What’s a State Convention Do?
October 17th, 2019 / By: TC Melton / comments
There are a lot of folk, including some of our Southern Baptists of Texas family, who do not understand how our state and national conventions work. I agree that, sometime, the very term "convention," can come across a bit cold. Some see these as some kind of hierarchy over and apart from the local churches...a "they-we" thing. It is this kind of interpretation that causes some of our Southern Baptist people to not understand the importance of annual Baptist family gatherings, like we are having at FBC, Odessa, Oct. 28th & 29th. What is, and what is the purpose of, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (state) and the Southern Baptist Convention (national)?
Let's start with how the great majority of Southern Baptist people define "church." First, there is no such organization as "The" Baptist Church. There are 40,000-plus Southern Baptist churches. The vast majority of Southern Baptist folk believe that every saved person is a member of the family of God and is a member of what is, often, referred to as the "invisible" or "universal" church, referring to all of God's redeemed. These same Southern Baptists believe that the great emphasis of the New Testament is on the local, visible church, used this way about 90 percent of the time, the term "church" is referenced...the church at Jerusalem, the church at Antioch, etc. Most of us have heard, or been a part, of a church family celebrating its 100th anniversary. Though these folk may have started out as a small Bible study group, on a given day, 100 years ago, a local group of baptized believers made the decision to join together, to formally organize...covenanted together...a New Testament church. Each Southern Baptist congregation is "self-governed" and very independent, though totally dependent upon our Lord and his inspired, inerrant Word.
Because of both the need and the desire to work together to be more effective in carrying out the Great Commission, representatives of local Southern Baptist churches formed state and national conventions. For us, it is the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (state) and Southern Baptist Convention (national). Both for the protection and unity of member churches, the representative of the local Baptist churches that formed the SBTC made it a "confessional" convention. This simply means that those churches that are a part of the SBTC family have affirmed the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. Your church is, likely, a "confessional" church, meaning that those who are members affirmed the membership requirements of your church. Both the SBTC and the SBC are nothing more than "servant" mechanisms, subject to the local churches, that provide a means for Southern Baptist churches to "pool" their resources to more effectively carry out the Great Commission. Our state and national conventions have employees, agencies, boards, institutions, departments, trustees, committees, etc. But, the "final voices of authority" for all Southern Baptist ministries are the local Southern Baptist churches, represented by their messengers in their annual meetings. The headquarters for both the SBTC and the SBC ministries is the local Southern Baptist church.
There are some important core values that make it possible for 2,700-plus SBTC churches to work together as one family. We are committed to, and in agreement with, some basic biblical doctrines, summarized in the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. We are committed to the same great assignment, getting the message of the gospel of Christ out to multiplied millions of unsaved people in our world. Our major focus is evangelism and missions. And, we are totally supportive of the traditional Southern Baptist Cooperative Program. These kinds of Southern Baptist family relationships and Cooperative Program giving enable each of our churches, and each member of these churches, to have a witness that reaches from home to the uttermost parts of the world, each day of the year...a really amazing thing.
In our Odessa meeting, the representatives of our local SBTC churches will be considering a proposed budget of nearly 29 million dollars. These millions of Cooperative Program dollars represent our proposed "together" ministries for 2020. But, apart from this, maybe the most important thing that will take place will be our recommitting ourselves to those core values that enable us, as one family, to become more and more effective in reaching the lost of our world with the gospel of Christ. Your church is very important to our Southern Baptists of Texas family. Do all you can to make it possible for one or more of your members to join other local church representatives in Odessa on Oct. 28th & 29th. You can stay current with all of our SBTC family happening by reading the TEXAN. Contact Gayla to get it delivered to your mail box, free of cost, email them (firstname.lastname@example.org) or you can read it online.
T.C. Melton is a retired pastor and former area coordinator for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention