KINGWOOD How do you manage to get all the relatives back home on one occasion to remember their roots when they are strung out across 801 straight-line miles from the northwest corner of the panhandle to the Rio Grande River just below Brownsville and 762 miles from Orange to El Paso, measuring east to west?
One solution is to find a big place to meet like Second Baptist Church of Houston’s north campus in Kingwood, send out personal invitations as well as mass media and hope even the kids will enjoy their time together.
Over 1,300 people were on hand Nov. 12 as the annual meeting of the youngest state Baptist convention of Southern Baptists convened to conduct business, gather for worship, preaching and prayer for God’s continued favor after two decades in Texas.
Kids as tiny as toddlers, and adults as old as 90-something, made their way to the reception in the host church’s gym, walking through a display of archives. Artifacts represented the state convention’s founding and scripture art emphasized the foundational fidelity to Scripture—a conviction that remains central to the 2,702 churches that are affiliated today.
The roomful of over 500 people in attendance listened to the jazz band of Second Baptist Houston as they visited around tables and snacked on sliders and cupcakes. Ronnie Yarber of Athens opened the program thanking God “for the occasion that brings us to this room tonight” and “the directing hand of God as we have moved through these 20 years.”
SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards paid tribute to the 26 men and women who risked their personal livelihoods and friendships while serving as the board of directors to launch the SBTC on Nov. 10, 1998, forming a new state convention in Texas with just 120 churches and a $900,000 budget.
“Good and godly men and women paid the price to follow the guiding principle of being loyal to the inerrant Word of God,” he remembered.
Starting with John Brady and ending with Skeet Workman, each founder’s name was read. The handful of them able to attend included Ed Ethridge, David Fannin, Casey Perry, Gerald Smith, Danny Souder, Eral Sutton and Rocky Weatherford.
“Let’s praise the Lord for these folks,” Richards said as the crowd gave a standing ovation. While others could not attend due to health or other concerns, several were already in heaven, Richards observed.
Richards said that board of directors had “the foresight and the courage to commit themselves because of the cause of Christ to start this convention 20 years ago.” Many others gave of their time and energy “to help us reach Texas and touch the world,” Richards added, thanking those who served as officers, members of the Executive Board and convention committees.
Having employed consultants, facilitators, part- and full-time staff who minister to churches to help them carry out the Great Commission, Richards recognized current and former convention employees, praising their “Philippians 2 mindset.”
As the spotlight turned to those who served as state convention presidents, Richards described each man’s character and contribution, ranging from the late Stan Coffey of Amarillo to current president Juan Sanchez of Austin. “All these men of God have given of themselves, but I would be remiss if I didn’t say that their wives were sacrificial, too.”
Since the SBTC was birthed in the fires of theological controversy, current Executive Board chairman Kie Bowman of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin read Jude 3. Gerald Smith of Mansfield offered a prayer of thanksgiving, having served as a volunteer CFO from 1998-1999 and later as a chairman of the Executive Board.
Reflecting on the constancy of the SBTC’s core values of remaining biblically based, kingdom focused and missionally driven, Richards said the SBTC has sought to keep a broad yet defined umbrella of fellowship through the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
“There is a lot of latitude on many issues but it is clearly definitive on some,” he insisted. “Don’t be fooled by other groups that tell you there is no difference between them and the SBTC,” he continued. “When another group wants legitimacy without adopting our faith statement, beware.”
Richards also alluded to church planting and evangelism remaining a top priority, with “a small numbered full-time staff that is supplemented by part-time staff and consultants so no church goes underserved.”
With an undesignated giving plan known as the Cooperative Program, 55 percent of what affiliated churches give through the SBTC goes to the Southern Baptist Convention. “This provides for over 3,500 international missionaries, a North American Mission effort impacting our mega cities, 15,000 seminary students getting a portion of their education paid and a voice for the unborn and marriage between one man and one woman through the ERLC,” Richards explained.
“We may not agree on everything everyone does but it is one sacred effort that enables every church to be a part of gospel advance,” he stated.
Closing out the celebration was the same couple who were present 20 years ago to open the first meeting in song. Richards described JimBob and Louverille Griffin as typifying the men and women “who don’t care who gets the credit as long as God gets the glory.” With that attitude in mind, guests and messengers filled the packed gym with the words of “To God Be the Glory,” accepting Richards’ challenge to “sing our way to the next year and beyond until Jesus comes for us.”