Every four years messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention have traveled to the milder climate of south Alabama to worship, fellowship and conduct business.
Temperatures, however, dropped to record lows during the Nov. 12-13 sessions at Eastern Shore Baptist Church in Daphne on Mobile Bay. The meeting nevertheless remained “Fruitful,” in a theme centered on John 15:5.
Speakers underscored Alabama Baptists’ commitment to evangelism, discipleship, missions and church planting; the topic of sexual abuse was addressed both by Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama State Board of Missions, and in a resolution; and messengers approved the second year of a 50-50 allocation in Cooperative Program funds between the missions and ministries of the state convention and the Southern Baptist Convention.
Tim Cox, in his president’s address, told the convention’s 665 messengers, representing 328 churches, “What we need in the changing times in which we live is to be strengthened daily by the Holy Spirit who provides power for our lives to bear spiritual fruit for His glory.”
The apostle Paul was “compelled to worship because the love of God continued to grow in his heart and mind,” Cox, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Chelsea, also noted. “The more we grow in our understanding of God’s love toward us, the more we grow in our love for Him. The more we grow in our love for Him, the more His love is reflected toward others — making disciples who make disciples who make disciples.”
Rick Marshall, retired senior pastor of Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Montgomery, exhorted Alabama Baptists in the convention sermon, “Let us look to those who launched the church in the book of Acts to find our way in fulfilling the Great Commission. They were pioneers taking the name of Jesus with them in spite of cultural boundaries or community location. They were proclaimers unashamed of the Gospel and unafraid to share it. They were … examples of how the Spirit of God operates through men, how God penetrates a community, how He moves to change His people and transform them.”
Lance highlighted several examples of Alabama fruitfulness in church planting in his report to messengers, referencing new congregations in a changing community, in a trailer park, among the 20,000 international students across the state’s campuses, in Alaska and in Scotland.
Addressing the issue of sexual abuse, Lance reported on the State Board of Missions’ work to help churches be safer places for all people, starting with a task force working to “provide the best resources possible.”
Though the SBOM is “not a governing body,” Lance said it has three main aims regarding sexual abuse — “reducing the risk,” “responding to victims” and “respecting our values.”
The board is partnering with MinistrySafe, an organization that advises churches and ministries and provides training and workshops on best practices to prevent sexual abuse. Nearly 1,000 Alabama Baptists have been trained so far, with the next training set for April 7, 2020, at First Baptist Church in Decatur.
The SBOM will background check its new trustees and continue to background check all employees, Lance said. He asked churches to “underscore” the “vitally important” need for reporting suspected abuse immediately to the appropriate authorities.
The first priority should be the well-being of the victim, “to grieve with those who have been hurt and harmed,” he said.
One of the convention’s three resolutions — “On Making Our Churches Safer Places” — affirmed the State Board of Missions’ partnership with MinistrySafe to make resources available to help prevent child sexual abuse.
The resolution echoed Lance in emphasizing the importance of caring for the victim and immediate reporting of abuse allegations to authorities as required by mandatory reporting laws.
Two other resolutions were adopted — commending Alabama’s leaders for enacting the state’s Human Life Protection Act in May of this year and voicing appreciation to the host church and association as well as other area churches that helped facilitate the annual meeting.
Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press