By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
PINEVILLE, La. (LBM) – Amid a year of COVID-19, multiple hurricanes and political turmoil, hope and resolve were consistent themes shared at the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn praised messengers to the 2020 LBC Annual meeting of churches for their resiliency amid a difficult year.
“COVID, political division exacerbated by racial division, devastating hurricanes and the accompanying economic disruptions have tested us,” Horn said during his executive director’s report, Nov. 10. “As one social media meme put it, ‘In Louisiana, we are tough, but we are tired.’
“But, if 2020 has proven anything, this year has proven that we, in Louisiana, are a resilient bunch,” he continued. “And, I am thankful.”
Horn said Louisiana Baptists were faithful in giving, gathering and sharing the Gospel despite COVID-19 and multiple hurricanes.
Though most events sponsored by the state missions services team were canceled during the summer, Horn said efforts to share the Gospel did not wane.
The communication team used the “Here for You” multimedia campaign to reach 95 percent of television viewer homes in the state — who were spending additional time at home due to COVID-19. Around 250,000 Louisianans have been reached through the campaign’s social media and streaming platform.
But more importantly, through a partnership with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the campaign has registered more than 5,000 views of the Gospel presentation and more than 500 decisions for Christ.
“As one of our staff members likes to say ‘we may have been confined, but we were not contained,’” Horn said. “You cannot quarantine Good News.”
Other evangelistic efforts have continued as well, including the annual Youth Evangelism Celebration, originally scheduled at the Rapides Parish Coliseum in Alexandria, that was revised to three one-night events called “YEC: Limited Edition.” The Baptist Message will have a full report in the December edition.
Horn also noted that each Baptist Collegiate Ministry continues to see students on their respective campuses come to Christ through new ways of evangelism, discipleship and acts of service.
He added that the state evangelism conference will convene at Summer Grove Baptist Church in Shreveport Jan. 25-26.
Horn said Louisiana Baptists continue to amaze him with their commitment to share Christ no matter what obstacles they face. Moving forward, Horn said he is more convinced than ever that Louisiana Baptists need one another, God’s grace is sufficient and they will need to continue exercising incredible resiliency.
“As odd as this might sound, let us be glad that we haven’t missed 2020,” he said. “Because of what we have faced, we witnessed the incredible work of Southern Baptists coming together for the sake of the Gospel. I’m glad I did not miss that.
David Cranford reminded messengers not to give up as the emphasis in his president’s address.
Referencing 2 Corinthians 4, Cranford, pastor of First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula, exhorted Louisiana Baptists to “glorify Him in the midst of it all so that His grace may extend through more and more of His people.”
Cranford said Louisiana Baptists should press forward and remember “the beginning,” “the “now” and “the later part” of their respective testimonies with Jesus.
“It is possible even in the midst of these days to experience renewal and revival and restoration, if we don’t neglect our spirits and our spiritual health,” he said. “Don’t become spiritually near-sighted in times of trouble and distress. Spiritual nearsightedness brings discouragement and depression. God does not cease supporting and strengthening and loving His people just because times are difficult.”
During the Convention sermon, Steve McAlister, pastor of Westside Baptist Church in Natchitoches, said America needs hope amid the difficult circumstances faced in 2020.
McAlister, referencing Genesis 1:26, 27, 2:15-17 and 3:22-24, said the church must treat people according to His image, should engage in the democratic process and are obliged to share the Gospel.
He said God has given believers the task of being Christ’s ambassadors and to share Him with others.
“That’s the hope of America,” he said. “That’s the hope of the world. That’s the hope of Louisiana. It’s not a country. It’s not a government. It’s not being on the right side of an issue. The hope of our country is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Messengers approved the Cooperative Program allocation budget and amendments to the LBC Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws.
The 2021 financial plan is identical to the one approved for 2020 by messengers in 2019 and is based on expected contributions of $18,653,700, following eight previous consecutive years of annual decreases. The allocation formula for distributing Cooperative Program gifts also remains unchanged with 63.26 percent dedicated to support ministries in the state and 36.74 percent forwarded to fund national entities.
Cooperative Program projections typically are based on actual receipts from August of the previous year through July of the current one. This year the Business and Finance Committee of the Executive Board chose to recommend suspending the usual conservative budget process due to receipt anomalies resulting from COVID-19 restrictions and interruptions to church operations caused by hurricanes, storms and tornadoes.
The amendments to the Convention’s governing documents essentially added provisions for operating the Convention during emergencies.
David Cranford, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula, was re-elected president. David Jeffreys, associate pastor of Highland Baptist Church in New Iberia, was elected first vice president, and William Smith, pastor of Lakeshore Baptist Church in Monroe, was elected second vice president. All three men were given individual votes of acclamation by the Convention – a single ballot cast by the LBC executive director in view of no opposition to any of the candidates.
The final messenger count for the 2019 Annual Meeting was 386 in attendance out of 440 pre-registered for the abbreviated meeting – shortened because of COVID-19.
The 2021 Annual Meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16 at North Monroe Baptist Church in Monroe.