By Philip Timothy, Managing Editor
LAFAYETTE – The challenges ahead are plentiful but early results are proving both encouraging and exciting.
Messengers attending the 167th Annual Meeting of the Louisiana Baptist Convention at First Lafayette received their first progress report on the efforts of the President’s 2020 Commission and it was a good one.
“This vision is not about us, it is not about our glory,” LBC President Steve Horn said during his report to the convention on the first night of the meeting. “Put simply, it’s all about God’s glory. Our motivation must be that God gets all of the glory. Quite frankly, I don’t really want to be a part of anything if God does not receive the glory.”
Horn challenged and encouraged Louisiana Baptists to maximize their effectiveness in Gospel ministry by getting engaged.
“If we want to be God’s church – God’s Convention of churches – our heartbeat must be His heartbeat – and His heartbeat is for the world to know Him,” said Horn. “That is why it is so important we engage Louisiana.”
He challenged messengers to believe, declare and build ministry around the Gospel.
“We must declare this message to the next generation because it is a God-given command. From the very beginning, God has commanded his people to reach the next generation,” Horn continued. “As we read in the Old Testament [Psalm 71], the failing of Israel was not that the first generation to enter the Promised Land disobeyed, it was that they failed to pass their faith on to the next generation. As has been said many times before me, “We are only one generation away from extinction.
“So, yes, we must find ways to reach this new generation,” he said. “We have an obligation to reach the children because this generation can be the catalyst for reaching the world.”
Citing from research by George Barna [founder of The Barna Group, a market research firm specializing in studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans and the intersection of faith and culture] Horn pointed out the importance of reaching the children.
“Some of you have heard this research before but I think it is good we hear them again,” he said. “Barna concluded that those between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32 percent probability [of accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior]; individuals in the 14 to 18 age range have a 4 percent probability; and people between the ages of 19 and death have a 6 percent chance.
“In other words, we have the greatest window of opportunity for reaching people with the gospel before they reach their teenage years. The chances of seeing their spiritual life change after that point are relatively slim,” Horn said.
As each of us grows older, some sobering realities begin to be evident. One of those sobering realities is that our time is running out to reach the world,” Horn said. “According to the text (Psalm 71:18), we must take this message to the next generation, then to everyone who is to come.
“Here is how this text speaks to me. If we are going to reach the world, some of us have to admit that our best chance is to reach the next generation,” Horn said. “It will be them not us that reaches the world. If we are going to be faithful in doing our part to reach the world, we must reach the next generation.”
So, how does he believe this should take place? He told those in attendance that the same Gospel must be preached to all the nations.
“There is a progression in the communication of the Gospel which is why our churches must be missionary training centers,” Horn said. “It is going to take compassion, commitment and cooperation. We live in the greatest age of missions.”
LBC Executive Director David Hankins led off the Monday night session by giving messengers their first and most detailed update on the progress being made to ENGAGE the next generation and every people group.
“There are more than two million (2,240,000) people in Louisiana who do not have a relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ,” Hankins said. “We want to change that and we are doing so intentionally and lovingly by engaging those people.
“We have developed a seven year strategy in which we have identified two audiences, four avenues and 10 action plans which will enable us to do so,” Hankins continued. “We know we need to be speaking the same language but we must also learn the language.
“We have already begun engaging people in our state,” he said. “Engagement has a price but it is a price we must be willing to pay if we are to succeed. So, with the help of the state mission’s team we would like to give you a report on our progress.”
And it proved to be quite an encouraging and uplifting report.
In speaking on the Next Generation Task Force, Kevin Boles, LBC youth strategist, reminded messengers that more than 8,000 teens and their leaders would be in Lafayette at the Cajundome for the annual Youth Evangelism Conference.
“With teenagers making up 25 percent of Louisiana’s population, reaching the next generation with the Gospel is a priority and the key to Gospel success for the future,” said Boles.
James Jenkins, director of church planting for the LBC, described how “Louisiana is 60 percent Anglo, 32 percent African American with 300 years of troubled history, 5 percent Hispanic from 11 countries of origin and common language, 2 percent Asian from 11 countries of origin with no common language and 1 percent other.
“Together we are working to reach all of these people,” he said.
Since 2010 Louisiana Baptists have planted 90 churches resulting in 5,982 professions of faith and 1,300 baptisms. Since 2012 Louisiana Baptists have planted 54 new churches which have celebrated 1,054 baptisms across Louisiana.
The 2020 Commission made planting churches a major priority and a goal of 300 new churches was originally set. However, John Hebert, Mission and Ministries Director, told messengers a new goal of 371 churches will be planted by 2020.
“Why plant new churches? Because one out of every two Louisiana residents surveyed, indicated no “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ. That means over 2,244,000 people are without Christ,” Hebert said. “New churches open up new fronts on the spiritual & cultural needs in every community.”
Already there have been 51 church planting projects and 56 compassion ministry projects approved by the Louisiana Baptists Missions Support Committee for 2015. Already in 2014, Louisiana Baptists have started 24 churches, eight more than last year’s total of 16. Those plants have resulted in 1,302 decisions to accept Christ and 313 baptisms.
The messengers also heard about congregational revitalization, church planting, communication and collaboration.
Wayne Jenkins, Evangelism and Church Growth Director, told messengers “Our light has become dim. It’s time our light shines again through the darkness. We want to be a bright light in a dark world around us. We have developed a number of resources we can use to help your church.”
Communications director John Kyle updated the messengers regarding ‘Highways & Hedges’ that launched in southwest Louisiana in July.
“The spots have aired more than 1,800 times on broadcast and cable TV,” he said. “They have generated 38,000 online views; 181 searches for area churches, and 2.12 million impressions and 2400 delivered clicks via Facebook. We are planning to launch in the Northeast this month and in Northwest and Central Louisiana in 2015.”
Hankins wrapped up his executive director report by challenging messengers. “We can no longer sit around and wish for the past to come back. If we do so, we will miss the present. We must take advantage of the present work.
“I use to love watching the TV show Rawhide. It was a western and had these cowboys driving cattle all over the country. When there was a stampede these cowboys would get on both sides and try to turn the herd before it plummeted off the cliff. Folks, our culture is stampeding toward the cliff and we need people to turn this stampede and get it moving back in the right direction.
“This is my 10th report to you. It started with Katrina,” Hankins continued. “A lot has been done but we still have a lot to do. The 2020 report gives us a good handle on what is left to be done.”
ELECTIONS AND BUDGET
Horn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette, was re-elected by acclamation to a second, one-year term as the convention’s president. Also elected by acclamation was Lonnie Tucker, pastor of Still Water Baptist Church in Hammond, and Joe Senn, pastor of Crockett Point Baptist Church in Crowville, as first and second vice presidents, respectively.
Messengers approved a $20,831,766 Cooperative Program budget for 2014, down $894,632 from 2013. The LBC’s allocation of 36.74 percent – or $7,653,591 – will be sent to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Board in Nashville, Tenn., for SBC missions and ministry through the Cooperative program.
In other business, messengers affirmed seven resolutions with only one, Resolution No. 2, drawing any debate.
Resolution two encouraged the ending of government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries.
Aubry Henkel, pastor of administration and development from Fellowship Church in Prairieville, sought to postpone the passage of the resolution for one year in order to allow pastors time to teach about greed and not working for one’s money.
“I am not against the resolution, in fact, I am very much for it,” Henkel said. “I would just like to postpone the passage in order to give our pastors time, a year, to instruct our congregations on this subject.”
Fellowship Church lead pastor Kirk Jones supported Henkel’s motion, “The spiritual battle that we are facing won’t be won on the floor of the Louisiana legislature.”
Richard Shreve, pastor of Southside Baptist Church in Jonesboro, and Roy Davis, pastor of North Shreve Baptist Church in Shreveport, spoke in support of the resolution.
Messengers defeated Henkel’s motion to postpone passage of the resolution.
The other resolutions, which passed without comment, expressed appreciation for hospitality and assistance related to the annual meeting; encouraged the ending of government sponsorship of casinos and lotteries; opposed any attempt to recognize or advance transgender equity; denounce the practice of aggressive groups who seek to diminish religious liberty on college campuses; offer prayer and support for those suffering religious persecution and political oppression; offer prayer and support for pregnancy care centers in Louisiana and, finally, offering support the five Houston pastors in their stand against stand against unconstitutional action of having their sermons and church communications subpoenaed by the Houston City government.
Messengers passed a bylaw change recommended by the LBC Executive Board that the duties of the Louisiana Baptist History committee be assigned to the state mission services staff and the committee be deleted and the permanent plan of organization of the convention and its committees and boards be amended to reflect the change.
The Executive Committee also declined to recommend any action in regard to a motion made by Lewis Richerson, messenger from Woodlawn, Baton Rouge in 2013. The motion questioned the role of the Executive Director as a voting member of the Convention committees, the Executive Board and various agency boards.
The Executive Committee also declined to recommend any action regarding a motion made by Jay Adkins, messenger from First Westwego concerning the charters of the LBC Boards and LBC governing documents regarding the role of the Executive Director as a voting member of the Convention Committees, the Executive Board and various agency boards.
A motion made by Ken Fryer, a messenger and staff member at Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, that asked the LBC to allow for questions at the report times of the four entities and the Executive Director’s report was sent to John Carrigan, chairman of the LBC Order of Business Committee and pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Prairieville.
Carrigan said they understood Fryer’s motion was just for the 2014 LBC Annual Meeting. Therefore, they crafted a substitute motion to allow a question and answer time during the reports of the four entities and the Executive Director for all future Annual Meetings. The motion passed.
LBC Executive Committee President Bobby Stults presented Hankins and his wife Patty on the ‘occasion of his 10th anniversary as Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention,’ with a plaque and an arrangement of roses.
The resolution, which was passed by the executive board at its fall meeting, stated “the board’s gratitude for Hankins’ ministry, consistent walk with Christ, his commitment to the work and ministry of the LBC, and a pledge to lift him in prayer and support for the causes of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, throughout our state and convention.”
The 2015 annual meeting will be held on Nov. 9-10 at First Baptist Church in Bossier City and Kirk Jones, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Prairieville will bring the convention sermon. Bob Adams, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Bogalusa, will serve as the alternate. Benji Harlan, Louisiana Baptist Convention Church Music Consultant, will serve as music director.
Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, led all three sessions of Bible study as he referenced chapters 11-14 in the book of Acts.
“The Holy Spirit is the central character in the book of Acts,” Iorg said, “and He should be central in your ministry and the life you lead.”
In his convention sermon, Leland Crawford, pastor of First Minden, reminded messengers everything comes down to the ‘crucified Christ.’ His message, which came from 1 Corinthians 1:23, was entitled The Message We Must Preach.
As part of his message, Crawford related a story from Max Lucado’s book ‘In the Eye of the Storm’ to the messengers. He referenced what Lucado said in his book, “When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight. When energy intended to be used outside is used inside, the result is explosive. Instead of casting nets, we cast stones … Instead of being fishers of the lost; we become critics of the saved.”
Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church in the Mall in Lakeland, Fla., sounded the alarm in the convention’s closing message about a growing epidemic, which has engulfed the country, in the convention’s closing message.
Using a large, stuffed pink elephant as an illustration, Dennis told messengers that people, pastors and churches can’t ignore the pink elephant in the room. Pornography is destroying both people and family’s lives.
“Pastors are unaware of the people struggling with porn,” said Dennis, who has a passion to lead men and women to live lives of moral purity. “The church must not pretend like this is not an issue because it is. When asked about their current relationship with porn, 30 percent considered themselves to be an addict.
“You and I are in a daily hand-to-hand fight against porn,” he continued. “We must all hit this epidemic head on rather than try to ignore it.”
Dennis has developed a ministry called Join One Million Men, which asks men and women inside churches of all denominations, to make a commitment to live a pornography-free life.