Montana engages in its first Crossover outreach
The 29 messengers from the annual meeting assisted four of Helena's Southern Baptist churches Oct. 6 by joining in door-to-door Gospel conversations, canvassing neighborhoods and distributing flyers about the churches.
"It was a great start for us," Barrett Duke, MTSBC executive director, told Baptist Press. "We need to be doing all we can to reach more people for Christ and be more aggressive in reaching the lost and making disciples. This [Crossover] is a fairly easy way to ramp up that emphasis."
The annual meeting -- known in Montana as "Refresh" -- took place Oct. 4-5 at Big Sky Fellowship in Helena, where Darren Hales has been pastor since 2006 when he started the church. The 217 people present included 75 messengers from 40 of Montana's 136 churches along with 52 children from their families.
Business consisted of hearing reports from national entities and state leaders, unanimously passing the budget and unanimously electing new officers.
"Our 2018 Cooperative Program giving is on track to exceed 2017 giving by more than 20 percent," Duke told messengers in his executive director's report. "That is a great sign of economic health.
"We are sharing these blessings with our Southern Baptist family," Duke continued. "We gave an additional $11,300 to our national work this year from our 2017 income overage. This brought our actual CP giving to our SBC causes for 2017 to 27 percent of our total CP gifts, rather than the 25 percent we have budgeted."
Messengers unanimously approved a new convention initiative: Go Montana, which replaces the current Vision 2020 focus. Go Montana focuses on church mobilization and is built around three emphases: Going, Telling, Serving, Duke explained.
"If you approve this new initiative," he told messengers before they voted, "The MTSBC will come alongside our churches with the goal of seeing every church go somewhere new, every member tell someone about Jesus, and every church start something new in the next three years."
The initiative, which will start in January, must be saturated in prayer to offset "opposition from the enemy," Duke said. "We must meet spirit with Spirit. We must put on the full armor of God and, above all else, pray, pray, pray."
While the convention has seen many successes, it is not going to meet its Vision 2020 goals, Duke said. One goal was the addition of 134 churches by 2020, more than doubling the 132 Southern Baptist churches in 2010. But today, there are 136 churches, a net increase of four, though 39 churches have been planted since 2010.
Montana churches in 2017 reported an average Sunday worship attendance of 8,643, down 320 from 2016, and 605 baptisms, down 28 from a year ago. But its Cooperative Program giving was the highest ever: $628,056, up from $594,203 last year.
"Our long-term trend is very positive," Duke reported, "but data from the last few years tells us we are losing some of our momentum."
In his report, Duke also reported the appointment of Darren Hales as church strengthening director, Mark Langley as consultant for congregational worship and Sharon Ellington as executive director of Montana Southern Baptist Women.
Also bringing reports were Hales and Ellington; outgoing MTSBC President Lee Merck, pastor of Church of the Rockies in Red Lodge, William Johnson, church planting team leader; Adam Burt, next gen team leader.; Bruce Cannon, Yellowstone Christian College president; Ed Hudson, executive director of the Baptist Foundation of Montana; and Dan Stewart, retiring Dec. 31 as state disaster relief coordinator.
Representatives from national entities included Ashley Clayton for the SBC Executive Committee, Rick Curtis for the North American Mission Board and unnamed (for security reasons) missionaries for the International Mission Board, as well as representatives from GuideStone Financial Resources, LifeWay Christian Resources and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, which started a three-year partnership in January with the Montana convention.
Jeff Iorg, president of Gateway Seminary in Southern California representing all six Southern Baptist seminaries, was the keynote speaker.
Iorg spoke on excellence in ministry from the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25. Excellence in ministry means making the most of what you are and have, he said. What is important is making the most impact for God wherever you are, not making a name for yourself.
The 2019 budget of $1,496,046 was approved unanimously and without discussion, with $780,046 anticipated from Cooperative Program gifts by Montana churches; $455,000 from NAMB for church planting, $100,000 for administration and $85,000 for evangelism; $60,000 from LifeWay; and $16,000 in accrued interest.
Of the CP gifts from churches, 25 percent is allocated again this year, as it has been each year since 2015, for national and international SBC causes. That amounts to $195,012 leaving the state.
"We are still recovering from a significant loss in funding from NAMB," Duke said. "We need to get to the place where our work in the state has stabilized and we can provide the level of ministry to our churches that they need."
Montana lost 10 staff positions at the associational and state levels when the Great Commission Task Force directed NAMB to focus on church planting in under-reached population areas, Duke told Baptist Press. With the calling of a church strengthening team leader and a worship consultant, the state convention's budget increased $192,280 from last year's $1,303,766 budget. MTSBC also plans to support Yellowstone Christian College in Billings in 2019 with $27,000.
Elections & other activities
Both of the convention's officers were elected unanimously and without opposition: president, Chad Scarborough, pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelby, and vice president, KJ Ellington, pastor of Jordan Community Bible Church in Jordan.
No resolutions were proposed nor any changes made to the MTSBC constitution and bylaws. No other business was transacted. The dates and place of the 2019 annual meeting will be determined in the months to come.
A Thursday evening dessert fellowship welcomed Hales, a 12-year veteran of ministry in Montana, as church strengthening team leader.
"Darren is a successful church planter who led his congregation to build a new facility in Helena," Duke said. "He has strong relationships with other pastors in the state. He understands the work in the state and will be able to come alongside the other churches and encourage them in their work effectively."
Friday morning Jeff Iorg led a ministry workshop for pastors. Matt Tyson of One Conversation of Euless, Texas, led an evangelism training to prepare attendees for the Crossover outreach on Saturday as well as in their communities. Ann Iorg and Denise Duke hosted a pastors' wives tea.
"I thought we had a great meeting," Duke said. "The spirit was fantastic and there was a great sense of fellowship and camaraderie among our pastors.
"Our churches are growing," the executive director said. "There's just a great spirit of optimism in the state. It's a great time to be in Montana."