Above: Todd Fisher, right, addresses members of the Oklahoma Baptists board of directors for the first time as Oklahoma Baptists’ executive director-treasurer. Chris Wall, left, moderated the meeting as president of Oklahoma Baptists.

Members of Oklahoma Baptists’ board of directors held their first meeting of 2022 and the first meeting since Todd Fisher stepped into his role as executive director-treasurer for the state convention.

Andy Taylor, right, is introduced in his new role as regional ministry partner for east central Oklahoma. He previously served as pastor of Broken Arrow, Arrow Heights.

On March 8, members met at the Baptist Building in Oklahoma City for times of business, prayer and encouragement. Chris Wall, pastor of Owasso, First, serves as convention president and presided over the meeting, a time that resulted in the board designating $50,000 toward Ukraine relief efforts.

Fisher emphasizes ‘serving’ as he addresses board for first time as executive director-treasurer

Addressing the Oklahoma Baptists’ board of directors for the first time in his role, Todd Fisher, executive director-treasurer for the state convention, emphasized his commitment to the work and to serve.

Quoting Matt. 20 (“the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”), Fisher said, “I want to serve and want our convention to serve.”

He thanked Oklahoma Baptist pastors and churches for being so encouraging to him.

“Life has been busy in this season, and I am on a big learning curve with a heavy travel schedule,” Fisher said. “In my travels, I have spoken with many pastors and church members, and here is what I have observed and heard: God is still amazingly at work. I’ve witnessed baptisms, heard testimonies of people coming to faith in Christ and lives transformed. Strong giving. I’ve seen resiliency and creativity on the part of pastors and churches to carry out the work of the Great Commission in light of the pandemic. But at the same time, I recognize many of our churches are struggling.”

“I don’t know that I have all the answers,” Fisher continued, “but I do want to share my commitments to our board that I believe will keep us on track and focused on what we should be focused on. As a state convention,  (we have a) commitment to Baptist polity and knowing what the purpose of the state convention is—to serve churches. We must be in the background—not in the foreground steering churches—but in the background serving them. The local church is critical. The work of the Kingdom is done through the church. Conventions and seminaries don’t send pastors and missionaries, churches do.”

Fisher also emphasized commitment to the Baptist Faith & Message.

“The BF&M ensures we stay faithful to Scripture while at the same time allowing a degree of differences among us,” he said. “I want to engender a culture in our state convention that is faithful to our doctrines and polity that does not add or take away from them and an attitude that urgently and lovingly engages our culture with the Gospel of Jesus.”

Fisher also emphasized a “commitment to pastors. We must encourage, equip, mentor these men. Healthy convention, healthy churches, healthy pastors. This has never been easy, especially not now.”

2021 Cooperative Program overage benefits Ukraine Relief, other key ministries

Board members were enthusiastic to hear a report that Cooperative Program (CP) giving among Oklahoma Baptists exceeded the annual goal in 2021.

“With the 2021 CP objective of $23.1 million, Oklahoma Baptists generously gave $24,507,605 last year, for which we thank the Lord,” said Leslie Osborn, chief financial officer for Oklahoma Baptists, which was met by applause.

Members of the board gave direction to how the CP overage of $1,407,605 (or 6 percent) would be distributed.

Oklahoma Baptists have designated spending allotment of 43 percent of CP going to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), 15 percent to Oklahoma Baptists affiliates and 42 percent to Oklahoma Baptists.

With 42 percent designated to Oklahoma Baptists—which represents $591,194 of overage—the board members approved strategic plans for those funds:

  • Ukraine Relief: $50,000 in funds to assist in Ukraine with emergency food supplies, shelter and clothing for displaced families in Ukraine; $25,000 to be sent through the North American Mission Board’s Send Relief Ukraine efforts and $25,000 to be sent through the Michael Gott Evangelistic Association.
  • Mission:Dignity 13th Check: $21,625 going to GuideStone Financial Resources’ Mission:Dignity, Oklahoma Baptists will help provide for approximately 75 Oklahoma Mission:Dignity recipient households. Mission:Dignity is a ministry of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
  • Missionary Retreat: $50,000 is set aside to provide a retreat setting for approximately 20 missionaries from Oklahoma serving in the North Africa and Middle East, to gather for a time for rest and encouragement.
  • Pastor Development & Wellness: $75,000 will provide opportunities and events to develop and encourage Oklahoma Baptist pastors and their wives.
  • Falls Creek 2nd Century Committee: $100,000 will provide seed money for maintenance and upgrades at Falls Creek Conference Center.

The Board also designated $294,569 for reserves.

Key moments include prayer, reports, motions

Wall set aside additional time in the meeting for prayer, including prayer for Ukraine, for ministries in Oklahoma and across the SBC.

“The Lord has put it on my heart today to take our prayer needs to Him, to join our hearts in prayer,” Wall said.

Reports from the various Oklahoma Baptists’ board committees were heard, including the Church Resources Committee; the Finance Committee; the Cooperative Program and Communications Committee; the Support Services Committee; and the Executive Committee.

Heath Thomas, president of Oklahoma Baptist University, right, gives the OBU report to the board.

Reports were given by presidents of each of the four Oklahoma Baptists’ ministry affiliates— Oklahoma Baptist University’s Heath Thomas, WatersEdge (formerly known as the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma) Robert Kellogg, Baptist Village Communities’ Bill Pierce; and Greg McNeece of Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children.

Board members also approved the 2022 Edna McMillan Oklahoma State Missions Offering goal be established of $1.2 million. Also, a motion was approved that the 2023 Cooperative Program allocation be distributed at the existing levels: 43 percent SBC / 42 percent Oklahoma Baptists / 15 percent Oklahoma Baptist Affiliates.

Board members also approved the establishment of an Abuse Prevention & Response Task Force that will study best practices in preventing abuse. The group will present a report at the September meeting of the board, and the scope of the work is forward-looking. Eric Costanzo, pastor of Tulsa, South Tulsa will chair the committee.

“This task force is forward-looking, helping establish best practices to prevent abuse from occurring and establishing best practices to deal with it, should it ever occur,” said Wall. Other members include: Jennifer Barnett, Leanne Deason, Ann Jenkins, Doug Melton, Troy Taylor and Lori Twomey.

The Board also approved a motion “the Falls Creek Conference Center gate fee be increased in 2023 to $11 per day ($55 per week for summer camps) for BGCO churches and $18 per day ($90 per week for summer camps) for non-BGCO churches.” This is the first gate fee increase in 10 years, according to Andy Harrison, conference centers director.

Board members voted unanimously to fill various vacancies on the board and related committees. Michael Butler, pastor of Chickasha, First, was elected to complete the one-year unexpired term of Doug Matlock; Brandon Adams, minister of education at Choctaw, First, was elected to complete the three-year unexpired term of Rob Hunt on the Oklahoma Baptists’ Board of Directors; Chandra Foster, member of Owasso, First, will complete the one-year unexpired term of Shannon Hester on the Oklahoma Baptists’ Audit Committee; Vicky Petete, member of Ada, Trinity, be elected to complete the one-year unexpired term of Larry Rhodes, on the Audit Committee; Saundra Burchill, member of Altus, First be elected to complete the one-year unexpired term of Mona Adkisson on the Oklahoma Ethics & Religious Liberty Committee.

The next meeting of the Oklahoma Baptists board is set for May 24 at the Baptist Building.

Near the conclusion of the meeting, Pastor J.P. Williams at Stonewall, First, expressed that he was “grateful and inspired” by the day and how “Oklahoma Baptists state convention is more visible and available than ever.”

Like Williams, all of Oklahoma Baptists can be inspired at the great things the Lord is doing in Oklahoma and beyond.