The Value of Our Annual Meeting for Kingdom Advance
October 31st, 2016 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments
President Nathan Lino in his TEXAN column lists five reasons to be at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. I will not enumerate them again but simply will voice a hearty “amen.”
We enjoy worship, fellowship, hear ministry testimonies and make ministry decisions. Perhaps the least exciting and smallest part of the entire time together is consideration of the budget. The 2017 Cooperative Program budget will be presented to the messengers for approval. The messengers have the final say in how the funds are directed. One of the most remarkable aspects of Baptist life is how we fund our work. Churches put the greater need ahead of their personal interests to invest in a collaborative ministry.
The SBTC is made of a diverse constituency. Membership of the churches is heavily weighted toward smaller congregations, with about 80 percent of SBTC churches averaging less than 200 in attendance. Sadly, the majority of all SBC churches are plateaued or declining. As the population of Texas is largely on I-35 and eastward, so are the majority of churches. Leadership in churches is changing rapidly from my generation to a younger age group. Ethnically, about one-fourth of the churches are non-Anglo. Some churches are traditional in worship style, while many are considered “contemporary.” We are a different assortment!
Two factors enable us to work together: doctrinal accountability and the Cooperative Program. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 sets the parameters for fellowship in the SBTC. Churches affirm the framework of the BF&M 2000 as our basis of ministry together. This statement enables us to have a lot of latitude in our individual congregations but provides a safeguard against departure from our agreed-upon boundaries when working as a convention.
The Cooperative Program is the second factor unique to Southern Baptists. While there is no connectionalism in Baptist life, we voluntarily cooperate to accomplish the massive task of kingdom advance by pooling our financial resources. The SBTC sends 55 percent on to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international work. No other state convention participates at a higher percentage.
The budget presented to the messengers represents our collective work. With such a divergent group of churches having competing philosophies, it is the amazing grace of God that we are able to accomplish the work of kingdom advance.
The SBTC staff seeks to serve the churches with a Christ-like spirit. We are aware that the SBTC exists at the pleasure of the churches. The lion’s share of the budget approved at the annual meeting will go to missions and evangelism. This is true in Texas and beyond. There may be some things some of us prefer more than others in the line items, but virtually all of us agree that the main emphasis must be on kingdom advance.
If you have questions about the Cooperative Program or how your investment is being used, your SBTC staff stands ready to give testimony of the lives changed through your giving.