By Brian Blackwell, Baptist Message staff writer
WOODWORTH, La. (LBM) – During a May 2 meeting, the Louisiana Baptist Convention Executive Board received updates on Cooperative Program giving and the ongoing work of the four convention entities.
Louisiana Baptist Executive Director Steve Horn told board members that gifts through the Cooperative Program from January to March totaled $495.112.54 more than budgeted for 2023, so far. He added that churches, from January to March, have given $61,072.50 less through CP this year than the same timeframe as last year.
Louisiana Christian University President Rick Brewer shared that the school has migrated its Master of Arts in Teaching, Master in Education, Master in Social Work and Master in Business Administration programs to 100 percent online offerings along with three undergraduate programs: Criminal Justice, Business and Applied Science. These programs will now be available online nationally and internationally.
Additionally, the university plans to offer a certificate in multimedia ministry, a restructured worship arts and production degree and the Louisiana Christian Scholars Academy that will allow high school students to earn up to 15 hours of credits per semester for two years for $2,500 per semester (covers tuition and books).
The university also is constructing a prayer garden in the memory of Joshua D. Perry (the son of former LCU trustee J.D. Perry), who was killed in an automobile accident in March 2021. Located behind Guinn Auditorium, the prayer garden will include a cross, waterfall and 12 stones representing the 12 tribes of Judah.
“For our campus as a Christian university we didn’t have any public symbol that says this is a Christian campus, until now.” Brewer said. ‘I can’t think of anything better the University could provide to honor the life and faith of Joshua D. Perry than this sacred space and place at the heart of our campus. The centrality of the Gospel is the cross. The Gospel of Christ is the focus of what we do at LCU underscoring our commitment to creating culture of evangelism.”
Louisiana Baptist Foundation Executive Director Jeff Steed reminded board members that his ministry seeks to partner with churches and entities to advance the Kingdom in Louisiana through fiduciary management.
Steed said that in the last 12 months, the short-term fund has yielded more than $2.6 million for church and other ministry accounts, and more than $1.93 million has been established in special gifts to benefit churches and other ministries.
Furthermore, $24.3 million has been achieved toward the foundation’s Vision 200 (impacting the Kingdom with $200 million given in 20 years or less).
He said the foundation also offers money management services for churches, gift planning for individuals, estate stewardship for churches and Church Biz Central (accounting services, capital/stewardship campaigns, cash management, church loans, computer support line, giving-gateway.net, online giving, and payroll services).
Steed reminded Executive Board members the foundation has played a role in Louisiana Baptists seeing more than 2,400 new converts baptized and more than 40,000 individuals participate in worship on an average Sunday morning in the last year.
“I get excited about that because I hope the foundation’s ministry had a small impact on that as far as getting more money out the door in order for churches to open the doors on Sunday and present the Gospel and be able to baptize as well as worship our Lord,” Steed said.
Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries President and CEO Perry Hancock said the entity recently dedicated Praise Apartments, its newest HomePlace Cottage for homeless children and their mothers.
Praise Apartments will house homeless women and children for up to 12 months at no cost to the residents. While there, the women may work toward their high school equivalency and receive life and employment skills training through the Women’s Learning Center, a ministry of the Children’s Home. Residents will experience an array of amenities to offer a true home environment for the women and their children in this transitional setting as they prepare for independent living.
These four-plex apartments will provide two-bedroom, two-bath units for mothers and their children transitioning into their final phase of living in HomePlace.
Meanwhile, four associations representing 250 churches have participated in a new model that helps associations better engage churches in foster care and adoption ministry. Launched in November, the partnership encourages a coordination of efforts to serve the foster care community as an association and provides a more streamlined approach to meet urgent needs.
“The goal is to have every association involved,” he said. “Please consider calling us. We would love to help enhance the work your church is doing through foster care. It is one of the greatest opportunities we have to change the next generation.”
Hancock closed his report with a testimony of how a woman was changed through the LBCHFM’s Granberry Counseling Center. During a session, one of the counselors introduced her to Christ and she declared Him, “Lord.”
“Our counselor said the real answer for your problems is Jesus and a personal relationship with Him,” Hancock said. “Now she has the real hope she needs. And do you know why? Because Louisiana Baptists care.”
Louisiana Baptist Message Trustee Chairman Jeremy Blocker presented the entity’s report on behalf of Executive Editor Will Hall, who at the state Capitol in his other role as director of the Louisiana Baptist Office of Public Policy.
Hall was in Baton Rouge to testify in favor of against H.B. 463, legislation that would prohibit procedures that attempt to altar gender of minors. The bill was passed by the committee, 14-3.
Blocker, pastor of Maplewood First Baptist Church, offered updates to the board from a written report provided by Hall, noting that the news outlet continues to challenge Louisiana Baptist associations to form mission teams and participate in Crossover and Serve Tour.
“Also, Dr Hall has reached out to the other 40 state Baptist papers and challenged their editors to challenge their associations to do the same thing,” Blocker said. “And so, the evangelistic efforts of Crossover and Serve Tour will be the key areas of focus for the Baptist Message in our coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
During the SBC Annual Meeting, the Baptist Message plans to distribute a special edition that highlights the legacy of missions and evangelism in Louisiana.
Additionally, the Baptist Message will promote Vision 2030, an effort to plant, replant and revitalize churches through multiplication of disciples, groups, ministries and churches. Ultimately, the goal is to increase evangelistic outcomes across the state.
EXECUTIVE BOARD PRESIDENT MESSAGE
Executive Board President Dustin Stockstill, (pastor, Bedico Baptist Church, Ponchatoula), encouraged board members to be strong and courageous in the Lord.
Preaching from Joshua 1:1-9, Stockstill said Christ followers must remember God has called them to share the Gospel and live out their faith in the public square.
“We need to be courageous because God’s with us,” he said. “God is with us when we are with Him.”
Louisiana Baptist Convention President Reggie Bridges (pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Ruston) encouraged board members that God’s presence transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.
Drawing from Exodus 3:1-10, Bridges said God used an ordinary man like Moses to bring His children out of Egypt, and emphasized He can also use Louisiana Baptists to accomplish His will today.
“We hear this push for evangelism, reaching Louisiana, and we see the darkness of the culture,” he said. “It can seem impossible. We can see our own Southern Baptist family going through turmoil and it may seem impossible. But I tell you with God’s presence, that which we view as impossible to us is possible for Him.”