Great Commission Living Theme Adopted
A new convention-wide theme, Great Commission Living, was approved by messengers attending the afternoon session of the 193rd annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention meeting at Shandon Baptist Church, Columbia.
Messengers also heard a first reading for amendments to the convention bylaws; approved new trustees for the convention’s ministry partners; and approved resolutions of which two addressed recent cultural issues like the membership policy of the Boy Scouts of America and a call to prayer concerning the preservation of biblical marriage.
Great Commission Living
Sonny Holmes, pastor, Northwood Baptist Church, in North Charleston, served in 2013 as chairman of a 30-member Seeking the Kingdom Task Force, charged with the task of seeking God’s vision for the work of South Carolina Baptists beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
The task force was appointed by 2012 convention president Brad Atkins and followed approval of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) focus on church revitalization, missions mobilization and evangelism, and church planting throughout South Carolina Baptist Convention life.
The Seeking the Kingdom Task Force, led by Holmes, included members of the convention’s Executive Board; executive-level convention staff, including executive-director treasurer Jim Austin; former convention presidents, directors of mission, institution presidents or designees; and, Laurie Register, executive director-treasurer of Woman’s Missionary Union of South Carolina.
Holmes, on behalf of the task force, presented the new theme, which includes this vision statement: “The South Carolina Baptist Convention will assist churches in making disciples who will urgently take the whole gospel to the world that all will be whole.” The vision is supported by Matthew 4:19: “ ‘Follow Me,’ He told them, ‘and I will make you fish for people!’ ” (HCSB).
Great Commission Living is further supported by a mission statement that calls on the “South Carolina Baptist Convention staff to serve as kingdom partners with churches, associations, and institutions of the South Carolina Baptist Convention in fulfillment of their role to ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.’ ”(Mark 16:15, HCSB)
Holmes also presented 10 Scripture-based initiatives that were developed in cooperation between the Seeking the Kingdom Task Force and all of the convention staff members. The initiatives challenge convention staff to:
- Assist all South Carolina Baptist convention churches in developing and implementing an intentional relational discipleship process. 2 Timothy 2:2.
- Involve eight percent of South Carolina Baptist Convention churches in a church health process each year. Revelation 2:4-5.
- Cultivate a church planting movement that assists South Carolina Baptist Convention churches to plant reproducing churches that equal at least two percent annually of the total South Carolina Baptist Convention church count. Acts 13:1-5.
- Work towards a climate of prayer, repentance, and reconciliation among our churches and their members. Mark 9:29.
- Change the culture of pastor/church relationships where the South Carolina Baptist Convention becomes last in forced terminations and suicides instead of first. Hebrews 13:17, 1 Peter 5:2.
- Create a church leadership development pipeline for our young people and others that will encourage them to respond to God’s call for missions, church planting, and church revitalization. Mark 3:13-15.
- Partner with churches to mobilize 700 full-time Southern Baptist Convention missionaries by the year 2024. Matthew 9:37.
- Encourage great commission generosity by increasing Cooperative Program and other mission offerings by one tenth of one percent per year. Luke 6:38.
- Work to enhance alignment of ministries provided by the Southern Baptist Convention, South Carolina Baptist Convention, and its ministry partners. John 17.
- Pray and realize that without true revival none of the preceding will ever occur. 2 Chronicles 7:14.
To meet the initiatives, the convention staff organizational structure will be built around:
- Church Supporting staff
- Church Strengthening staff
- Church Sending staff
The approved report also outlined core principles and values for the state convention staff as a covenant to:
- Pray Continuously. 2 Timothy 1:3.
- Lead With Humility. 2 Timothy 1:3-2:4.
- Model Integrity. 2 Timothy 1:3, 2:15, 22.
- Minister to Multiply. 2 Timothy 2:22.
- Preach and Teach Authoritatively. 2 Timothy 1:8, 3:16.
- Evaluate Biblically. 2 Timothy 4:17.
- Relate as Family. 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2.
“Vision is not conceived, but received,” Holmes said. “Vision is always revelation. It’s seeking and listening to God’s vision for His church. Our role has been to discover that. Great Commission Living must be the unifying work of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, and it must be our passion as South Carolina Baptists.”
The task force included convention pastors, members of the convention’s Executive Board, state convention executive staff, Woman’s Missionary Union representation, and convention ministry partners representation.
HEARD a first reading of recommended changes to the convention Bylaws, which change the rules of notifying South Carolina Baptist through The Baptist Courier, contribution to the Cooperative Program be required to be in good standing with the convention, and create a president-elect position as a convention officer.
The convention’s Bylaws Committee did not support a 2012 amendment that would have limited the number of board and committee members serving from respective churches. The motion failed, in part, because the 2012 convention action, by messenger, put in place a more organic approach to cultivate nominees for boards and committees from across the state.
Stephen Ruff, chairman of the Bylaws Committee, said, “While we agree with the spirit of the amendment, we believe a more organic solution will be better than a democratic one, involving a change to the convention bylaws.”
APPROVED seven resolutions, including one on Appreciation in part to host church Shandon Baptist Church; recognition of the 125th Anniversary of the Woman’s Missionary Union; Christian Ministry to those Struggling with Mental Illness; responsible use of social media; religious freedom; expression of disappointment with the Boy Scouts of America membership policy regarding homosexuality; and, a Call to Prayer concerning the preservation of biblical marriage.
The resolution on Religious Freedom was amended on a motion by Stephen Owensby, pastor of First Baptist Church Enoree. The resolution largely challenged United States government’s encroachment on the “cherished rights of all citizens to express their religious beliefs in public.” Owensby’s motion encouraged South Carolina Baptist pastors to “preach the entire counsel of God during this difficult season as in any other season” believing pastors are on the front line of any attack on religious freedom. The convention Resolutions Committee did not oppose the amendment.
The resolution related to the Boys Scouts of American Membership Policy generally expressed “disappointment in the decision to change the BSA membership policy regarding homosexuality.” It called on churches continuing to support the BSA to “share the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ with all members and leaders while working to reverse the current membership policy . . . that normalizes sexual conduct opposed to the biblical standard.” For churches no longer supporting the BSA because of its position to accept members regardless of sexual orientation, the resolution asked churches to continue ministry to children and youth through biblical-based programs.
Further addressing homosexuality, the amendment calling for Prayer Concerning the Preservation of Biblical Marriage between one man and one woman was twice amended without opposition from the Resolutions Committee. An approved amendment offered by Gregory Dry of First Baptist Church Spartanburg called for strengthening the resolution to read “that messengers stand steadfastly for God’s design of one-man one-woman marriage and we urge all people of faith to urgently do as 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says and lift our elected and appointed leaders and judges in prayer and urge them to protect and defend one-man one-woman marriage as same-sex marriage is being deliberated in our state and several others.” An amendment by Mike Hamlet, pastor of First Baptist Church North Spartanburg, specifically identified the University of South Carolina Upstate and the College of Charleston as two schools that “have endorsed required reading curriculum that embraces the acceptance of the gay agenda and have used specific programs to promote the homosexual agenda using public resources and have hired staff to promote homosexual lifestyles on campus.”
DEFEATED a motion to alter the Executive Board’s move toward a 50-50 split of Cooperative Program funds between the South Carolina and Southern Baptist Conventions. Approval of the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) report included budget changes that move toward the 50-50 split. The motion would have kept more funding in South Carolina.
HEARD from a panel of South Carolina Baptist pastors who answered a series of questions around the theme, “Why Do We Minister As We Do?” Participating were Josh Bradley, pastor, Element Church in Woodruff; Jeff Lethco, pastor, North Side Baptist Church in Greenwood; Dick Lincoln, pastor, Shandon Baptist Church in Columbia; and, Greg Ramsey, pastor, Freedom Biker Church in Greenville.
Bradley, whose church plant had 1,000 attendees on Easter Sunday this year in Woodruff, said, “We found a community that needed a church with a modern voice for the community; we were welcomed by the established churches in a great way. The established churches brought credibility to our ministry, and First Baptist Woodruff allowed use of its facilities. We have a great partnership in Woodruff between all of our churches.”
Lethco spoke to the Bible’s “sobering” message for pastors that “God purchased these people in my church with the blood of His son, and he entrusts them to me for shepherding. So, I see this flock that God values. That affects the way that I now pastor.” North Side leads with a plurality of elders, which Lethco said provides a level of excitement as leaders work out tough issues facing the congregation.
Lincoln, who has led Shandon Baptist for more than 30 years said, “My desire and the desire of our church is to reach lost people and see them grow in faith. I was born again at 22, one week before my college graduation, and I’ve never gotten over what it means to be lost. I inherited a church with a great culture and one that really suited me.”
Freedom Biker Church’s Ramsey said, “Not everyone fits into a traditional or contemporary mold. Some fit into a chrome, leather, and jeans mold. Three years ago, we stepped out as missionaries to the biker community, and I transitioned from a suit and tie to a Harley. It wasn’t a hard transition for me, and I’m at complete peace that I’m ministering where God wants us to be in order to reach people.”
APPROVED the report of the convention’s Nominating Committee.