FRESNO — According to California Southern Baptist Convention’s executive director, there is a “tale of two futures” unfolding for the Convention.
Bill Agee told members of the CSBC Executive Board he had hosted 14 meetings throughout the state to meet with pastors and leaders of CSBC churches, telling them the good news that CSBC “led the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole in increased number of baptisms last year — bigger than anybody else.
“We had more than Texas — and coming from Oklahoma, I’m proud of that!” Agee quipped.
“We had 2,653 more people baptized than the year before — a 27 percent increase.
“Our churches are leading in the number of church starts — 70. That’s a pretty remarkable number.
“We also have a little over 100 churches involved in the revitalization process,” Agee said, “with a trained consultant walking alongside them.
“We’re giving small churches a voice and telling them they matter. Because they do!
“We’ve got a lot going for us, and I’m excited about that,” Agee said.
But he went on to remind Board members of $1 million shortfalls in the budget since the economic downturn in 2008.
“Thankfully we’ve seen that $1 million shortfall shrink. I praise God for that. I don’t know too many organizations that have gone from a million dollar shortfall annually” to a balanced budget without increased income, Agee said.
He thanked Board members for their affirmation of a proposed CSBC 2020 budget that includes a 5 percent reduction in the Cooperative Program allocation to the Southern Baptist Convention.
“What we’ve done here this week, we’ve turned the light on. We’ve talked about issues that needed to be talked about,” Agee said.
“There’s a tale of two futures out there — we have no other alternative. When you’ve got no reserves, all you are is one hiccup away from being out of business.”
We know there’s a possibility of two futures, Agee said. “What do they look like?”
One contains the Convention still “doing the things we’re doing” — the greatest increase in people baptized, the most church starts, revitalization at a peak, the emphasis on small churches.
“What happens if there is no California Southern Baptist Convention?” Agee asked. “If churches don’t give, if we aren’t responsible, it could happen.
“What does that future look like?
“There would be no compilation of data — there would be no Annual Church Profile! There would be no gathering together. There would be no help for evangelism projects on a local basis. There wouldn’t be outreach help. It would be up to individual churches to fend for themselves.”
There also would be no local church planting, Agee continued. “We wouldn’t have 70 new churches.”
Church revitalization and the Count the Cost process would cease, and many churches would at least temporarily lose their tax exempt status (churches operate under CSBC’s 501(c)(3) category).
“There would be no central base of operations. Who would you turn to? There would be no staff to assist. This organization would cease to exist,” Agee declared.
“You say, ‘That’ll never happen.’ But it’s been real close in the past. Could it happen? Worst case scenario, it could. I’m going to do everything I can do to make sure it doesn’t.
“I think we have something valuable, and I want to keep it,” Agee affirmed. “We’re willing to do whatever we have to do. Right now the thing we feel is the only option is to redeem the 5 percent we gave away when we were running deficits.
“I would much rather keep the (future) that has the Convention in it!”