the population and many of them are followers of Jesus Christ. There is the 'Silent generation' (1928-45) which is my mother's generation. They make up 24 percent of the population and 65 percent say they are followers of Jesus Christ.
"Then you have the 'Baby Boomers' ... my generation (1946-64) ... who are about 34 percent and the number of believers among them falls in the 30s. Then we have the 'Baby Busters.' These are my children's generation (1965-79) and they make up 28 percent, of which only 24 percent calls Jesus Lord.
"And finally, we have the 'Millennials' (1980-2000). This is our young generation. These kids are our future and only 15 percent of them know the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior," Bailey said. "And I have had many of this age group in my church tell me that they are surprised it is that high."
Disturbed by alarming trends within Louisiana Baptist churches, Bailey said something must be done quickly. Such trends included fewer churches in a state with a growing population from 2000 to 2010, along with a significant decline in baptisms among youth and children and Sunday School attendance since 1980. Additionally, research revealed that 900 Louisiana Baptist congregations did not baptize a single child last year.
"Our data shows we are losing ground in reaching the young people of our state," Bailey said. "Since 1980 we have seen a significant decline in baptisms amongst our youth and children. Baptism of children and youth is down 42 percent. We are baptizing barely half the number of children and teens in our churches as we did 30 years ago.
"We must reverse this trend and the only way we can do this is by embracing change," Bailey said. "No one likes change but if we don't change we are going to lose a generation. Tonight, right here, right now, I would like you to pledge that we will all come together to work at making our churches more than they have been in the past."
Elections, budget & business
Steve Horn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette, was elected as the convention's new president while David Denton, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia, and Bob Heustess, pastor of Grace Memorial Baptist Church in Slidell, were elected first and second vice presidents, respectively. All three were elected by acclamation.
Messengers approved without discussion a $21,726,398 Cooperative Program budget for 2014, up $99,163 or 0.46 percent over last year.
Dale Lingenfelter, the convention's business and information services director, reported that the allocation to the SBC remains at 36.74 percent, the same as last year, "because we had a budget shortfall -- the LBC finished the 2012 budget $129,987 (0.60 percent) behind budget in 2012." Lingenfelter said the SBC percentage only changes when the convention has a budget surplus the following year according to its CP advance plan. "So, a budget surplus in 2013 would mean a percentage change in 2015," he said.
In other business, messengers affirmed seven resolutions, the majority of which dealt with social issues.
The five dealing with social issues included human trafficking; Louisiana's growing prison population; adoption, foster care and children available for adoption; mental health concerns and the heart of God; and violations of religious freedom and assembly in the United States.
In another resolution, messengers expressed support for the Louisiana Science Education Act which was passed in 2008 and allows for the examination of any and all theories relating to the origin of the world. Opponents unsuccessfully attempted to have the measure repealed during the 2013 legislative session in the spring. Messengers also expressed their appreciation to the staff of the Riverfront Convention Center, members of the LBC for their planning and coordination of the convention, and volunteers who made Cross Over 2013 evangelistic outreach a success.
Bylaw and amendments (articles of incorporation) changes recommended by the Executive Board were approved by messengers. The first change states that the Executive Board will post any proposed amendments to the LBC website and published in one issue of the Baptist Message state convention newsjournal no later than 15 days before the convention's annual meeting. The second defined the steps for the selection and certification of messengers by churches in good standing with the convention.
Two bylaw amendments also were approved. The first deals with the seating of messengers of new cooperating churches, with the application process to be managed by the Committee on Credentials. The second bylaw amendment states the bylaws may be amended at any regular session of the convention by a two-thirds vote of the messengers present and voting.
Four motions were made from the floor, two of which sought to prohibit the state executive director from voting on convention boards. Both were referred to the LBC Executive Committee for study.
Another motion, which asked for the number of messengers sent to the annual meeting to be reduced from 15 to 10, was ruled out of order.
The other motion, also ruled out of order, had proposed that those involved in planning the 2015 LBC evangelism conference consider at least 50 percent of the speakers be residents and ministers from all areas of the state.
Cross Over 2013, which took place a week before the annual meeting, included a block party, 12 school assemblies and three harvest nights.
LBC evangelism associate Keith Manuel reported to messengers that 100 people had come to faith in Christ; another 100 had recommitted their lives to Christ; and 12 announced they would like to serve or go into ministry.
Bill Dye of North Monroe Baptist Church, in the convention sermon, said he believes "we live in a post-Christian culture." He then added, "Actually, it is more like an anti-Christian culture."
Speaking from Daniel 1, Dye noted that Daniel's life was one of complete devotion to God despite the temptations around him, which is something so many in today's culture have trouble understanding.
"In today's culture so many people make bad choices but they don't want to be questioned about their choices even if they are sinful. It is hard to explain redemption to people who don't believe in sin."
Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, brought the final message Tuesday afternoon from 1 Peter 4:10.
"Many churches are filled with passive spectators when they should be filled with people willing to engage others," Stetzer said. "We live in a mission field and Louisiana is increasingly becoming a mission field."
Stetzer presented four points on how to minister to unengaged people: 1) All have gifts; 2) God intends all to use what He gifted us with; 30 He empowers us and 4) In everything you do give God the Glory.
"You have an opportunity to seize the moment, do so," Stetzer said.
Argile Smith, Louisiana College's vice president for the integration of faith and learning, led three sessions of Bible studies.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 10-11 at First Baptist Church in Lafayette.
Philip Timothy is managing editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.