Agee challenges Board members, churches to “step up”

By Holly Smith on May 29, 2019

FRESNO — Bill Agee is asking California Southern Baptists to step up.

The California Southern Baptist Convention executive director encouraged members of the CSBC Executive Board during their meeting in Fresno May 9-10 to be the core of The Step-Up Challenge — an initiative to increase by 20 percent key areas in church life: baptisms, evangelism, church planting, missions “going” and giving.

“For 80 years we’ve been a dependent convention” in the Southern Baptist Convention, Agee told Board members. “We got pretty used to that, so we don’t really stand on our own. We appreciate the help, but I think it’s time for California to stand on its own.

“Can we do it by ourselves? No, there’s no way. Our state is a big mission field. But we can do more if we just do our part.”

Agee is planning meetings throughout the state with leaders in all types of churches — large, small, ethnic; with men, women — “every walk of life in our Convention,” he said.

“You guys are the key,” he told Board members. “I can’t really go out to the churches in the field and say, ‘I need you to step up’ if I don’t have the confidence in knowing this Board has stepped up.”

Agee said he is going to ask “our churches to step up in baptisms. We believe in evangelism — we have an evangelism team. 2020 is a great time to say we’re going to have a 20 percent increase in baptisms.

“Do you think that is possible? I think it is!”

He said he plans to call for a special day in 2020 when every church has at least one baptism: May 31, which is Pentecost Sunday.

Agee also called for an increase in church planting support.

“There are places to be a part of church planting whether or not you’re the ‘mother church,’” he encouraged. “You can be a prayer partner, give financial support, provide space or people, or be a mentor pastor to some church planter who hasn’t got anybody.

“We saw 70 church plants last year in California — 40 were ethnic, 30 were Anglo. Seventy is a lot! The 70 here in California accounts for 11 percent of all the church starts in North America and Canada last year.”

Agee noted that a 20 percent increase “is going to take all of us.”

He said he’s also “going to ask churches to increase mission giving.”

“We give 35 percent of what your churches give us to the national entities,” Agee explained, along with 100 percent of the Lottie Moon Christmas and Annie Armstrong Easter offerings.

“We also have the California Mission Offering — that’s money that stays in California to do California ministry. If there were a 20 percent increase in the California Mission Offering, that would be a record giving level.

“Is that possible? I believe it is!

“Much of what we do ministry wise is through that offering. That is a very, very important offering. And I need you guys to step up.”

The fourth area of The Step-Up Challenge is increasing California churches’ mission “going” by 20 percent.

“All across the globe, there are opportunities for mission,” Agee said. “But the world has come to California!

“A 20 percent increase gives us something to be part of, something to get our arms around,” he told Board members.

“You understand that a challenge like this requires fervent prayer, focused prayer,” he added, noting the popular movement some years ago of praying “the prayer of Jabez” described in I Chronicles 4:9-10.

“You say, ‘That’s old school.’ Yes, but it worked then, and it can work now!”

“We have 35 million people who don’t know Jesus; we need 70,000 churches averaging 500 people a week just to take care of the people right now. There are 47,000 Southern Baptist churches in the US; we need 70,000 in California.

“The enormity of the challenge is there,” Agee acknowledged. “We need God’s presence to be with us. And we need God to keep us from the evil one.

“My prayer is that every church will pray the prayer of Jabez — that God will bless them, extend their territory, be with them, and that God will keep them from the evil one.”

This Convention serves our culturally diverse congregations as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.