Published September 20, 2012
Georgia Baptist Executive Committee members heard of a major restructuring of the Convention, approved the 2013 budget, modified the policy regarding church planters assistance, heard a report from the president, and conducted other business during their Sept. 11 meeting.
The reorganization, the first of its size since March 1997, is effective immediately and realigns the entity around the 5 Smooth Stones strategy approved by messengers at last November’s annual meeting. That strategy came out of the two-year study of the Convention by the GBC Study Task Force. See story on page 1.
The proposed 2013 budget, which will be voted on by messengers at next month’s annual meeting in Warner Robins, is set at $41,800,000. The previous year’s budget was approved at $42,300,000 but was reduced to $40,500,000 in January due to budgetary shortfalls.
Executive Committee members also heard how the state convention is Number One in giving to Southern Baptist missions causes through the Cooperative Program. Through Aug. 31, the Convention had forwarded $17,311,482 the SBC Executive Committee in Nashville.
The Alabama state convention is a close second at $16,055,086, followed by Tennessee at $13,320,416.
GBC Executive Director J. Robert White thanked Georgia Baptist churches for their faithful giving in the midst of the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s.
Church Planters Assistance policy updated
In a move hailed by some as being groundbreaking in its intent, committee members approved a recommendation from the Administration Committee rewriting the policy for church planters assistance.
The updated policy reflects current Cooperative Program percentage giving from churches and empowers church plants to make a personal commitment of their resources to missions rather than dictating a specific amount.
In order to receive funds, church plants were previously required to give 10 percent to Southern Baptist missions causes through the Cooperative Program. But that average amount has been declining for several years and should no longer be considered the benchmark, committee members said. The amount that is now requested – not required – has been lowered to 5 percent.
Committee member Jeremy Morton, in discussing the new policy with The Index, said in 1982 the average GBC church gave 9.7 percent to the Cooperative Program; 20 years later in 1982 that amount dropped to 6.8 percent. As of 2011 churches average only 5.10 percent.
Morton said that it was not fair to hold new church plants, who are struggling with limited resources, to a higher standard than more established churches with far greater assets.
Committee member Ernest Easley said the change “has the possibility of setting a precedent for the entire denomination. This model is relationship driven, not financially driven.
“We feel that giving church planters more freedom in how they support Southern Baptist missions will build far stronger relationships than dictating how they support missions. And when their funding from the Convention is eventually exhausted, we believe they will feel much better about continuing their relationship with us,” he explained.
The concern is that new church plants resented the giving level mandate and some left the Convention and became independent after the three-year funding was exhausted. The policy change is seen as a healthy way to stem the loss and to boost the number of church plants that grow into healthy Georgia Baptist churches.
“I think this will require more work from the GBC in order to maintain a healthy relationship. But I think it will work because it is built more on encouragement, respects the autonomy of the new plant, and is a true two-way partnership; it is relationship driven.
Change levels the playing field
Easley said the change addresses a major concern that committee members have heard for some time from church planters. Some planters resented having to give double the amount of the average church.
“I feel that by removing that old giving formula, Georgia will become a magnate for church planters from across the SBC. They will be wanting to come to Georgia to help us plant churches and, as a result, we’ll get some of the best and brightest in the denomination,” he added.
Committee members also heard the report of the Cooperative Program Allocation Study Committee, which, after exhaustive interviews with SBC agency heads, agreed to keep the current funding percentage intact.
GBC President John Waters shared the schedule for the Nov. 12-13 annual meeting at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins.
GBC Executive Committee Chairman Herman Parker will preach the sermon for the Sunday evening pre-convention rally. Parker is pastor of First Baptist Church of Bremen. Bob Jolly, pastor of First Baptist Church of Cumming, will deliver the missions sermon while Jeremy Morton of Cross Point Baptist Church in Perry will present the doctrinal sermon.
SBC President Fred Luter from New Orleans will preach the closing message on Tuesday afternoon.
The Sunday rally will begin at 6 p.m. on Nov. 11. An all night prayer gathering will be held at the Marriott Courtyard hotel following the session’s end at 9:05 p.m.
The first day’s session will be from 6 p.m. until 9:05 p.m. on Nov. 12. On the following day, the first session will be from 9 a.m. until 12:05 p.m. and then 1:40 p.m. until 5:55 p.m.
The election of officers will be held at 4:05 p.m. on Nov. 13, followed by the convention sermon at 4:50 p.m. Officers will be installed at 5:45 p.m. and the convention will adjourn with the dinner break at 5:55 p.m.
Theme will be “My Mission … the Great Commission.”
Waters also said there will be a special recognition of White’s 20th anniversary as executive director of the state convention.
In other business committee members changed the name of the State Missions Offering to Mission Georgia Offering and transferred the land lease for Jekyll Island Baptist Chapel from the GBC to First Baptist Church of Brunswick, which founded the ministry with Southeast Baptist Association.
Members also approved the transfer of the Jackson Hill Baptist Church property, commonly known as the Pinebloom property, from the Convention to the Georgia Baptist Health Care Ministry Foundation. Pinebloom was the home of The Christian Index prior to the construction of the new Baptist Missions and Ministry Center in Duluth.
The Administration Committee recommends to the Executive Committee the following policy:
Recognizing that church plants, the local association, and the state convention are partners in ministry working toward reducing lostness, the Georgia Baptist Convention will encourage, support, and build relationships with church planters receiving financial assistance provided by the Cooperative Program gifts of Georgia Baptists.
Recognizing the autonomy of church plants, the Georgia Baptist Convention will request church planters to lead their congregations to give at least 10% to missions with gifts through the Cooperative Program at least equal to the current average percentage of Cooperative Program gifts from our Georgia Baptist churches. Understanding that we would like our church plants to be more than average in their giving through the Cooperative Program, we request that they exceed the current average which is a little over 5%. Further, we request that each church plant recognize the importance of its relationship with the Convention and other church plants by giving at least 1% to the Georgia Baptist Church Planting Fund. Any remaining mission funds up to the requested 10% is to be distributed as the new church plant chooses with the encouragement to recognize its relationship with other partners such as the local association.
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