MONTANA CITY, Mont. – A year after embracing its 20/20 Vision, the Montana Southern Baptist Convention (MTSBC) voted to increase its Cooperative Program (CP) giving for the first time in the state group’s 11-year history.
Messengers to the 2012 annual meeting voted to increase by 1 percentage point its 2013 CP allocation to Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) missions and ministries, sending 23 percent to the SBC of $967,179 budgeted for CP receipts from Montana churches.
“We determined as a convention that we want our churches and convention as a whole to be more engaged in the mission field,” MTSBC Executive Director Fred Hewett told Baptist Press about the unanimous vote to increase CP giving. “We recognize that we are a great mission field in Montana, but we strongly desire to be engaged beyond our churches and communities.”
The decision was buoyed by an increase in contributions from the Montana convention’s churches, resulting in a 6 percent increase in the budget, Hewett reported. The MTSBC does not separate any shared expenses from its allocations.
“Our giving was up, so our budget is up.” Hewett said. “Montana churches have increased their CP giving by 5 percent in the last 12 months. In the 20/20 Vision Report recommendation adopted last year, the goal is to be at 30 percent [in CP percentage to the SBC] by the end of 2020.”
The increase means more undergirding for church plants, church health and evangelism in Montana and around the world, which is what the 20/20 Vision Task Force reported to messengers at the 2011 annual meeting needed to happen: a focus on penetrating lostness, engaging in missions at home and abroad, and cooperating in denominational effectiveness.
“The Great Commission is our guiding principle,” Libby Baptist Church pastor Darwin Scofield said at the 2011 meeting. This year’s vote of the 79 messengers from 61 of Montana’s 140 Southern Baptist churches and missions confirmed his statement.
MTSBC President B.J. Hallmark, associate pastor of Crossroads Memorial Church in Great Falls, centered his presidential address on the meeting’s theme, “Give to Jesus.”
“I was trying to emphasize the need to give our lives more effectively to Christ, so we can make a difference in the lives of those people God places in our path,” Hallmark said of his sermon from Mark 6:30-44.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research at the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was the annual meeting’s keynote speaker. In a series of three messages over the two-day period, Duke spoke of God’s call to His people to prepare themselves personally, spiritually and mentally for their ethical role and responsibility for the family, church and government. He concluded the series by challenging the messengers from the story of the Good Samaritan to value people and their needs over things, self and agendas.
Messengers reelected Hallmark as president and reelected as vice president Bruce Speer, pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Missoula. Messengers approved unanimously and without discussion all reports presented at the meeting, including the 2013 budget report, the executive board report and reports from the teams for strengthening, sending and starting churches.
The Tennessee Men’s Chorale, under the direction of Paul Clark, led the messengers in worship during their Oct. 2-3 sessions at South Hills Baptist Fellowship in Clancy. Clark is worship and music ministries leader for the Tennessee Baptist Convention.
Hallmark described the meeting as one of the best he’s seen.
“The overall spirit of the churches has just been really good this year,” Hallmark said. “The pastors I’ve talked with have been very positive toward the Cooperative Program as well as the work of the [Montana] convention.”
Hewett agreed that “this was the best state convention we have experienced in many years in Montana. Attendance was strong, the messages were challenging, the fellowship was sweet and we conducted the necessary business.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, the newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)