The Christmas spirit was in the air on Dec. 13 as Executive Committee members expressed thanks to Georgia Baptists for their strong mission support of giving through the Mission Georgia state missions offering, backpacks for children in Appalachia, and through the Cooperative Program.
The Committee also passed a resolution thanking churches for collecting a record 33,285 backpacks (and counting) and expressed appreciation to State Missionary Frank Nuckolls for his longtime coordination of the massive project.
Mission Board employees were then commended for their year-long and Christmas season financial support of Mission: Dignity. The ministry, administered through Guidestone Financial Services, provides extra financial assistance to retired ministers and their wives whose ministries were not able to provide an adequate retirement savings plan. Many of those are near destitute and live on limited resources.
Georgia Baptists rank first among state conventions in Cooperative Program giving
Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director J. Robert White communicated his gratitude for the missions support to Executive Committee members and to churches statewide during the meeting.
White noted that congregations have given $2,617,185 to the Cooperative Program thus far this fiscal year, from October 1 through Nov. 30. That places the Mission Board first among all state conventions, followed by Alabama and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.
The 2017 budget, approved by messengers at the recent convention meeting in Savannah, is $41,000,000 – a $400,000 increase from the previous year.
In addition to Cooperative Program giving, White lauded Georgia Baptists’ vision for reaching their own state through the Mission Georgia state missions offering. Through the same Oct. 1 – Nov. 30 timeframe, churches gave $1,253,623 through the offering. That is an increase of 12.22 percent from the same time last year with this year’s goal of $1,750,000.
Backpacks now stand at a record 33,285
White also congratulated churches on providing a record 33,285 – and counting – backpacks for children in Appalachia. That amount exceeds last year’s record collection by 1,889. Georgia Baptists have shattered each year’s goal since the initial 4,400 were collected in 2012. That was the year when then-Georgia Baptist Convention President John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church of Statesboro, issued the call and churches responded on relatively short notice.
That number pushes the grand total among four states participating to a record 50,441. Georgia leads, by far, the remaining states of Alabama, North Carolina, and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia.
“I believe the response has been so strong because it represented a perfect combination of meeting the needs of hurting people while the sharing the Gospel with them too.
“The backpacks allowed Georgia Baptists not only to put a dent into poverty and hopelessness, but also to penetrate spiritual darkness and lostness. Perhaps we will meet an Appalachian child in heaven one day, still carrying his backpack, rejoicing that Georgia Baptists brought the Gospel to him.”
Committee members then heard a variety of reports, beginning first with the Mission Board’s forthcoming emphasis on reaching the next generation of young people for Christ. State Missionary Steve Parr, vice president of staff coordination and development, detailed the decline in baptisms among that group and the dangers of ignoring the trend.
New evangelism effort to focus on next generation
Parr, quoting The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson, noted that Christianity is in an “evangelical recession” as high school graduates are leaving the Church in far higher numbers than before and show little interest in returning.
A look at Georgia Baptist statistics shows just how serious the trend is, he noted.
The average Georgia Baptist church baptizes only two teenagers a year, as reported in the Annual Church Profile. The median number – meaning half baptize more and half baptize fewer – is 0.
“It is tragic to know that half of our churches baptized no teens in the past year,” he said. The focus group in the new evangelistic emphasis will be those 19 years of age and below.
“The key to our future is reaching children and teens. It’s wonderful when an 80-year-old comes to faith in Christ, but the children with an entire life to live and their ability to shape society is even more critical to our future,” Parr noted.
“Our children and teens are the next generation of our leaders both in our churches and in society and we must not neglect their spiritual needs.”
2017 Executive Committee dates
Committee members were then updated on upcoming meeting dates and locations of the policy-making body.
The March 14 meeting will be held at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins, the Sept.12 meeting will be held at the Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth, the Nov. 13 session will be held at North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville as part of the annual Convention meeting, and the Dec. 12 meeting will return to the Missions and Ministry Center.
Following the election of officers, Executive Committee Chairman Mike Stone, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Blackshear; and Vice Chairman Andy Childs, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa, were elected to second one-year terms.