A Report From The Baptist State Convention Of North Carolina

This past Monday and Tuesday Pastor Shawn and I went to the annual meeting of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. We go to this every year, and always have a great time, but this time we were joined by Brandon Shull, Drew Broughton and Brian Kelly. This morning we want to share what the Lord has laid on our hearts from those two days.
First, though, I want to share with you some basic information about our state convention.
2023 BSCNC State Convention
This was the 193rd annual convention
Theme: “On Mission Together” (#OnMissionTogether)
Held in Greensboro
What we did:
Hear updates from convention ministries like Baptists on Mission, Baptist Children’s Homes, etc.
Hear testimonies from missionaries we support
Hear from convention leaders
Conduct business: elect new leaders, approve budgets and resolutions, etc.

#1: We were reminded of the privilege of partnering together in our mission to reach the lost

The emphasis in that sentence falls on partnering together. If someone asked you what the state convention is all about, you could pretty much say that the state Baptist convention is partnership. Partnership in what? Partnership in the common mission of our churches to reach the lost wherever they may be found.
Partnership — that’s what those days were about. Monday night and Tuesday morning, you could walk into the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro and hear more than 2,000 men and women worshiping God. In a few minutes, Drew will share with you his experience of what the worship was like. It’s a small picture of heaven — men and women of various ages, various ethnicities, various giftedness — coming together around the throne of God joyfully and loudly singing to Him and about Him.
On Tuesday morning, our convention executive director, Todd Unzicker, reminded us of this partnership in his convention address. He said we are a movement of churches on mission together.
First, we are a movement. God is up to something big with our state convention. We don’t go to the convention because church is our hobby, like Comic Con (no offense if you go to Comic Con). We go to the convention because Jesus has given us a mission. We are doing something big; He is doing something big.
But we are a movement of churches on mission. Our mission is the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20 ESV). This is the mission. The convention doesn’t do the mission and we the churches support them. We the churches do the ministry and the convention exists to support us and connect us.
We are a movement of church on mission together. We are not a network of country clubs. Our convention is a network of Southern Baptist churches across our state — 2900 partnering churches -- partnering together and pooling our resources to accomplish the Great Commission. The Great Commission is too large of an undertaken for any one churches to do it alone. We partner together because together we can.
Our Cooperative Program dollars at work:
26.3%: sending & supporting international missionaries
22.2%: tuition assistance to Southeastern Seminary and Fruitland Baptist Bible College
22.7%: supporting NC Baptist churches with training, revitalization, local mission catalysts, and conferences
17.5%: sending & supporting missionaries in major U.S. cities
11.3%: convention staff, operations, administration
YOUR Cooperative Program dollars at work
For every $1,000 our church gives:
$263 supports missionaries around the world
$175 supports church planting work in NC and US
$222 trains pastors, missionaries, and leaders thru the seminaries
$227 equips churches to reach their communities with the gospel/readies churches for 21st century challenges
$113 supports general operations and administration
Did you know that our state convention has raised more funds for the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering than any other state convention in this country for several decades?
We’re also still leading the other states in what we give to Annie Armstrong.
It’s not a competition; we aren’t trying to outdo one another. I tell you this because it shows that God is at work in NC and that our churches and our state convention are something we can be proud of, something we must be grateful to God for.
We also heard from people employed by the convention whose job is to make sure that every dollar given is stewarded well according to the percentages I outlined above.
Our convention is a movement of churches on mission together. We were challenged by this reminder.

#2: We were reminded of the urgency of our mission to reach the lost

The news is terrible. It seems as though in the last few years, the kinds of crises that we would see once every few years now come every few months. COVID went away and was replaced by the war in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine faded from our attention and then the attack on Israel. Wars and rumors of wars.
But we were reminded at the convention that as bad as all these news stories are, there is news that is even worse, although you don’t hear about it from the media. That news is that the majority of the world’s population remain lost and in sin, cut off from Christ, and destined for eternal, conscious torment in hell.
In other words, lostness is the biggest problem facing our world. And lostness is the worst possible news. War and sickness are temporal. Hell is eternal.
Out of a total population of just over eight billion, it is estimated that every day, 173,451 people die without Christ. The head of the International Mission Board delivered a message Monday night at the convention from 2 Kings 7. I was so struck by one line in his message that I wrote it down word for word. He said, “Hell grows daily by 173,451 people.”
We have good news that Jesus commanded us to take to the masses of the lost around the world. We’re sitting on it. We’re complacent. I am complacent. Since the year 1970, the world’s population has doubled six times. And the world’s population continues to explode.
2 Kings 7:9 ESV
Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”

#3: We were reminded of the necessity of sending missionaries to reach the lost (?)

On Monday night, we had the privilege of hearing from several missionary families about to deploy with the International Mission Board. Some of them were headed to places like France or the Czech Republic. Others of them were headed for Southeast Asia. You’ll notice Southeast Asia is not very specific. That’s because Southeast Asia contains some of the most dangerous countries in the world for Christians and especially missionaries. So they can’t tell us exactly where they are going.
One by one, they walked up to the microphone and shared their story. Who they are and where they are headed. They told us how we can pray for them. One couple asked that we pray for boldness to speak the truth of the gospel even when it’s hard or dangerous. And they asked that we pray that people will repent of their sin and gladly turn in faith to Jesus Christ and be saved.
Afterward we had a time of prayer where many gathered down front around them to lay hands around them. The rest of us stood and raised our hands toward the stage as our leaders prayed for safety, for success, for courage, for endurance, and for joy.
During this time there were some quotes that really were impactful and I want to share them with you.
Memorable one-liners
“The gospel came to you on its way to someone else.”
“Missionaries are sent out for the doing of a job they can never do?”
“God doesn’t call us to do what only he can do, but when he does what only he can do, he calls us to tell others what he’s done.”
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been to a big city like Atlanta or Los Angeles or Miami or Chicago and thought to yourself, “this feels like a totally different country”? That’s because it practically is.
Church, did you know that the major cities in this country are just as much a mission field as overseas? Because of globalization, people who live in New York City have more in common with people who live in Beijing than with people who live in upstate New York.
Let me say that again: People who today live in New York City have more in common with people who live in Beijing than with people who live in upstate New York.
This is why our major cities here in this country are now mission fields. And the North American Mission Board and our Annie Armstrong offering are sending and supporting missionaries to plant gospel-centered, Bible-based, biblical churches in those cities. Your tithes and contributions to Buffalo are supporting that.
And we need it.
A book I was reading Friday afternoon said that the US was the only western country where religion was more than a “minority movement”. Today, 35 years after the writing of the book, all of us in this room this morning are now in the minority.
Now there is still a Christian influence in the US, although most non-Christians wouldn’t know to call it that. Things like equality, human rights, fair treatment — all of that comes from our Judeo-Christian heritage. But the foundation of that heritage is gone, and we’re running on fumes.
And in the next 10-20 years, the older saints among us are going to be called home, and the generation of Americans who graduated high school 10 years ago - the first generation of Americans to grow up with absolutely no knowledge of the Bible - they are going to be moving into the prominent leadership roles in our government and universities and media and corporations. Things are about to get harder. Unless the Lord comes back, or unless He works a miraculous revival, things will be harder in the years to come, not easier.
And we have a choice to make. We can complain about this; we can wring our hands about this. Or we can say, “You know what, God didn’t choose for me to be the age I am now 60 years ago. He choose 2023.” God has a purpose for having me, having us, alive and well right now.
We need to reclaim our conviction of the sovereignty of God — that God is sovereign over world events; that God is firmly, unquestionably in control of the times during which we live. With Mordecai, we need to be able to say that God has raised us up for such a time as this.
The 40s, 50s 60s, 70s, 80, and to an extent the 1990s were times of harvesting in America. Now we are in a time of planting and watering. Times of harvest meant large numbers of people at church and large numbers of people getting saved. Times of harvest meant you saw results ---now. And it was gratifying, it was satisfying.
Now, in a time of planting and watering, the majority of people you come in contact with are lost. And of the small few that are saved, the vast majority of those are undiscipled. We must teach them. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:18-20 ESV).
The reality is that times of planting and watering are harder. There are often no results that we can see. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9 ESV). This is a hard time. But this is also our time.
We were reminded of the necessity of sending missionaries to the lost.

#4: We were reminded of the one quality that should characterize us

The president of the convention, Quintell Hill, who by the will hopefully come preach here at the beginning of the year — he preached from the story of the Good Samaritan.
A scribe — an expert in the law — comes up to Jesus and asks a question, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turns the question back on him: “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” You’re an expert. You tell me. The scribe answers: “love God with all that you are, and all that you have, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus says, “Good answer. Now put it into practice, and you will live.”
But the scribe isn’t done. He has one more question: “But he, wishing to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” (Luke 10:29 ESV). You see, the scribe hadn’t certain kinds of people in mind. There were certain types of people he would rather not have to deal with. He’s hoping Jesus will say, “Well, obviously, your neighbors are Israelites.” Surely, at least, the scribe is hoping Jesus will say that Samaritans are excluded. Those religious half-breeds aren’t worthy of neighbor love. Today, our Samaritans are probably our political enemies — Democrats for Republicans and Republicans for Democrats.
But the story Jesus tells just demolishes all of that. A man is traveling and gets beaten and robbed and left half-dead on the side of the road. Two men come upon the man laying half-dead and what do they do? They move over to the opposite side of road so as to pass by as far away from the hurt man as possible. Who are these men? One is a priest; the other is a Levite. These were holy men. Men of God. So busy doing God’s business that they neglect God’s ministry.
There is a man, though, that stops and has compassion. He bandaged his wounds, poured oil and wine on him to clean the wounds, put him on his own animal and took him to a nearby inn where he paid for the man to stay at his expense — even promised the innkeeper that anything else he had to spend to take care of the man, he would pay for himself when he came back. The man who did all of this? The despised religious half-breed - the Samaritan.
And then Jesus lets the gauntlet fall — “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36 ESV).
The president asked us a question at the convention: he said, “Of the three men, which one looked the most like Jesus? Not the priest, or the Levite — neither one of the Jewish religious leaders. The Samaritan, the hated religious half-breed, he looked most like Jesus.
President Hill drew three conclusions from that text:
Lessons from the Good Samaritan:
We will be known by Christ’s love within us
True love truly sees the needs of others
True love stops and shows compassion
We were reminded of the one quality that should characterize us.

#5: We were reminded that it must be our priority to be a healthy church

We were reminded that it must be our priority to be a healthy church.
A healthy church, friends, has little to do with size.
A healthy church has little to do with how much money we have.
A healthy church is a faithful church, period.
I went to a breakout session on church revitalization. What are six marks of a healthy church? Six marks of a church on the path toward health?
Markers of church health:
A culture of sending missionaries
Leaders that equip and empower
Authentic community
Measurably disciples
Passionate worship
Biblical doctrine and execution
Buffalo, we are a strong church.
Some of you might not like hearing me say this. We do have a ways to go, but let us not allow that to diminish how God has blessed us through the years. It’s also true that many have gone on before and have completed their race. But God has brought others into our family. There is no virtue in focusing exclusively on losses to the neglect of our God-given gains.
God is not glorified by negativity. God is glorified by gratefulness, endurance, perseverance, joy, faith, and bold vision.
God has blessed us over the last two years. Do you remember the dark days of 2020 and part of 2021? There were days I wondered if we would ever even see this sanctuary half-full again.
And yet, glory to God, we are a COVID success story. And I believe God has more in store if we trust Him, and do things His way, relying on Him. Faith sees the great things that are possible in our future because we believe in the God of the impossible.

Call for response

We are a movement of churches on mission together.
I had two grandfathers who were veterans of WWII. My grandfather on my mom’s side drove a transport truck in France shortly after D-Day. He said they sometimes had no choice but to drive over dead bodies in the path in front of them, and there was no time to stop and pay respects. They were on a mission.
My grandfather on my dad’s side was part of the 182nd airborne division. He flew combat mission in B-52 planes, the flying fortresses, as a mid-plane gunner. He was transported home on the Queen Mary when the war was over.
Both of those men endured pressure and stress and strain of a kind that I will probably never understand. It’s a miracle that any of those men were able to come home from that war and even function at all. Yet God spared both of them and allowed them to come home, get married, raise a family, buy a home.
Those who didn’t go — the wives and the moms and the dads — the children left behind — they paid a heavy price too. They lived with the far of getting a telegram or seeing officers show up at their front door to deliver the news that their dads or husbands or brothers would never come home.
Both groups — those who fought over there and those who stayed and labored here — both groups contributed to the success of the war.
There is a spiritual war that rages around us. There are those of us called to go into the field and fight, risk it all. And there are those of us called to labor here to support the fight there. And increasingly, the field of war and the fight are inching ever closer to us. We are all in this war.
Satan has been defeated but he still works to keep people who are lost from knowing God. Jesus died on the cross and rose in victory signaling the victory of God over the powers of darkness. The outcome of the war is certain. But the war rages on. And incredibly, God could fight it on His own, but He desires to use us. One church and one Christian could not accomplish anywhere close to what is needed. But together, as a network of likeminded churches, we cooperate — we work together, to accomplish extraordinary things.
This is the same reason why we have conventions as Baptists. We believe — we know — we can do more together than we can alone. We are a movement of churches on mission together.
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