ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP) — In addition to electing officers, passing a budget and other business, Louisiana Baptists celebrated 250 new church plants since 2010 at their annual meeting Nov. 11-12.
Eddie Wren, LBC president, gave a sermon challenging messengers to wait on the Lord and not lose hope in the current age.
“Though we may be experiencing some difficulties, it’s not the end,” Wren proclaimed. “Don’t give up; don’t give in. Wait on the Lord and in due time He will renew your strength, He will lift you up and He will change your situation. And you will be renewed. You’ll leave the rubble and despair behind and by God’s grace you’ll soar.”
The 2020 financial plan is based on expected contributions of $18,653,700, a year-to-year decrease of $160,118, following three previous consecutive years of annual decreases of at least $535,000 ($693,587 in 2019, $535,426 in 2018 and $550,435 in 2017).
Cooperative Program projections are based on actual receipts from August 2018 through July 2019.
The allocation formula for distributing Cooperative Program gifts remains unchanged with 63.26 percent dedicated to support ministries in the state and 36.74 percent forwarded to fund national entities.
Messengers elected David Cranford, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula, president.
Leroy Fountain, church health strategist for the New Orleans Baptist Association, was re-elected first vice president, and Marc Taylor, a layman from the Cook Baptist Church in Ruston, was elected second vice president.
Fountain and Taylor were elected by acclamation.
Messengers approved four consensus statements — one expressing appreciation to the Randolph Riverfront Center in Alexandria for hosting the annual meeting and to individuals who contributed in important ways to the production of the two day event; one declaring that being transformed from sinner to believer means our “old selves have passed away” as well as our old identity with those sins; and one calling for Louisiana lawmakers “to provide legal relief for churches to allow them the freedom to share information reasonably believed to be a true allegation about an individual to prospective employers or other congregations as a means to prevent predators from continuing to harm others;” and finally, one expressing support for the proposed “Love Life Amendment,” slated to be on the statewide ballot in 2020.
Messengers agreed the pro-life statement gives “our strongest possible endorsement of the Love Life Amendment and the constitutional protection it affords against unilateral actions to undo prolife laws” and urges “all eligible Louisiana Baptists to register and to vote for the Love Life Amendment and to encourage others to do likewise in order to overwhelmingly pass this 2020 ballot measure.”
During two Bible study sessions, Jake Roudvoski, professor of evangelism and church leadership at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, offered his observation “the greatest need in the evangelical world and our own convention is for us to experience the renewal of the holiness of God.”
“When we recapture the vision of the holy God who is sovereign, then it would lead us to trust Him no matter what happens in our lives,” Roudvoski said.
Jeffrey Friend, pastor of the Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans, gave a sermon thanking messengers for the support, encouragement and financial resources they provided after an EF-3 tornado in Feb 2017 heavily damaged the church’s campus.
Friend, whose church also previously sustained damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Gustav in 2008, said at times he has felt like the man the Good Samaritan helped, who was left battered and torn on the side of the road.
In the end, the man was restored.
“It’s a precious thing to me to be able to say it loud that I’m Southern Baptist and proud,” Friend said. “As I was sitting in the debris after the tornado hit on that Tuesday, I began to talk to my master, ‘Lord, what am I going to do?’
“God gave me an opportunity to tell you what a certain man never got to tell the Samaritan,” Friend said. “After the Samaritan did so much for him, he left. But nowhere did it say a certain man got the opportunity to say thank you.”
Jamie Dew, the newly elected president of NOBTS, shared with messengers that the school will emphasize servanthood during his tenure, a theme that is also the focus in the school’s new mission statement: “New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College prepare servants to walk with Christ, proclaim His truth, and fulfill His mission.”
“This is a faculty that I am proud to line up by and be numbered among. These are men and women that have given their lives, not just to the academic profession of preparing the next generation of servants, but they are themselves practitioners of the Gospel ministry,” Dew said. “Virtually all of them serve in local church and they are doing it in locations where difficulty and darkness abounds.”
Dew said that the faculty of NOBTS serve as frontline Gospel ministers in a way unique to New Orleans.
“I don’t know a better city to learn in, to prepare and be a pastor and servant of Jesus Christ.”
Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, challenged messengers to preach and teach with urgency about the Lord’s coming.
Referencing Revelation 20:21-22, Chitwood said, “On the day that He comes, the opportunity to repent will have passed because at that point you cannot be saved. And that’s why there must be an urgency that accompanies the preaching of the Gospel.”
Church planting celebration
Messengers also celebrated the 250th church planted in the state since 2010. The achievement moves Louisiana Baptists closer to the goal of planting 300 churches by 2020 as part of one of the 10 action steps identified in the president’s 2020 Commission Final Report.
James Jenkins, director of church planting for Louisiana Baptists, told the Baptist Message the reception to mark the occasion was a celebration of partnership among church planters, sponsoring churches and directors of missions.
“This celebration, and the ones we have had along the way to the 300th church plant, is a way of thanking God for His grace and Louisiana Baptists for their giving,” Jenkins said.
The 250 church plants represent a strategy of diversity: 78 are African-American, 32 Hispanic, 12 Asian and 18 have a largely multi-ethnic makeup.
Most importantly, the 250 church plants represent a focus on soul winning — 13,731 professions of faith since 2010 with 4,094 baptisms to date.
The final messenger count for the 2019 Annual Meeting was 583, an increase from 535 in 2018 at Temple Baptist Church in Ruston.
Steve Horn, in the LBC executive director’s report, called on messengers to unite for the sake of the Gospel.
“We are different. We don’t all agree on every issue in Southern Baptist life. But, taking the picture that the Bible gives to us about the different parts of the body of Christ, we should celebrate our differences instead of complain about our differences,” Horn said. “You are here at the convention because you believe in that spirit of cooperation or at least are curious about what we could do in cooperation with one another. This is a great time to renew our commitments because so much is new.”