By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Louisiana Baptists are in the final year of implementing the President’s 2020 Commission Final Report, an initiative undertaken during the leadership of Waylon Bailey, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Covington, and the LBC president in 2012-2013.
The 2020 recommendations were crafted collaboratively by a commission of 400 Louisiana Baptist leaders, staff members and laypeople, working in 20 subcommittees of 20 members each. Ten “key actions in reaching our state” – known as KAIROS – were developed to engage two audiences – the next generation and every people group. These measures for improving the spiritual health and growth of the state were adopted by messengers at the 2013 Louisiana Baptist Convention Annual Meeting.
This article is the first in a series published by the Baptist Message to report what successes have been achieved toward the ambitious goals of the statewide initiative, as well as to note what objectives remain to be done.
FIRST AUDIENCE –THE NEXT GENERATION
“The LBC Executive Director will form a ‘Next Generation Task Force’ whose assignment will be to 1) study the needs of the younger generation, 2) discover and develop strategies for engagement and ministry to this generation of Louisianans, and 3) promote implementation of these strategies among Louisiana Baptists. The Task Force will report regularly through the Executive Director to the Executive Board.”
The next generation was one of two groups identified as a target audience in 2020 report, and Louisiana Baptist leaders and church members have championed the effort to reach a group who has seen declines in baptisms of children (a decrease of 42 percent since 1980) and average worship attendance of teenagers (a 42 percent decline since 1980), according to the 2020 Report.
Despite the decline, Louisiana Baptists remain hopeful for the future, Mark Robinson, state Baptist Collegiate Ministry director, told the Baptist Message.
“Even though cultural challenges increase as we are striving to reach the emerging generation of church leaders, Louisiana Baptists are committed to assertively apply the teaching from the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 to train up a generation committed to make disciples,” Robinson said. “From preschool ministry all the way to completion of university training we are diligently working to reach students with the Gospel of Christ and see great results.”
Efforts to reach the next generation have included:
— Training more than 50,000 students to reach their friends who do not know Christ through the annual Pre-Teen Invasion, Youth Evangelism Celebration and Collegiate Evangelism Conference.
— Ongoing efforts by Louisiana College to increase scholarship funding and expand curriculum offerings, with a goal to build its student body to 1,500 by 2020.
— Completion of nine new or remodeled or expanded Baptist Student Ministry buildings since 2006 on campuses reaching a combined population of nearly 90,000 students.
— Continued growth at Tall Timbers, from 995 in total camp attendance in 2009 to 2,428 campers in 2018, punctuated by 1,510 salvation decisions during that 10-year period.
— Connecting to more than 30,000 collegians through ministry outreach.
SECOND AUDIENCE – EVERY PEOPLE GROUP
“The LBC Executive Director will form a ‘People Group Engagement’ Task Force whose assignment is 1) to evaluate the ethnic diversity in Louisiana and its implications for Louisiana Baptists, 2) create avenues for input and involvement in LBC life by non-Anglo leaders and congregations, and 3) lead Louisiana Baptists in effective engagement with and ministry among all people groups in the state. The Task Force will report regularly through the Executive Director to the Executive Board.”
“People Group” describes the number of ethnic and racial communities within the state.
A task force has met periodically since 2012 to develop a plan on how Louisiana Baptists can reach these multiple minority groups in Louisiana. In 2018, the task force was changed to a permanent standing committee and serves to advise the convention, through the executive director, on how to shape the ongoing work of the Convention toward people group engagement.
James Jenkins, church planting director for Louisiana Baptists, said the charge of the committee is threefold:
— Evaluate the ethnic diversity in Louisiana and its implications for Louisiana Baptists.
— Create avenues for input and involvement in LBC life by non-Anglo leaders and congregations.
— Lead Louisiana Baptists in effective engagement with ministry among all people groups in the state.
“The ends of the earth are now coming to America and Louisiana,” Jenkins said. “As the ethnic diversity of Louisiana grows, Louisiana Baptists can carry out the biblical purpose of the church by seeking to fulfill the Great Commission through making disciples of every people group in Louisiana.
“The 2020 Mandate for the People Group Engagement Committee is a restatement of the Great Commission and the Last Commission – Therefore go and make disciples of everyone, everywhere in Louisiana; in the local church ministry fields, in communities and parishes, and to the very borders of Louisiana.”
Jenkins said that from 2010-2019 Louisiana Baptists have seen a 35 percent growth in African American congregations, (now numbering 81), a 45 percent increase in Hispanic congregations (34 total) and a 10 percent growth in Asian congregations (12 to date).