The Tuesday meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention was inspiring most of the time, and intense part of the time, as we had a great challenge with the Task Force Report on our future, and a confusing and close vote for president.
Reports from our three Georgia Baptist colleges were very positive:
The convention approved a resolution in support of Shorter University’s statement of behavior requirements for employees that included a ban on homosexuality. Shorter has been the target of protests by gay rights activisits.
We heard that Brewton Parker College has been rescued thanks to the efforts of the new president. It was a miracle that the school stayed open.
Truett-McConnell college “cannot find enough hooks to hang the students on” as it has exploded with growth.
A resolution against the social use of alcohol was adopted. Then a messenger proposed another resolution against gluttony, saying “everybody hear could pass a breathalizer test, but I’m not sure they would do well if they had to weigh in.” The motion was referred to the Executive Committee for study.
The budget was revised, cut another 6.2%, largely by eliminating any pay raises for convention staff. Messenger Michael Stovall questioned how we are going to get rid of the debt on the GBC ministry building so this budget isn’t burdened by debt, hurting missions. Dr. Robert White, executive director, replied that the recession has hurt our investments that were paying on the debt, but we are trying to pay it as best we can.
We heard a strong doctrinal sermon on Ephesians 2 by Brian Stowe of Maysville. He said, “Doctrine apart from duty is a disgrace.”
There was inspiring music from a young high school student named Andrea Townes, and another high school student named Will Bates who won the state speaker’s tournament, gave his speech on evangelism. The Fiddle Heads, a group of students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of North Georgia College, sang and did a super job on their fiddles with hymns and contemporary songs. If we continue to produce young Christians like these, our future is bright!
Tuesday afternoon we had a challenging report from the Task Force that was formed to study how Georgia Baptists can be most effective in sharing the gospel with the 7 million lost people in our state. They used the analogy of David who picked up five smooth stones to fight Goliath (because Goliath had four brothers). They listed five “smooth stones” that we need to make priorities: spiritual renewal, kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting, and authentic evangelism. Testimonies were given in each area, and then after a unanimous vote to adopt these priorities, messengers were encouraged to go to containers that contained smooth stones labeled with each of the priorities, and take one that they would resolve to focus on in their own church.
The registration was 1,686 messengers, which is up about three hundred from last year, I am told. There was confusion during the election for president, over which chad to punch in our ballots, so both candidates agreed to vote over again. There were a lot of jokes on Twitter about that one! In the election for a new president of the convention, Fred Evers received 656 votes, and John Waters received 749 votes. Dr. Waters is pastor of First Baptist Church of Statesboro. Later on Tuesday night when Dr. Waters was introduced, he thanked everyone for their support, and called on us to work together to reach the lost. Waters said, “A lost world will not be won by a divided church.”
Today I attended the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention at North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, in Gwinnett County, north of Atlanta. We heard several reports from various ministries, and a stirring sermon on missions from Dannie Williams of FBC Lyons. There was a mass choir and orchestra from the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association that lifted the rafters with their songs.
Then the president of the convention, Dan Spencer, pastor of FBC Thomasville, brought a stirring message, asking us if we are willing to pay whatever price it takes to share the gospel everywhere. He told the story of a dog that wore a shock collar and could not pass an invisible electric fence without getting a shock. There was a cat that knew exactly how far the dog could go, and the cat licked his paws just outside of the fence to taunt the dog. Finally, the dog decided he was going to get that cat anyway, and he took a running leap, and jumped past the electric fence. After he shook himself off from the shock, the dog took off chasing the cat. Dan Spencer said that just as the dog had to decide that the pain was worth it, we must decide that it is worth it to share the gospel, no matter what obstacles we face. He talked about the apostle Paul’s willingness to go to Philippi, and how Acts 16 records that he was not disappointed by the small group that met by the river, but shared the gospel and Lydia accepted Christ. Then when Paul was arrested and thrown into the Philippian jail, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he sang and prayed, and God sent an earthquake that opened the prison, and led to the salvation of the jailer. Was it worth it? Paul would have said yes.
I wrote down a couple of interesting quotations that I heard today. At the Executive Committee meeting, a Baptist deacon and lawyer said, “Lawyers and preachers have a lot in common. Both depend on people to be a little bit bad to keep a job.”
Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, welcomed the messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention. He said that when he was a young preacher, and older preacher told him, “Son, if the Bible is silent about something, it’s best that you be silent, too.”
Joseph Wong, pastor of the Chinese Mission in Savannah, closed the meeting with the benediction. He told us he would teach us how to say “Amen” in Chinese, and then explained that in Chinese it is “Amen.” He went on to pray in Chinese as well as English, and of course, he ended with “Amen.”
I saw lots of good friends from all around Georgia, like our former member Ted Kandler who is now the associational missionary for three associations around Fitzgerald, and Bobby Braswell, who is associational missionary for Middle Baptist Association in Sylvania, as well as the pastors at Windsor Forest Baptist and Immanuel Baptist in Savannah, to name a few.
Tomorrow the convention meets all day, and we will be voting on a lot of business, including election of a new president.