Louisiana Baptists face concerns and challenges – but they all can be overcome with comitment and a focus on the positive, the new leader of the state convention indicated last week.
Louisiana Baptists face concerns and chal-
lenges – but they all can be overcome
with commitment and a focus on the positive, the new leader of the state convention indicated last week.
“When we look at the concerns, we need to remember
they are not nothing,” said David Hankins, who arrived as the executive
director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention at the
start of the new year.
“They need to be dealt with. Some of them are
serious, some more serious than others. So, they’re not nothing. We’re
not going to … put our heads in the sand and just hope they go away
by themselves. We’re not going to abdicate leadership responsibilities.
“But also remember, they’re not everything. … And
our perspective is – there’s a lot of good things we need to be working
Hankins noted his conversations with others have
highlighted three major areas of concerns that most Louisiana Baptists
readily would be able to identify.
He said his conversations have been with “sincere
and involved and engaged” people on various sides of convention issues.
there are some material differences in opinion about some of these
issues among our people, … I’ve not found anyone yet who is acting in
bad faith, … who is just pursuing their own goals or self-seeking or
trying to harm the work of the Lord in this state or in this state
convention,” Hankins emphasized. “They do have different opinions about
what ought to be done and what ought not to be done. But everyone, I
believe, is interested in seeing God’s will be done.”
In light of that, Hankins challenged Louisiana
Baptists to give everyone the benefit of the doubt “that they’re
trying, as they understand God’s will, to do God’s will.”
That does not mean one cannot offer opinions or
counsel, he said. “But let’s give people the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s be patient, and let’s be prayerful.”
Concerns must be addressed, but good things
are happening in Louisiana as well, Hankins reminded persons. “There’s
some things to be thankful for and grateful for, so we need to keep our
minds on those things.”
Indeed, as one must do when whitewater rafting, the
key is to negotiating the rapids successfully is to keep paddling and
hold one’s position, he explained.
“That’s a good word for us,” he said.
Hankins acknowledged he is new to his position and
still defining a vision for the state, adding that he hopes it can
begin to be articulated by the board meeting in May.
“Give me a little time, …” the former Southern
Baptist Convention executive said. “As the Lord leads and as I get wise
counsel and as a I reflect on the landscape, I will help, I will lead,
as we articulate together a vision.”
Hankins predicted the resulting vision for the state convention will focus on:
• Definition. “It’s important to know who you are –
what’s your business,” Hankins said, noting a key task is to define
what being a minister and a servant in the convention entails.
• Demonstration. It equally is important to flesh
one’s mission out and make sure endeavors and definition are aligned,
Hankins noted. “Do they match up?” he asked. “Do we say we’re one
thing but end up doing another? Do we say our emphasis is this
but end up spending our time and money on something else?”
• Dissemination. Finally, Louisiana Baptists need to
tell their story, Hankins said. “Once we discover who we are and what
we’re doing, we don’t need to let it be the best-kept secret in
Louisiana, …” he said. “We want to tell the story in a memorable,
concise, compelling way. We want to develop a communication plan.”
Too many church members and leaders do not know of
all the good things going on, Hankins emphasized. He urged Executive
Board members not to concentrate only on negatives but to promote
positive aspects of Louisiana Baptist life as well.
That is not to say there is no place for debate or
discussion or challenge, Hankins added. Indeed, that is a necessary
internal process to ensure wise decisions are made and to maintain
accountability, he said.
“But once we’ve kind of taken care of that on the
inside, out there, in the churches, in the associations, with your
friends, family and colleagues, talk about the good things we’ve got
going on,” Hankins urged.
“If they want to talk about some of the bad things,
say, ‘Pray for us – give us your insight,’” he suggested.
“But then, you speak a good word. Think on the good
things that are happening in the Louisiana Baptist Convention.”
The new state leader closed by focusing on the need
for commitment, noting his Bible verse for 2005 is 1 John 2:5-6 – “By
this we know that we are in him – the one who says he abides in him
ought himself to walk in the same manner as he walked.’
“The one who says – talk – ought to have the walk,
…” Hankins asserted. “I’m going to work this year on trying to
understand all that means … to really walk as Jesus would have us
As Louisiana Baptists address the concerns and needs
and challenges and issues of the future, Hankins stressed the
importance of maintaining a focus on Jesus.
“That really is what we need to do, …” he said.
“That’s my commitment to you – I want to focus on Jesus. So, if I say I
abide in him, I demonstrate that by walking in the same manner as he
Hankins’ report to board members was the centerpiece of a light January meeting.
Indeed, board members handled just one item of
business, electing new leaders of their operating and program
Don Denton was elected chair of the operating committee. He is pastor
at Northside Baptist Church in Slidell. Vice chair is Jimmy Yocum,
pastor at Twin Oaks Baptist Church in Bastrop.
Jim Spencer was elected chair of the program committee. He is pastor at
Kingsville Baptist Church in Pineville. Vice chair is Francis LaRocque,
pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Lake Charles.
Board members also received a report about Louisiana Baptist Cooperative Program receipts in 2004.
Year-end totals exceeded 2003 receipts by almost
$47,000, while falling about $395,000 shy of the budget goal, noted
Randy Tompkins, director of stewardship and cooperative program.
Tompkins noted the budget shortfall was the smallest in recent years, signaling a positive giving trend.
He also reported that 661 churches gave more money
through the state Cooperative Program in 2004 than they gave in 2003,
758 churches gave less, 52 churches gave the same amount and 152
churches gave nothing in both years.
Again, there were indications of encouraging trends,
Tompkins said. For instance, the number of non-giving churches is down
from 185 a few years ago. Also, even though more churches gave less
than gave more in 2004, the receipts from those giving more easily made
up the amount lost, he said.
In addition, only 40 or so churches went from the
giving more list to the giving less list in 2004. Tompkins noted.
Finally, he pointed out that when one combines
receipts for the Cooperative Program and the international, national
and state missions offerings, Louisiana Baptists gave almost $28
million in 2004.
In one other matter, board Chair Jim Law told board
members that talks were underway with trustees of the Baptist
Retirement Center to resolve a concern related to that institution.
The center was sold in 2003, and there has been some
tension about how to dissolve the corporation and make use of some $2
million in assets. “I am very hopeful and confident that, in May, there
will be a resolve that is a sweet end to what has been a difficult
struggle,” said Law, pastor at First Baptist Church of Gonzales.