ODESSA – With the SBC’s “Who’s Your One?” initiative providing the theme, the 22ndannual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Oct. 28-29 at First Baptist Church of Odessa emphasized the urgency of evangelism and passed resolutions on racial reconciliation, reporting sexual misconduct and mental health.
Messengers approved a $28.9 million budget for 2020, continuing the SBTC’s practice of sending 55 percent of undesignated receipts to the national Cooperative Program while retaining 45 percent for Texas CP ministries. The 55 percent reflects the largest percentage of CP giving of any state convention.
After a welcome from Executive Director Jim Richards, SBTC President Juan Sanchez, pastor of Austin’s High Pointe Baptist Church, gaveled the convention to order Monday evening.
Richards welcomed groups from El Paso and Midland-Odessa, announcing a time of prayer for pastors and staffs from those cities in the aftermath of August’s mass shootings.
“Texas has experienced some of the most tragic consequences of human depravity,” Richards said, praising the response of local pastors to their communities and outlining ways the SBTC has assisted.
Applause erupted as the El Paso contingent stood. Messengers surrounded them while Sanchez prayed in Spanish and English that the Lord would bless, protect and “use them in the midst of tragedy in this historic moment” to advance the gospel.
Reminding attendees that three years ago the SBTC had voted to hold the 2019 meeting in Odessa, Richards also thanked pastors and staffs from that area for their “consistent witness and testimony,” inviting them to stand, surrounded by attendees, as Sanchez again prayed.
Monday night speakers Sanchez and International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood delivered messages centered on evangelism.
Sanchez preached from 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, recalling lessons from his own time in the U.S. Navy, when the goal was to “accomplish the mission.”
Believers have a “clear mission”: to go into the nations and make disciples; a “clear strategy”: to preach Christ; and a “clear mission field”: the unbelieving world hostile to God, Sanchez said.
In Corinth, the apostle Paul opposed a “celebrity” culture that prized clever speech, not unlike today’s social media-driven society. Sanchez urged the preaching of the gospel “without shameful tactics.”
As for reaching the “one” person with that gospel, Sanchez cautioned perseverance: “Don’t get discouraged. As long as that ‘one’ has breath and so long as Jesus has not yet come,” there is time, he said, calling Christians “the original Impossible Mission Force” attempting to reach the “spiritually blind.”
“The God of the possible makes the dead come to life and the blind to see,” Sanchez said, adding, “Proclaim the truth of the gospel. Leave the rest to God.”
Chitwood similarly called upon attendees to focus on the “one” that God would have them evangelize, recalling a visit by two Baptist deacons to his modest childhood home in the eastern Tennessee mountains where his single father raised him and his two brothers.
“I had no clue how kind the Lord was being to us, how our lives for eternity would over time forever change because of the faithful witness of two Baptist brothers, out looking for their ‘one,’ knocking on doors, inviting people to church,” Chitwood said, introducing his text, Revelation 22.
Andrew Hebert, pastor of Amarillo’s Paramount Baptist Church, preached Tuesday morning’s convention sermon, beginning his message on 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 with an illustration of the Navajo Code Talkers of World War II, who, like believers, were “entrusted [by] headquarters with a critical message.”
With Paul as his example, Hebert urged the audience to carry the gospel in both “weakness” and “boldness,” reminding them that “small faith in a big God equals big faith” and that “hardship” is a “worthy sacrifice” when enduring in evangelism.
Messengers approved the 2020 budget, and Executive Board President Danny Forshee, pastor of Austin’s Great Hills Baptist Church, described the findings of the special needs task force which outlines resources for churches and proposes a Special Needs Sunday.
Accompanying the executive board’s affirmation of the “Who’s Your One?” initiative, Richard Taylor, SBTC evangelism associate, presented a five-step strategy for accomplishing it.
Forshee then spoke to the tragedies in El Paso and Odessa, describing SBTC responses.
Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, preached on Luke 5 and linked cooperation and evangelism, noting that the four friends who carried the paralyzed man on a stretcher to see Jesus did so together. He called the text an “example of those who found their ‘one.’”
Jesus praised the faith both of the creative, determined friends and the paralyzed man, Greenway emphasized, stressing urgency in evangelism so that it might become “impossible for anybody to die in Texas and step out into a Christ-less eternity.”
He encouraged persistence: “One hundred percent of those we do not share Christ with will not respond. One hundred percent of the people you do not invite to your church on Sunday are not going to come. More than you imagine will respond.”
Tuesday afternoon featured Charles Lee, pastor of Acts Fellowship Church in Austin, who spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, urging the eternal perspective in evangelism and recommending perseverance.
“Eternity is around the corner,” Lee said, “but you know, there are some co-workers, some friends, some acquaintances, who are not going to be there, at least for now. Who’s your ‘one?’”
Caleb Turner, assistant pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist, spoke on 2 Corinthians 5:11-15, beginning with an illustration of a 1985 New Orleans tragedy in which a man drowned in a pool with 100 lifeguards present. The lifeguards, or laborers, lacked focus, Turner said.
With a sobering reminder that “our friends are drowning,” Turner emphasized urgent evangelism, lamenting that some churches may have become “too big” to remember “the least of these.”
Like the Apostle Paul, we must be “compelled” to convince others of the truth of the gospel. Like Paul, we respond to critics by example.
“Is our life a living billboard for Christ or a commercial for the devil?” Turner asked, affirming that God knew Paul and knows us. Controlled by the love of Christ, we share Christ. Anything else renders us flying blind in the cockpit.
Following the report of the resolutions committee, Richards offered the last sermon of the day, thanking FBC Odessa pastor Byron McWilliams and his wife, Andi, church staff and volunteers, and outgoing president Sanchez.
Starting with a story of near-drowning in his own childhood, Richards expressed gratitude for the man who saw him “in desperate need at the deep end of the pool,” as he began his message on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.
“So many are at the deep end of the pool. Someone must go rescue them,” Richards said, referencing the “Who’s Your One?” campaign, calling his text—with its repeated emphasis on reconciliation—“ideal” for underscoring the theme.
As Saul became Paul on the road to Damascus in a “dramatic transformation,” so salvation comes to those who surrender themselves to Christ, Richards said.
He described many who prayed for his salvation as a teenager, his own “dramatic transformation.” Among those who prayed was his best friend.
“I was his ‘one,’” Richards said.
In convention business, Joyce McKinley, secretary, reported total registrations of 1,029: 772 messengers and 257 guests.
Messengers elected Kie Bowman, pastor of Hyde Park Baptist Church of Austin, as the 2020 SBTC president. Tony Mathews, pastor of North Garland Baptist was elected vice president and Frances Garcia, Primera Iglesia Mexicana of Odessa, elected secretary. Outgoing officers Sanchez, Vice President Joshua Crutchfield and Secretary Joyce McKinley completed their terms.
Messengers approved resolutions expressing appreciation for Sanchez, FBC Odessa and first responders in the El Paso and Midland-Odessa shootings. Also approved were resolutions affirming the “Who’s Your One?” initiative, repudiating the prosperity gospel, and supporting mental health ministry in the local church. A resolution endorsing racial reconciliation passed with minor amendments and a bill praising the authors and supporters of HB 4345, which protects those who report the sexual misconduct of former volunteers and employees, passed without debate.
The 2020 SBTC annual meeting will be held Nov. 9-10 at Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin.