GRAPEVINEï¿½The Executive Board of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention granted $1 million from reserve funds to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and encouraged churches in Texas to “embrace” 1,000 of the 3,800 unengaged people groups identified by Southern Baptistï¿½s International Mission Board.
“We are a lean machine unencumbered by debt,” declared SBTC President Byron McWilliams, pastor of First Baptist Church of Odessa, as he addressed the board gathered in Grapevine for its summer meeting on Aug. 9. “That makes a huge difference in our ability to do what we’re going to do.”
Calling the SBTC a convention “built by faith by men and women who refuse to accept little vision and well-worn paths,” McWilliams said, “We are unafraid to attempt the impossible.”
With over half of the world’s 7 billion people having little or no access to the gospel and the 3,800 unengaged, unreached people groups having no one telling them about Jesus, the IMB encourages local churches to begin with church-wide focused prayer.
The unanimous actions of the SBTC board came in response to the challenge of IMB President Tom Elliff at the SBC annual meeting in Phoenix to “Embrace the Ends of the Earth.” Concern over the reduction in missionary deployments due to funding shortages led SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards to suggest sharing a portion of reserve funds.
Designating the $1 million gift to the Lottie Moon Offering will help put more missionaries on the field and support those already deployed. The SBTC’s board agreed to reduce operating reserves from six months to just under five months in order to provide the grant.
This is a big decision,” acknowledged Administrative Committee Chairman Gregg Simmons, pastor of Church at the Cross in Grapevine. “At the current rate of growth and level of giving it’s going to take several years to rebuild those reserves, but I don’t share that with any sense of hesitation. We want to be part of a fresh vision from IMB, have considered this and feel it is a good decision.”
Board members will be updated on further discussion with Elliff regarding participation of Texas churches. While the Nov. 14-15 state annual meeting will feature a session on the needs in India, Richards said the convention wants to facilitate Southern Baptist churches in Texas to go anywhere in the world that God calls them to embrace one of these groups.
At call2embrace.org the IMB offers guidance on studying a group’s location and culture and the development of a strategy to reach them with the gospel. An interactive map identifies those people groups with no active church-planting strategy among them and less than a 2 percent evangelical presence.
One of four Embrace Equipping Conferences will be held in Cedar Hill on Oct. 27 at Hillcrest Baptist Church, southwest of Dallas. To register contact IMB at 800-999-3113 or visit the website listed above.
In his report to the board, Criswell College President Jerry Johnson told of the school’s commitment to embrace one of these unengaged people groups with plans for repeat visits by students to the region where a missions strategy will be developed.
Also, the board recommended SBTC staff continue to evaluate “praying and listening” sessions held in 25 locations across the state earlier this year to formulate a response to the executive committee that will be reviewed in the spring board meeting.
The board unanimously approved a proposed convention budget of $26,274,704 for 2012, up 3.16 percent over the current year. Messengers to the SBTC annual meeting in Irving must approve the budget, which continues to split 55 percent of Cooperative Program receipts for Southern Baptist Convention ministry with the remaining 45 percent allocated for in-state ministry. Missions remains the largest SBTC budget line item at 23.28 percent of the in-state allocations.
Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis reported that year-to-date CP receipts through July were $51,000 less than last year while noting that early August income appears strong. Actual expenses remain under budget with a net operating income through July of $265,633, including interest income and designated giving receipts.
Through June, giving through the Reach Texas Offering for state missions was within $49 of the amount given over the same period last year; the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions were both up from a year ago, by $437,180 and $177,131, respectively.
Changes approved to the business plan include setting a reserve funds goal of six months instead of 12 months and specifying that the Executive Committee be tasked with approving full-time personnel terminations instead of the Administrative Committee in keeping with its assignment of approving hiring of personnel.
Changes to the SBTC Foundation Certificate of Formation and Bylaws recommended for approval by messengers to the annual meeting involve increasing the number of board members from five to seven.
Surplus funds designated for Outdoor Expo Events and One Day Schools of Evangelism were reallocated for general evangelism use.
The board also approved the affiliation of 59 churches while also clearing its roll of 19 congregations that disbanded. The total number of SBTC-affiliated churches as of Aug. 9 was 2,342.
A resolution of appreciation to Jacksonville College President Edwin Crank was approved in recognition of his retirement following 25 years of ministry at the school.
The board renewed its affiliation agreement with Criswell College through 2014 and announced T.C. Melton of Abilene and Casey Perry of Malakoff as recipients of the 2011 Paul Pressler Distinguished Service Award, to be presented at the annual meeting.