Next month California Southern Baptists will celebrate the 75th anniversary of our convention. What began with 13 small congregations in Shafter has grown to more than 2,300 churches throughout the state. What an amazing journey!
A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend a session of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. As I listened to the music and messages, I thought about how grateful I am for the men and women, boys and girls who migrated to California from states like Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
History has always been an interest of mine, so I’ve been thinking about what these believers brought with them. First and foremost they came with strong biblical convictions. They also came with a strong foundation for family and when they found others of like mind, they met for Sunday school, worship, training union, revivals, visitation, etc.
Even though the churches were small, the passion for the lost was huge. They came from states where Christianity and Bible-believing churches were the standard, to California that was not steeped in religion of any kind. We certainly owe our Southern brothers and sisters a debt of gratitude for their ministry in those early years.
One of the things I appreciate about the Southern Baptist Convention is our sense of family. Because we cooperate and are interdependent (yet autonomous), we are never alone. This was made very evident to me in my young career as a pastor in Pico Rivera. I remember vividly as if it were yesterday the Wednesday evening prayer meeting and a white-haired gentleman who joined this small group of Hispanics.
I was unable to catch him that evening, but to my surprise, he returned the next week. I was able to talk with him and inquired about who he was and what he did. He introduced himself and said, “I’m Bill Burkey, your missionary. How can I help you?”
It wasn’t long after that when Bill helped me secure the services of the Convention in the area of stewardship, when Ron Chandler came to help me with budget and stewardship issues for my bilingual congregation.
Bill and his wife, Enid, became dear friends and Bill was one of the ministers who performed mine and Carmen’s wedding ceremony.
Over the years our base of population has changed. Our state is one of the most diverse in the nation, but I believe our family ties have allowed CSBC to become what we are today.
The theme for this year’s annual meeting is “Until It’s Finished.” We had a beautiful groundwork laid for us, and have ministered effectively to those who have called California home over the past 75 years. But we must not stop, either until every man, woman, boy and girl in California hears the gospel, or until Christ returns.
Won’t you join us for the 75th anniversary celebration at Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield? If you can’t attend, please recommit yourself to doing your part to reach the 33 million in our state who don’t know Jesus.