"Do It!" based on the calling of the first disciples in Matthew 4:20 was theme of the meeting at Shadow Mountain Community Church, Oct. 22-23.
The Focus 21 Task Force, a "Great Commission resurgence-type" committee, was appointed in 2010 and charged with discerning how California Southern Baptists could "most efficiently and effectively focus our efforts for the glory of God in fulfilling the Great Commission."
The Board's Focus 21 report addressed the final three of seven recommendations and provided a Board "response" and "action" for each. The three recommendations were "prioritizing church planting," "prioritizing global responsibilities" and "reducing denominational overlap."
The Board suggested no changes in funding California church planters in response to the Task Force recommendation that 25 percent of California Cooperative Program gifts be "spent directly on funding church planters in California." The report expressed the Board's concern of reaching people in California through church planting and concluded the Convention's commitment "is clearly illustrated" by expenditure of its resources -– 33 percent of the California Southern Baptist Convention's (CSBC) operational budget when all sources of revenue are considered.
"If we didn't receive other money, it would be reasonable for us to reorganize our priorities," Montia Setzler, pastor of Magnolia Avenue Baptist Church in Riverside and chairman of the Executive Board, said. "Our total commitment to church planting is $3,595,000, almost one-third of the total budget. We need to look at the big picture, not a snapshot to see what is going on related to church planting."
Setzler noted that the snapshot of dollars going directly to church planters in 2011 when the Task Force made its recommendation was $130,311, but had "more than doubled" to $269,292 in the 2013 budget. In the 2014 budget, he noted the figure had continued to increase to $404,257.
While the Executive Board's response did not meet the Task Force recommendation of moving to a 50/50 split of Cooperative Program gifts, messengers voted for CSBC to move from 32.5 to 35 percent by 2018 and to then re-evaluate giving to SBC causes.
Setzler pointed out that CSBC has increased its percentage to worldwide giving from 27 to 32.5 percent since 2004.
A challenge to the recommendation came from Chris Cole, pastor of Niblick Road Baptist Church in Paso Robles, who moved to amend the recommendation and allocate 40 percent of CSBC Cooperative Program gifts for worldwide missions by 2017. The amended motion failed and messengers approved the original recommendation.
Messengers also approved a recommendation for 100 percent of the CSBC "challenge budget," gifts exceeding the budget, to go the SBC. They also approved CP percentage allocations for CSBC institutions -– California Baptist Foundation and California Baptist University -– remain at 1 and 5 percent, respectively.
In presenting the CP recommendations, Setzler said, "Nobody disagrees that we should be putting more money into worldwide missions."
He noted the "ideal" recommended by the SBC in 1925 was that state conventions give 50 percent; it also was recommended that churches give 50 percent of their gifts to make that happen.
"We've fallen a bit short of that goal," he said, with the national average of church gifts to the Cooperative Program at less than 5 percent and continuing to shrink.
The CSBC finds itself in a "perfect storm," Setzler said with reduced CP gifts because of the economy, a greater percentage required to receive NAMB matching funds and fewer dollars coming to the convention from the mission agency. "Going immediately to a 50/50 split would be devastating to our convention," he said.
Setzler noted CSBC does not deduct "shared ministry funds" in its gift to SBC world missions. Shared ministry funds are dollars set aside for various state-supported ministries and not included in calculating the percentage allocation forwarded to the SBC. There is no "standard" for determining shared ministry funds, which differ greatly among state conventions, Setzler said.
Regarding the recommendation on "reducing denominational overlap," Setzler said the Executive Board in its study didn't find "overlap" as much as it did "partnership." He explained that where they did find overlap related to church planting since churches, associations, the state convention and NAMB all could be involved. "Much of the overlap has been diminished with NAMB's creation of 'Mobilize Me,'" Setzler said.
The report outlined several suggestions including communication resources and education about Southern Baptist history, doctrine, missions and polity.
In 2012, the Executive Board reported on four of the seven recommendations initially generated by the Focus 21 Task Force in 2011. Recommendations already addressed were "clarifying cooperating churches," "enlarging California's influence," "communicate more effectively" and "planning for the future."
Messengers also approved a $13,035,665 operating budget for 2014 with a Cooperative Program objective of $7.14 million. The CP objective is $340,000, or a 5 percent increase, over the 2013 objective of $6.8 million. The CP allocation calls for a half-percent increase in gifts from 32.5 to 33 percent for the SBC. The California Convention will absorb the difference of a half-percent, bringing its allocation to 61 percent.
If the Cooperative Program objective is met in 2014, the Southern Baptist Convention would receive $2,356,200, or 33 percent (an increase of .5 percent), for world missions; CSBC Executive Board ministries for evangelism, missions and ministry in the Golden State would total $4,355,400, or 61 percent (a decrease of .5 percent); California Baptist University would receive $357,000, or 5 percent (no change); and California Baptist Foundation would receive $71,400, or 1 percent (no change).
The 375 messengers approved a resolution thanking Shadow Mountain and the local association for hosting and helping put the event together, as well as a resolution "On Deepening Our Doctrinal Understanding."
The resolution notes the decline of moral values and biblical knowledge in today's society, and urges California Southern Baptists to continue to encourage Bible study and "intentional training in the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith, and a deeper awareness of doctrinal truth." The resolution also calls for churches to increase familiarity with "historic and doctrinal declarations of the Christian faith."
Mike Nolen, pastor of Southwinds Church in Tracy, was re-elected as CSBC president. Joe Slunaker, associate pastor of youth at Hemet Valley Baptist Church in Hemet, was elected first vice president. Both were elected by acclamation. Teresa Watts, worship minister at Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, was elected music director.
Sermons during the annual meeting included Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; the convention message from Pete Ramirez, pastor of Iglesia Bautista White Road in San Jose; CSBC executive director Fermín A. Whittaker; and Convention president Mike Nolen.
Ramirez, Whittaker and Nolen all encouraged messengers and guests to trust in the Lord's sovereignty and control over all things. The three reminded Baptists that "God is in control" even in the midst of personal trials, and addressed the current decline in church adherence and Christianity in today's society.
Dever, keynote speaker for the Tuesday evening session, asked a series of questions leading the audience to think about the church, and God's plan for discipleship that should lead to planting new congregations.
Roger Byrd, CSBC music and worship specialist and a member of Woodward Park Baptist Church in Fresno, led worship for the annual meeting, along with a band of musicians from several California churches. Scott Wesley Brown, a noted contemporary Christian musician, joined the team during the Wednesday morning session.
Next year's annual meeting will be held at Clovis Hills Community Church in Clovis Oct. 21-22.
Terry Barone is communications group leader for The California Southern Baptist and Holly Smith is managing editor. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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