By Brian Blackwell, Message staff writer
WOODWORTH, La. (LBM) – During its May 3 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 April totaled $514,944.68 more than budgeted for 2022, so far.
He added that churches, from January to April, have given $344,009.75 more this year than the same timeframe as last year.
Louisiana Christian University President Rick Brewer shared that the school has been blessed by God since he last spoke to the Board.
During the 2021-22 academic year, LCU celebrated: accreditation reaffirmation with no findings of non-compliance from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (the regional accrediting body); a name change to reflect its status as a university; transition in sports classification from the NCAA to NAIA; updates to classrooms; a partnership expansion with New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and the sale of its building in Shreveport that was to house a law school that never materialized.
This fall, the school will launch the Jonathan E. Martin Master’s in Business Administration program. It will offer distinctive emphases for data analytics, finance, accounting, healthcare, marketing, management, entrepreneurship and leadership.
Furthermore, Brewer said 80 students have accepted Christ since August 2021.
“That’s what it is really all about,” he said. “It blesses my heart to see it happen among our students.”
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 since May 2021 more than $1.89 million has been given for special gifts benefitting churches and others ministries, and the short-term fund has yielded more than $1.65 million for church and other ministry accounts.
Furthermore, $27.5 million has been given to the foundation’s Vision 200 (impacting the Kingdom with $200 million given through the LBF in 20 years or less).
“There are so many creative ways to advance the Kingdom through these special gifts,” Steer said. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish through this collaborative effort.”
Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home and Family Ministries President and CEO Perry Hancock said the entity recently restarted the Ministerial Care Residential Program and kicked off the Connect1Child foster care ministry.
The Ministerial Care Residential Program allows Louisiana Baptist terminated ministers and International Mission Board missionaries on stateside assignment (transitioning to a new ministry or recently retired) to receive a free apartment on the LBCHFM’s campus in Monroe for up to one year.
Meanwhile, the Connect1Child foster care model helps associations better engage churches in foster care and adoption ministry. Hancock said the program can help bridge a gap between 4,000 foster children available for placement in homes and the fewer than 2,500 families who have committed to offering foster care.
“You and I have the families that those children need to live with,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if hundreds, if not thousands of those children, woke up every morning in a Louisiana Baptist home, every Sunday went to a Louisiana Baptist church and found the greatest person in the world who loves them – Jesus. God has given us that opportunity.”
Louisiana Baptist Message Executive Editor Will Hall was absent while serving in his other role as director of the Louisiana Baptist Office of Public Policy.
Hall was in Baton Rouge to testify against H.B. 605, legislation that would seriously hinder religious liberty in the field of Christian counselling and looms to negatively impact the Granberry Counselling Ministry, Louisiana Christian University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as individual practitioners, Horn said.
Horn offered updates to the Board from a written report provided by Hall, noting that the news outlets’ plan to offer additional digital services in 2022 was on hold while the Baptist Message seeks a new technology firm to complete the work.
He also shared that the senior students enrolled in an LCU computer science capstone course had recently completed a project in which they developed an offline mirror website of the Baptist Message. They made recommendations to improve the architectural design and functionality of the digital platform and some of the changes will be incorporated into the live site later this year.
Regarding the work of the Office of Public Policy, Horn added that Hall is helping to move S.B. 44, Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, through the legislative process. The bill bans biological males from replacing biological females from teams designated for women.
The Office of Public Policy also is working with Rep. Laurie Schlegel to pass H.B. 142 which, if signed into law, will substantially penalize tech companies that do not institute technology to protect children from accidental or intentional access to pornography.
Additionally, Horn said, Hall is working to help shepherd several pro-life bills through the House and Senate, as well as legislation that strengthens parental rights.
EXECUTIVE BOARD PRESIDENT MESSAGE
Executive Board President Dustin Stockstill, (pastor, Bedico Baptist Church, Ponchatoula), cautioned board members not to drift from their commitment to Christ.
Preaching from Hebrews 2:1-4, Stockstill said Christ followers must be focused on what is important. He added that Jesus’ followers must remain focused and not go into isolation from God.
“We drift away from those priorities we consider so important to us,” he said. “If we aren’t careful that personal drift will lead us away from God. And if we’re not careful in our churches that same drift will lead us away from the Gospel.”
Louisiana Baptist Convention President Reggie Bridges (pastor, Temple Baptist Church, Ruston) encouraged board members to use their spiritual gifts.
Drawing from 2 Kings 2, Bridges said Louisiana Baptists face many unknowns and are at a crossroads much like Elisha after his mentor, Elijah, was taken to heaven.
He said God is with His children amid the difficulties and uncertainties.
“The promise of God holds true today,” he said. “There are so many things that pass away but God’s Promise and Word will never pass away.”
The Louisiana Baptists Mission Support Committee approved $252,000 in grants for church planting projects across Louisiana. Among those areas slated for new churches are New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Rosepine, Prairieville and Shreveport.
Church building grants also were approved for works in St. Mary, Rapides, and Terrebonne Parishes.