SCBaptists convicted by passionate pleas: ‘Let’s Go’

With a sequential thematic appeal of “Let’s Go,” messengers to the 203rd Annual Meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention Nov. 13-14 were exhorted to move beyond giving, praying and sending to personal engagement in missions.

Through keynote addresses by International Mission Board President Paul Chitwood, SCBC President Albert Allen, IMB Affinity Global Strategist Gregg Mann, and former missionary and IMB President Tom Elliff, SCBaptists were exhorted to consider the tragic reality of the world’s spiritual darkness, their calling to share the gospel, the potential impact they can have, and their response to missions engagement.

In an opening address that set the clarion call of the meeting, Chitwood identified the world’s greatest problem as lostness. “It’s an eternal problem and it’s a universal problem,” Chitwood said, “and that number is getting larger as I preach this sermon.” On the screen a ticking counter — which exceeded 3,300 by the time he finished — tallied those who had died while he spoke without hearing the gospel. “South Carolina Baptist churches exist to slow that number down,” he reminded messengers (see related story).

A North Greenville University choir leads in worship during the SCBaptist convention meeting.

“In response to God’s call for us to reach the nations with the gospel, South Carolina Baptists have always had an eye on faraway places, but it is now time for us to GO, with God’s enablement, and under His leadership and direction,” urged President Albert Allen, pastor of First Baptist Church of Newberry.

The 789 messengers and 79 guests for the annual meeting at Columbia’s Shandon Baptist Church adopted a Cooperative Program Ministry Plan of $26.5 million for 2024, unchanged from the previous year, and approved seven resolutions.

The 2024 budget allocates 25.16 percent, or $6,667,400, for international missions and 20.34 percent, or $5,390,100, to North American missions, theological education and other SBC causes. The state convention will retain 54.5 percent, or $14,442,500, for state missions and its eight ministry partners.

Along with reports from SCBaptist team leaders and the presidents of its ministry partners, messengers heard an update from Sexual Abuse Task Force co-chairs D.J. Horton and Kathy Robinson, and they approved the recommendations of the convention’s Nominations Committee and Committee on Committees for service on entity boards and committees.

Elected to serve by unanimous consent as SCBC officers were: president elect — Chuck Sprouse, pastor of First Baptist Church, Ninety Six; vice president — Chris Spires, pastor of First Baptist Church, Murrells Inlet; and recording secretary — Mike McCormick, pastor of Berlin Baptist Church in Salley.

Sprouse, who will serve as president at the 2025 meeting, was nominated by Zach Little, a messenger from Renewal Church in Anderson. Ninety Six First contributes 7 percent to the Cooperative Program, Little noted, highlighting Sprouse’s passion for and faithfulness in gospel ministry. Sprouse has served on both the SCBC’s Executive Board and Committee on Committees.

Wes Church, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Columbia, will preside as president at next year’s annual meeting, which will be held there Nov. 11-12. Church announced next year’s theme, “Til All Have Heard,” from Romans 10:14-15.

All four branches of law enforcement received this year’s Public Servant Award from the CLPAC.

Messengers adopted six resolutions in addition to expressing appreciation to the host church, Shandon. The resolutions — all of which were approved with no discussion — included statements on:

• Encouraging laws to prevent minors from accessing pornography.

• Prayerful support of Israel.

• Human dignity.

• South Carolina judicial appointment reform.

• Encouraging Christian civil discourse.

• Honoring the legacy of South Carolina Baptist women and cultivating an environment for their continued engagement.

(For full text of the resolutions, see The Courier’s website, www.baptistcourier.com.)

Three motions were presented by messengers for consideration:

A motion by Rhett Burns, of Travelers Rest First Baptist, called for consideration of a resolution he had submitted on financial transparency in the Southern Baptist Convention, which was not brought forth by the Committee on Resolutions. After Burns’ motion was ruled out of order, he made an unsuccessful attempt to overturn the decision of the chair.

David Gallamore, of Easley’s Rock Springs Baptist Church, recommended changing the bylaws so that churches could qualify to send messengers by a means other than their traditional Cooperative Program support. His motion was referred to the Bylaws Committee.

Clint Smith, of Town Creek Baptist in Aiken, requested that the SCBC’s audits be made available. He later rescinded his motion.

The Christian Life and Public Affairs Committee presented the E.A. McDowell Award, which recognizes those who exemplify Christian action in the public arena, to North Greenville University President Gene Fant. Joel Ainsworth and Will Oswald accepted the Impact Your World Award for The Church at Cane Bay in Summerville, recognizing the congregation’s efforts in advocacy for foster families, supporting special needs families, and its partnerships with schools.

The CLPAC’s Public Servant Award, typically presented to an individual, was presented to representatives from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, Columbia City Police and the South Carolina Highway Patrol in recognition of their efforts in apprehending an “active shooter” on July 18 near the South Carolina Baptist Convention building in Columbia.

Executive Director-Treasurer Tony Wolfe leads a prayer gathering to see South Carolina and the nations transformed by the gospel. (Photos by SCBaptist Creative Team)

In his first report to convention messengers, new Executive Director-Treasurer Tony Wolfe called SCBaptists to be “uncompromisingly focused and invested in the mission” of reaching people in desperate need of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As SCBaptists, “We evangelize and disciple. We train and mobilize. This is what we do,” Wolfe reminded the messengers. “We have no other objective. We have contrived no other plans. We know no greater burden, and we share no greater joy,” he added.

Of South Carolina’s 5.3 million residents, 4 out of 5 are lost or unchurched, Wolfe noted, adding that of the 157,690 people (worldwide) who died yesterday without having heard the gospel or who, having heard, did not respond favorably, 121 were South Carolinians.

“They were our neighbors. They were our friends. They were our coworkers. They were our family members,” Wolfe said. “They were our people, and we lost them to the grips of sin and death and hell,” he continued, “and we will lose 121 more before the sun sets today.”

The invitation before SCBaptists, Wolfe urged, is to “rise to vigorous action, to concentrate our energies and efforts and exert them in the service of our God.”

Wolfe led a prayer gathering on Monday night, where he invited those in attendance to ask the Holy Spirit to see South Carolina, North America, and the nations transformed by the hope of the gospel.