Some random ruminations after being blessed at our annual meeting at First Baptist Church Raytown:
There were few surprises at the 175th annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention held Oct. 26-28, but there was plenty of great preaching and singing. I always hesitate to point out a particular preacher or singer at such events, but I have to say Travis Cottrell’s a cappella rendition of Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” was absolutely stunning. Known by many as “The Battle Hymn of the Protestant Reformation,” Cottrell, a prolific songwriter who is worship leader for popular women’s speaker and author Beth Moore, sang it with the beauty and power it deserves.
There is one line in the final verse of “A Mighty Fortress” that hit me particularly hard: “The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.” Cottrell sang those words literally just hours before President Obama signed the so-called “Hate Crimes Bill” into law (see the Baptist Press story on page 19). It is a law many feel is an attempt to intimidate Christians from speaking out against homosexuality – particularly from the pulpit. Persecution may come, even death as Luther’s great hymn reminds us, but we must continue to preach the whole counsel of God’s Word. There were many highlights at the annual meeting, but for me Cottrell singing Luther really hit home.
I must confess one disappointment concerning the annual meeting: No resolution was offered rebuking the “Hate Crimes Bill.” The annual meeting serves as the one opportunity for Missouri Southern Baptists to make a public statement before the world. In this case, the timing was perfect. Unfortunately we did nothing. Will we follow man (government) or God?
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If we will be faithful in sharing our faith with others, there is a great opportunity for growth facing the churches of the Missouri Baptist Convention. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2008 Missouri had the best net migration gain of any state in the Midwest. Some 52,563 international immigrants plus 38,111 domestic migrants moved to our beloved state. Springfield and Kansas City experienced population growth between 2000 and 2008 above the U.S. metropolitan average of eight percent, The Census Bureau defines the Midwest as Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Kansas, North and South Dakota and Nebraska.
Going forward, the Census Bureau, in its 2005 interim projections based on the 2000 Census, determined that the Midwest’s population would grow by about 6.1 million people between 2000 and 2030. Missouri is among the states with the best growth projections. Our state is expected to add 834,962 for a 14.9 percent increase in population by 2030.
One final note on population trends in our nation, one that could have profound implications for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). According to the Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2008 the South’s natural population increase (the difference between births and deaths) was the largest of all regions at 5.1 million. The Census Bureau delineates the South region as the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, South and North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas and the District of Columbia. While the birth rates remain higher in the South than in any other region, the growth which is expected to continue for at least another 20 years, is being largely driven by migration. Domestic migrants from the Northeast, which is declining in population, continue to flock to the South. A large number of Hispanics have also moved into the South. The world is truly in the SBC’s backyard and never has their been a greater opportunity for Southern Baptists to reach people in their “home” region as there is – and will be – for at least the next two decades.
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The Associated Press reported recently that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis area abortion centers reported a seven percent increase in abortions during the last six months of 2008 compared with the same time in 2007. Planned Parenthood of Illinois indicated its abortion centers did an all-time high number of abortions in February. Abortions in Missouri have been in decline in recent years and this comes as troubling news. Taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood is America’s largest provider of abortions. Planned Parenthood reportedly brought in more than 10 million dollars in 2008 in Missouri alone, and over a billion dollars nationwide.
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Missouri Baptists want to impact the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but when they meet for their annual meetings they also impact the host communities in another way – economically.
The Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association (KCCVA) estimates the economic impact of the MBC’s annual meeting at more than $1.6 million, based on the spending by convention staff and the 1,422 Missouri Baptists attending. The $1.6 million figure was announced in a public relations “convention alert” issued by the KCCVA Oct. 22. The greatest impact on the local economy was centered on area hotels and restaurants.
The next three meetings will be held in Springfield, Lake of the Ozarks and St. Louis, before returning to Kansas City in 2013. The economic impact will be even larger at future sites because the MBC has no future plans to hold annual meetings at churches, but rather at public convention halls or hotel convention centers.