The June meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention promises to be the most significant meeting in decades as messengers will vote on the recommendations of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force. Reading the GCR Task Force report has prompted me to think about the Great Commission impact of Oklahoma Baptists. As one well acquainted with our cooperative work, I can testify that much of what we do within our state results in penetrating lostness in the world beyond our state.
For example, Falls Creek Youth Camp included 887 churches with a total attendance of more than 52,000 during the eight weeks of camp in 2009. Decisions for Christ totaled 6,246, including 1,784 professions of faith and 876 who surrendered to missions and ministry. These numbers are not atypical, but are similar each summer. International Mission Board leaders have said that more IMB missionaries are called at Falls Creek than any place on earth. Throughout the United States you will meet pastors and other ministry leaders who were saved and/or called at Falls Creek, which is funded by Oklahoma’s portion of Cooperative Program Funds.
Or consider Oklahoma Baptist University, which receives significant funding from Oklahoma’s Cooperative Program giving. For many years more OBU graduates have served on the international mission field with the IMB than any other university in the world. The heartbeat of OBU is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the worldwide mission efforts of Southern Baptists. OBU has even partnered with the IMB to reach an unreached people group in South Asia, sending multiple mission teams annually. OBU’s Avery T. Willis Global Outreach Center has a full-time director, whose job is to assist students and staff to be on mission for Christ. The university has plans to endow a mission’s chair, further strengthening its ability to prepare leaders who serve the cause of Christ around the world. In Oklahoma, we believe OBU is worthy of our significant investment, understanding that Baptists in the pioneer areas of our nation look to us to provide a quality, Christ-honoring university education for their children as well.
Oklahoma Baptists have a large Baptist Collegiate Ministry, with work on 36 college and university campuses. Clearly, BCM ministry provides a great benefit to our churches in Oklahoma. But Oklahoma BCM reaches far beyond our state. In 2009, 2,084 students participated in mission trips and 225 spent their summer doing missions. BCM directors and campus missionaries throughout North America were called and sent from Oklahoma BCMs, as were many current IMB and NAMB missionaries. In Oklahoma, we believe that collegiate ministry provides that last best opportunity to reach the lost for Christ (including thousands of international students), and thus it is worthy of significant Oklahoma Cooperative Program investment.
When disasters happen anywhere in the world, Oklahoma Baptists send trained volunteers from a contingent of 4,500 ready and willing workers. Disaster relief is supported by Oklahoma Cooperative Program dollars, yet we are currently serving in Haiti, and have had teams in Chile, Pakistan, Iraq, Thailand, Indonesia, Texas, Louisiana, California, Kansas, Florida, Iowa, and other places beyond. We work with the IMB and NAMB and other state conventions, using Oklahoma Cooperative Program dollars to fund our work.
Oklahoma Baptist chaplains serve wherever we send disaster teams, and Oklahoma Oil Patch Chaplains are currently training chaplains in other states. You might not know it, but Oil Patch Chaplaincy originated in Oklahoma and is supported by Oklahoma Baptists, while at the same time assisting other states to develop Oil Patch Chaplaincy. Oklahomans are a generous folk, and sharing what God gives us is a joy.
Speaking of sharing, in 2010 the North American Mission Board led state conventions in a gospel seed-sowing effort called Across North America. You will probably not be surprised to learn that before it was Across North America it was Across Oklahoma, and it was conceived and formulated by Oklahoma state convention personnel. In 2007 Oklahoma Baptists visited 650,000 homes in one day, followed by 850,000 homes in 2008. This effort was supported by an extensive media campaign. The BGCO gave NAMB all that we learned and developed in our campaign. We have also given NAMB the CROSS evangelism materials, the MostImportantThing.org gospel website, as well as the youth discipleship materials The Pursuit and The Calling. NAMB has also taken the commitment guide we developed for Falls Creek and adapted it for national use.
The reason I share this information is not to boast about our work in Oklahoma, but to emphasize that we have a partnership with NAMB. The cooperative agreements have been significant to this partnership, but it has not been a one-way-street with NAMB supplying and Oklahoma Baptists receiving. Oklahoma sends over three times as many dollars to NAMB as we receive, as we should. And we are not opposed to sending more and receiving less. It breaks our hearts that Utah has so few Baptist and Evangelical churches. We believe that more must be done to reach the great cities of our nation. Indeed, we want the joy and blessing of participating in the work. We are continually promoting and encouraging the “ends of the earth” work of Southern Baptists. Just a few weeks ago at our state-wide women’s retreat, an offering of $15,000 was given to purchase Bibles for the peoples in our East Asia partnership. This summer, approximately 400 of our young people will travel on BGCO-sponsored international mission trips where they will work with IMB personnel. These are the young people who will pray, give and go in support of Southern Baptist work for decades to come. Some of them will serve as long-term missionaries. We believe they are worthy of the support of our Oklahoma Cooperative Program dollars.
One final piece of information, from a mountain more that I could share, is that International Mission Board leaders in East Asia, where Oklahoma Baptists have a partnership (we also have partnerships in Utah-Idaho and Mexico) have told us that 15 percent of the personnel serving that vast population are Oklahoman Southern Baptists. We suspect that other areas of the world reflect a similar percentage. We know that the Cooperative Program work of Oklahoma Baptists, and how we touch the world beyond our state, is considerable to say the least. We are a praying, giving, going, and sending people.
Whether the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has given consideration to the information I am sharing, I do not know. What I do know is that Oklahoma Baptists believe in the cooperative work of Southern Baptists. We believe in our churches and our people. And we believe that Oklahoma Baptists are penetrating lostness around the world, even through Oklahoma’s portion of Cooperative Program funds. We celebrate this and are grateful for it. Can we do better? Yes, and we will. But part of doing better is keeping our work at home strong and focused so that we can continue to send our sons and daughters, and give our own lives and fortunes, to the reaching of the nations.