Richards: CP engagement necessary; ‘No Church Left Behind’ should be SBTC goal

In his address to the SBTC Executive Board, Executive Director Jim Richards said a new church is affiliating with the convention an average of every other day?between 150-180 churches a year?but not all understand the significance of Southern Baptist cooperation. Richards also addressed declining churches, saying the convention should adopt an attitude of “No Church Left Behind.”

Of newly affiliated churches, half are new church starts, which are vital in Great Commission work, Richards said. “The other half are churches that have no Southern Baptist background or have not been actively engaged or involved in the Cooperative Program or participation in convention life.”

Only about one-third of new affiliations are coming from the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Richards said.

“So that gives us a different approach to our Cooperative Program giving because in our first five or six years the majority of churches that were coming in every month were churches that had already had a history of understanding the Cooperative Program and were committed to Southern Baptist life. It provides us with a wonderful opportunity to engage, involve, encourage and educate churches that are now coming to be partners in Southern Baptist life.”

Amid generational shifts in church leadership the SBTC is working effectively to build relationships with young pastors, Richards said.

Nevertheless, “Our Cooperative Program education and growth remains a need for all SBTC churches,” Richards said. “Therefore, we are committed to the task of educating our churches about the Cooperative Program and showing them that this is the best method that God has allowed us to have in Baptist life. The societal method (mission agencies vying against each other for funds) has not worked.

The direct funding method (churches supporting individual missionaries) has not worked. We must never lose sight of that and somehow communicate it to emerging leaders and those who have joined us from other giving traditions.”

Also, Richards said the SBTC must always keep sight of its three core values?doctrinal agreement, missiological activity, and methodological approach through Southern Baptists’ Cooperative Program?while moving forward with its three primary functions.

Those three primary functions are:

4Assisting in starting new churches;

4Assisting existing churches to be “Acts 1:8” churches;

4Advocating spiritual awakening and revival to all churches.

“Sad to say, some are not experiencing Acts 1:8 likeness. Some churches are not experiencing the presence of God in power. Our desire as a convention staff and our purpose in existence is to assist in starting new churches, assist existing churches to be Acts 1:8 churches, but to advocate spiritual awakening and revival in all our churches.”

As President Bush initiated “No Child Left Behind,” Richards said, “I’d like for us to initiate ‘No Church Left Behind.’ There’s no need for plateauing and declining churches. If a church continues in that direction it will cease to exist. Our desire as a convention is that no church be left behind.”

TEXAN Correspondent
Jerry Pierce
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