MOORE—Nearly 800 messengers from churches throughout Oklahoma took part in the 105th Annual Meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma at Moore, First, Nov. 14-15.
The following contains highlights of the preaching, music, fellowship and business proceedings.
The meeting started with a bang, offering a powerful time of worship and preaching on Monday evening, Nov. 14.
The Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma, led by interim director James Bradford, of Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, was 150 voices strong and included 40 pieces in the Singing Churchmen symphony. The group presented songs such as “We Have Come to Worship Jesus,” “In Christ Alone,” “How Great Thou Art” and “Change in My Life.”
Between sermons, Sam Porter, BGCO partnership and volunteer missions specialist, delivered the announcement of the convention’s newest missions partnership with Colorado Baptists.
Joining Porter was Steve Hoekstra, team leader of resort church planting and director of the Western Colorado office for the Colorado Convention in Montrose.
“In Denver alone, the opportunities to present the Gospel are tremendous,” said Hoekstra. “There are many ways we could creatively make an impact (in Colorado).”
The annual meeting attracted a total of 764 messengers, was home to sermons, reports and business sessions, each of which focused on the theme, “Together.”
Michael Williamson, associate pastor of Lawton, Northside, delivered the annual sermon on Monday evening that tied in to the theme. Reading out of Acts 2, Willliamson underscored how the apostles lost their own identity so they could serve together.
“We should lose our identity so we can serve God effectively together,” said Williamson, whose church joined with another congregation to form one body.
“The Lord moved me from where I was (and) humbled me, so I would know it is all about Him,” said Williamson, to a chorus of applause and “Amens.”
“God gets involved when we get involved,” he said. “As Oklahoma Baptists, we are more effective together,” added Williamson, who talked about the productive ministries of Falls Creek, CrossTimbers, partnership missions and the Cooperative Program.
“The apostles acted in faith. They sold what they had so the church could go and grow. We have to engage and impact lostness in our day, too,” he added.
BGCO President Douglas O. Melton, pastor of Oklahoma City, Southern Hills, who presided over the opening session, delivered a timely sermon out of Romans 13 earlier in the evening.
“Christ’s love compels us,” said Melton, whose sermon was titled, “The intersection of love and time.”
“Why don’t we practice love more?” Melton asked. “Why don’t we preach love more?”
Melton was careful to distance himself from emerging church leader Rob Bell, who has drawn criticism for his book, Love Wins, which is believed to espouse universalism.
“We should never emphasize love to the neglect of truth,” he said. “Yet, if we emphasize truth to the neglect of love, we have done a disservice as well.”
Melton called on Oklahoma Baptists to rediscover the love of God, beginning in the home. “Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church—unconditionally.”
Love starts in the home and moves to the house of God, according to Melton. “Why don’t lost people just show up to church any longer? Is it because they don’t see the love of God there?
“We will find the time for whatever it is we really want to do,” said Melton, who called on Baptists to put their faith into action.
“Jesus understood the importance of time,” he said. “Are we like the disciples who were asleep on the night Christ prayed in the garden?”
Time is limited, said Melton. “The night is over, and the day is at hand.”
Concluding with a sports illustration, Melton said, “Joe Paterno said ‘I wish I had done more.’ Oklahoma Baptists, let’s not wish we had done more.”
During the Tuesday morning session, Nov. 15, messengers heard reports from the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma (BFO), the BGCO’s Communications and Church Outreach teams; the Mexico Partnership; and the convention’s conference centers and camps; and in the annual meeting’s first business session, heard the report of the BGCO Board of Directors as presented by Executive Director-Treasurer Anthony L. Jordan; approved the 2012 financial plan and report of the Nominating Committee; elected officers and heard a stirring message by Jordan in his annual address.
BFO President Robert Kellogg said the Foundation expects to soon distribute $9 million to Oklahoma causes, and has $75 million in loans to 202 churches, none of which are behind in their payments on those loans at this time.
Those loans are expected to earn the BFO $4 million in interest this year.
Highlights of the Board of Directors Report included an affirmation by the Board in March of the SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Report and challenge to explore a 50/50 division of Cooperative Program receipts after shared ministry items; increasing the gate fees for Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center in May to $10 per day for BGCO churches and $16 per day for non-BGCO churches; approval of a proposal by BFO President Kellogg in July for funding the wastewater/water improvements at Falls Creek Baptist Conference Center; reinstituting a fund raising program for the BGCO and establishment of a three-year partnership with the Colorado Baptist Convention in September and the election of Brian Hobbs as editor of the Baptist Messenger in October.
Finance Committee chairman Doug McClure presented the Cooperative Program Allocation and Financial Plan-2012 and moved for its approval.
McClure described the lengthy process by which the financial plan had been developed and urged messengers to realize that, “Everything is out there. Everything is up front and nothing is hidden. There has been a lot of time and energy and effort put into this budget . . . this financial plan has been scrutinized, sanitized and sanctified.”
The three-tier plan follows the recommended method which came out of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Great Commission Resurgence report and challenge for all states to move toward a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program receipts with the SBC after consideration of allocations for shared ministries.
The 2012 BGCO CP allocation goal of $24.9 million is based on actual 2010 receipts, McClure said. Twelve percent of that, or $3,106,813 is designated for shared ministry causes between the SBC and BGCO, with the remaining 88 percent divided 46 percent ($10,024,866) to the SBC and 54 percent ($11,768,321) to remain in Oklahoma.
“This actually allows us to send $65,000 more to the SBC,” McClure said.
When Melton invited messengers to ask questions about the financial plan, none were forthcoming. The plan then passed without visible opposition as messengers voted by raising their ballots.
The Nominating Committee report also passed without comment, with the exception of one sad note. BGCO Board nominee David Myers, a member of Ponca City, First and a State Senator, had passed away a few days before the annual meeting. His funeral was being held the same day as Messengers gathered to consider his nomination to serve a four-year term on the BGCO Board.
Nominating Committee chairman Scott Hamilton said the Board would appoint a replacement to fill the vacant seat on the Board at its February meeting.
“Oklahoma has lost a great leader. Sen. Myers served his community and our state with distinction,” Jordan said upon learning of Sen. Myers death. “He was a friend and fellow Baptist who faithfully served his church, denomination and Lord. We extend our love and prayers to his wife, Sara, and family. He will be greatly missed.”
During the time set aside for election of officers, messengers again exhibited the convention’s theme of “Together” by electing a president, first vice president and second vice president by acclamation after nominees for those offices ran unopposed.
Melton was elected to a second term as president of the BGCO, while Shane Hall, pastor of Lawton, First, was elected first vice president, and Hamilton, pastor of Silo Church in Bryan Association, was elected second vice president.
During the Mexico partnership report, Wilbur Martinez, pastor of Guerrero, First, and President of the Guerrero Baptist Convention, reported that 15 churches have been planted in that state in the six years since the partnership with Oklahoma was created.
“We have planted more churches in the past six years than we did in the previous 120 years,” Martinez exclaimed.
The goal is to have 15 Oklahoma churches partner with 15 Guerrero churches to plant a new church; to date six Oklahoma churches have done so, including Altus, First; Ardmore, First; Ardmore, Trinity; Madill, First; Norman, Bethel and Walters, First.
“We need nine more,” said Porter. “Who will be next?”
While cautioning his fellow Southern Baptists that “nothing should rise above the Gospel,” Jordan exhorted those in attendance that it is our responsibility to serve our fellow man.
“We have a responsibility to be a neighbor to those who have nothing to offer to us,” said Jordan in his annual address.
Touting several BGCO ministries which benefit from the annual State Missions Offering—including chaplaincy, disaster relief and the Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee—the executive director who was celebrating his 15th anniversary as head of the state’s largest evangelical denomination, threw out a two-fold challenge to his listeners.
“We are going to challenge Oklahoma Baptists to do two things . . . to give $1 million next year to the State Missions Offering this coming September so we can present the Gospel to every person in this state, and we are also going to challenge our churches to give 1 million pounds of food to feed hungry Oklahomans all over this state.”
By doing so, Jordan said Oklahoma Baptists would be “sent into the world as Jesus was.”
“I would contend, however, that to be sent into the world as Jesus was sent incorporates a broader view of the great commission that we normally embrace,” he said. “It is more than preaching the Gospel. To examine the life of Jesus is to see a life that did not divorce the great commandment and the great commission. In fact, they are inextricably tied together. Jesus preached the Gospel of the Kingdom but he also fed the hungry, washed dirty feet, healed the sick and comforted the broken hearted and downtrodden.”
During the concluding Tuesday afternoon session, messengers heard reports from Oklahoma Baptist University, the Constitution and Bylaws Revision Committee; the East Asia Partnership; Baptist Village Communities; Church and Family Equipping Team; the Mission Advance Priority Committee; saw a video from the Utah-Idaho Convention thanking Oklahoma Baptists for their five-year partnership and adopted 11 resolutions without discussion (See the full text of all resolutions on page 12).
OBU President David Whitlock compared the vision for the state’s Baptist university to the planting of a tree.
“The founders of this university 101 years ago were much like Abraham, who planted the Tamarisk tree,” he said. “It was planted by someone with a vision for the future.”
Whitlock said the state of the university is excellent, and while Baptist universities in other states have separated from the state conventions, that will never happen in Oklahoma.
“We are partners in higher education and about integrating faith with education,” he said. “What compels us to excellence is to glorify God, and we are serious about reaching the nations.”
Tyson Wynn, a member of Welch Church in Craig-Mayes Association and chairman of the Constitution and Bylaws Revision Committee explained that the purpose of the revisions was to organize better and to eliminate redundancy. Major changes include the reduction of the BGCO board of directors from 64 to 60 members and the terms of service on the board from four years to two consecutive terms of three years each. No longer elected by the convention are the editor of the Baptist Messenger and the historical secretary.
“We felt it is better to elect leaders and let them select staff,” Wynn said. (See Sept. 8 issue of the Messenger for all of the revisions).
Reporting on trips to East Asia and their impact on their lives and their churches were Katie Lutz, student at the University of Central Oklahoma and a member of Hinton, First; Cole Hedgecock, associate pastor at Jenks, First; Buddy Hunt, pastor of Tahlequah, First, and Johnny Montgomery, pastor of Red Oak, First.
Bill Pierce, president of Baptist Village Communities, said they serve 1,000 people on eight campuses. He encouraged churches to become involved in care centers and assisted living communities which are near their churches through LINC.
“We train teams to go into these facilities to serve and tell the residents about Jesus,” said Pierce. “We now have 116 churches involved in LINC.”
Scott Phillips, leader of the Church and Family Equipping Team, said there were 9,139 workers in 250 church trained in Sunday School leadership during One Day, a teaching video offered to all churches. He also announced that Sunday School classes throughout the state have adopted 1,127 unreached people groups to pray for the Gospel to reach them.
Four pastors spoke to areas of the Mission Advance Team (MAT) Priority report.
Lawton, First pastor Shane Hall, reporting on church planting said there are three focal points to change the climate toward church planting so it is the norm—legitimization, communication and participation.
“There is a great need for planting Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma, and as autonomous congregations, it’s hard to get all on the same page establishing parameters for church planting and avenues for churches to participate in church planting.
“We need to encourage participation through the creation of associational and individual church partnerships for church planting,” he said. “You don’t have to be a lone ranger. You can join with other congregations to plant a church.”
Alton Fannin, pastor of Ardmore, First, speaking on emerging generations, said all generations are still emerging, but the question is how do we reach the younger generation so churches can present the Gospel to them and use them.
“We came out with few answers,” Fannin admitted, “but Jesus had the answer.”
“It can be as simple as a friendship or a new Sunday School class,” he said. “Sunday School does everything needed to reach an emerging generation. Most of us need to get with God and ask how we can be used to point them to Jesus. If we get our priorities correct, the Lord will take care of the rest.”
In reporting on the Partnership phase of the report, Doyle Pryor, pastor of Sapulpa, First, used the acronym of BLESS.
“When God made the covenant with Abraham, He said all people of Earth will be blessed through you,” Pryor pointed out. “All people of Earth can be blessed through us. We want to bless the world, and we have the greatest thing to bless them with—Jesus Christ.”
Hance Dilbeck, pastor of Oklahoma City, Quail Springs, reported on pastoral leadership—training pastors who are able to equip Oklahoma Baptist churches to impact lostness.
“If we don’t have strong and effective pastoral leadership, then everything we try to do becomes fruitless,” Dilbeck said. “First Peter 5 tells us the role of pastor is to shepherd the flock of God. That means to lead, feed and care.”
Dilbeck said most pastors need training and that most likely will not occur without mentors.
“Training pastors is primarily the job of the local church,” he emphasized. “Pray that pastors well be sent out of your congregation, preach on the work of the pastor, and commit financial resources for the called to get education that is accessible, appropriate and affordable.”