As I come to the end of this part of my life’s journey, I have been asked to identify the strengths I see in our work as a convention. That is not a hard job. Our convention is healthy and strong because of the marvelous grace of God. We are so blessed.
Unquestionably, our greatest strength from the Lord is our unity. Across the years Oklahoma Baptists have remained unified in the midst of denominational, doctrinal and racial divides. Anchored in an unreserved and unchangeable commitment to the infallible and inerrant Word of God, this ship of Zion has sailed the stormy seas of denominational, cultural and moral change without running aground. We have not wavered in our unified belief that the Word of God must guide our cooperative work, teaching and institutions.
The unity of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) is formed and shaped by our mission. This convention of churches has never lost its focus. We are a Great Commission people. Our ministries are about taking the Gospel to every person in Oklahoma, our nation and to the ends of the earth. Because this generosity is centered in our commitment to the Gospel, Oklahoma Baptist churches have led the Southern Baptist Convention in percentage giving through the Cooperative Program.
This mission is seen throughout the ministries of the convention. Consider the focus of Falls Creek, CrossTimbers, Baptist Collegiate Ministries, Disaster Relief and Church Planting to name a few. These ministries and a myriad of others have a central heart—to impact lostness and make disciples.
The unity of the BGCO is also found in the relationships we have among our affiliate organizations. Oklahoma Baptist University, Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, Baptist Village Communities and The Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma are all supportive of one another. Unlike other states where affiliates have sought to separate from their conventions, our affiliates affirm and appreciate our partnership. The presidents and the executive director-treasurer have great love and respect for one another. Our ministries are not competitive but supportive. We have one mind and one heart, and that is to serve our churches.
I am proud of the growth in the diversity of our convention. Oklahoma Baptists worship in more than 40 languages every Sunday. We are the most ethnically-diverse denomination in Oklahoma. Diversity has not weakened our unity, but rather strengthened it. I am so proud of the continued growth we see in ethnicity. I am even more proud of the number of leaders who rise from among our ethnic congregations. Our convention’s boards and committees are more reflective of our ethnic diversity than ever. The respect, love and unity among our people is strong and growing.
What is our greatest strength? It is our unity of love, respect and mission that guides all we do. Unity is fragile, and we must ever be vigilant in holding the bond of love found in Christ. We are stronger and better when we are one in the love of the Lord.