This week, messengers from Oklahoma Baptist churches meet together for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) annual meeting. This gathering is a time of reflection and celebration of the past years’ work and a projection of the direction of our “Together” ministries for 2015. This meeting is also a time of affirmation. By our votes and actions, we affirm several very important beliefs.
First, we affirm that we do believe we can do more together than we can do alone. The very nature of our convention approach underscores this truth. The BGCO has organized and funded work beyond the local church that one church could not do on its own. Through the Cooperative Program, our churches fund ministry from the front door of the church to the ends of the earth.
We do not arrogantly say that “together” ministry and missions through the Cooperative Program is the only way to achieve the enormity of ministry and missions work accomplished through our state and national conventions. We do affirm, through our financial plan and through giving from BGCO churches, that we believe the Cooperative Program is the most effective way.
I often find myself standing in front of the congregation of a medium to smaller size church having the privilege to tell them that the sun never sets on the work of their church because of their giving through the Cooperative Program. Truth be told, the same is true of our larger churches. The expansive ministry and missions accomplished through the Cooperative Program exceeds exponentially what even our largest churches could not do on their own.
Second, we affirm our priority of carrying the Gospel to our state, nation, and the world. The BGCO mission statement calls for us, as a convention of churches, to serve together to impact lostness. Listen to the reports that convention staff and our affiliate organizations give. You see clear evidence that pushing back darkness with the light of the Gospel is the heartbeat of Oklahoma Baptists’ “together” ministry.
For example, listen to the report about the work of our youth ministry at Falls Creek and GO Students missions, or hear about the impact Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BMC) and Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) are having on campuses and in mission involvement in our state, across the nation, and around the world. It is no wonder our 2015 Financial Plan invests 31 percent of the Oklahoma portion in collegiate work through BCM and OBU.
Third, we affirm our commitment to the proclamation of the inerrant and infallible Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The old cliché remains true for Oklahoma Baptists—Baptists are people of the Book! Our ministry and missions are built on the solid foundation of the Book of books. We will not compromise the Book’s truth even in the face of hurricane winds of cultural shifts. Eternal and infallible truth sets our sails. The Word of God has and will remain on course when all other so called “truth” is left in the dust of human thought.
Fourth, we affirm our unity in diversity. Oklahoma Baptists are the most ethnically diverse denomination in Oklahoma. We were birthed in diversity. The first Baptist church on Oklahoma soil reflected Oklahoma Baptists’ future; the church was formed by two Anglo missionaries, a Creek Indian, and three black slaves. Yes, we reflect the population of Oklahoma, which is predominately Anglo, but all peoples are a part of the BGCO and serve on our boards.
Lastly, we affirm our unity as churches. Oklahoma has been unique among state conventions. We have weathered dramatic shifts in Southern Baptist life by staying steady and on course with our convention as a whole rowing in the same direction. We are not monolithic or Neanderthal in our perspective. We are not out of date, but rather anchored to biblical truth that unites us above difference in opinion or methodology. We like one another! We know one another! There are many ways in which we get together including Falls Creek, the annual meeting, and the State Evangelism Conference. Oklahoma Baptists cherish our friendships and partnerships in the Gospel.
Yep! I am proud to be an OKIE! I am blessed beyond words to be a leader among Oklahoma Baptists who are the most generous and brotherly of all Baptists.