SAN ANTONIO – Messengers to the 15th annual meeting of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention (SBTC) re-elected President Terry M. Turner of Mesquite, Texas, by acclamation and passed a $26.3 million budget and eight resolutions on topics ranging from “a clear and complete” gospel message to religious liberty violations in the federal health care law.
The meeting at Castle Hills First Baptist Church in San Antonio, with the theme “Hearing and Doing,” based on James 1:22, drew 916 registered messengers and 489 registered guests.
Turner, pastor of Mesquite Friendship Baptist Church near Dallas, was unopposed and re-elected for a second one-year term. He is the first African American to serve as SBTC president.
Garland pastor Russell Rogers nominated the Oklahoma native, noting his longtime friendship with Turner that began when Rogers was a young preacher and Mesquite Friendship was a fledgling work begun under Turner’s leadership in 1991. Today, the church has more than 2,100 members.
In visiting the church, Rogers said he was struck by how much the people at Mesquite Friendship love him, “and I quickly realized he loves them.” In Turner, SBTC churches have “another gentleman we can love and who truly has a heart for God and a heart for us,” Rogers added.
Geoff Kolander, a deacon and Sunday School teacher at Hyde Park Baptist Church and an Austin attorney, was elected by acclamation as SBTC first vice president, while James Nickell, pastor of First Baptist Church in Quitman, was re-elected as recording secretary by acclamation.
The 2013 budget of $26,343,626 is an increase of .26 percent over 2012. The convention will continue its 55/45 allocation of forwarding 55 percent of undesignated receipts to the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program (CP) allocation budget and retaining 45 percent for in-state ministry – the largest share for church planting, missions and evangelism.
Chief Financial Officer Joe Davis told messengers the SBTC finished the giving year fourth in total CP dollars forwarded to SBC work behind Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. The 55 percent forwarded to the SBC is the highest portion of any state convention.
Messengers also passed eight resolutions, without discussion, on topics ranging from how the gospel is proclaimed to religious liberty violations in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The resolution “On Evangelism and Missions” called for “a clear and complete gospel presentation” and “the invitation to repent of one’s sins and to believe in Jesus Christ as the only way to receive God’s salvation….”
Other resolutions covered the sanctity of life, support for traditional marriage, the nation of Israel, the Cooperative Program, support for military members and their families, and appreciation to the host church.
Houston native Richard Land, who will retire in October 2013 as president of the Nashville, Tenn.-based Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was honored through a resolution for his years of service.
David Fleming, pastor of Champion Forest Baptist Church in Houston, told messengers in his convention sermon that James 1:22 – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” – requires Christian transformation between the hearing and the doing.
Fleming said doing grows out of being or becoming what God intends. With Christ alone and not worldly power, believers are “called, commanded and commissioned to make disciples.”
Sounding “A Call to Preserve the Faith and Glorify God” from Matthew 5:13-16, Turner preached a rousing president’s address, calling the convention to remain salty and holy amid a culture that reviles what is holy. “God is looking for some folk who will be salt,” Turner pleaded.
Executive Director Jim Richards reported that 312 Texas churches have taken the first steps toward engaging an unengaged, unreached people group with the gospel – a challenge issued at last year’s meeting by International Mission Board President Tom Elliff.
Lamenting the rise of what he called “hyper-individualism” among churches, Richards said a healthy missional strategy involves direct and cooperative missions. “It is not a matter of either/or, it is both/and,” he said.
The Cooperative Program is a channel of blessing “because when you give through the Cooperative Program, your dollar never sleeps,” he noted, explaining that 5,000 missionaries on nearly every continent and in nearly every time zone are telling people about Jesus.
He challenged churches and individual Southern Baptists to consider giving 1 percent more of their income to Kingdom work. “Let’s give it away before they take it away from us,” Richards said. “This could be the year that Jesus comes. I pray He finds us hearing and doing His will.”
Retired Houston Judge Paul Pressler presented the award named for him to Ernest Gregory, a physician who won “countless thousands to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ” through his medical missions work and in his daily life, Pressler told messengers.
Born to missionary parents, Gregory, 88, served in the Pacific theater in World War II. In addition to medical missions abroad, Gregory established the San Antonio Christian Medical Society in 1968, helping heroin addicts through faith-based treatment, and served as president of Baptists with a Mission, a conservative group that helped form the SBTC.
Standing before messengers to accept the Pressler Distinguished Service Award, Gregory told of approaching his mother when he was 8 years old and telling her, as she ironed clothes, that he wanted to get saved.
“She looked at me carefully and she said, ‘Well, you know how to get saved don’t you? OK, talk to the Lord about it.’“ Gregory said he went to his room, got down on his knees and “asked the Lord to come into my life.”
He said if the Lord gives him more time he’d like to “lead some others to Christ.”
Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church in Atlanta, closed the convention with a message on how God has sustained him. The 80-year-old preacher recalled that after he preached his first sermon his mother shared a passage that he would need all the years of his ministry, citing the instruction of Joshua 1:9 to be strong and courageous.
He later visited with his evangelist grandfather who taught Stanley to obey God and leave all of the consequences to him. That principle guided every decision he would make for the rest of his life, Stanley said.
“Whatever God is going to do in your life, He will do it in proportion to your obedience and time spent on your knees,” Stanley said.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jerry Pierce is managing editor of the Southern Baptist Texan, newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. With reporting by Tammi Reed Ledbetter.)