DHD: Six ways Oklahoma Baptists are making an impact
I am an Oklahoma Baptist, and I am a huge fan of the multitude of ministries done by and through Oklahoma Baptists. Approximately 1,800 churches that make up the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (BGCO) have a major impact not only in respective communities in our state but well beyond, even to the uttermost parts of the world.
This week’s Doyle’s Half Dozen highlights six of the many ways Oklahoma Baptists have been making a difference in today’s society.
- Rose Day
The state’s largest annual Pro-Life rally occurred this week at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Hundreds, maybe even thousands, walked the Capitol hallways to deliver red roses to the offices of state representatives, senators, the Governor and Lt. Governor.
Rose Day originated not long after the ruling of Roe v. Wade in 1973, as two Catholic ladies would hand out roses at the Capitol. Oklahoma Baptist leaders learned about this ritual and decided to join these Pro-Life heroes, and for the last 26 years, the number of Rose Day participants has grown enormously since those early years.
Arguably, no other entity has made a greater impact on making Oklahoma become the “most pro-life state in the country” than Rose Day. Do the research, and you will find Oklahoma has not always valued the Sanctity of Life as passionately as today. But that has changed. Both the State Senate and House have a large majority of members who claim to favor Pro-Life legislation, on both sides of the aisle. It’s even possible that the next race for Oklahoma Governor will feature two Pro-Life candidates, which would thrill me to pieces.
This is possible because of Rose Day, because a multitude of Oklahomans are willing to come every year from all over the state the first Wednesday of February and make it known to our state leaders we are for laws that protect the sanctity of life. And every year, the House Chambers host a rally that features every state congress member and senator who stands in front of the masses who pack that place to say they promise to support the unborn and to value all stages of life.
Rose Day would not have such an impact had it not been for Oklahoma Baptists leading the charge. And Oklahoma would not be known as the most pro-life state in the country had it not been for Rose Day.
- Indiahoma and other smaller churches
I wrote about Indiahoma Baptist Church a few weeks ago in the Baptist Messenger. A town of less than 400 people, located 31 miles west of Lawton, Indiahoma decided to have its school system observe a four-day school week, beginning last fall. The problem with this format is what do the children do on Mondays when school isn’t meeting.
Indiahoma Church came to the rescue for Pre-K through 5th grade students. They now host MonDay Camp, which is free to families and provides both a spiritual impact and a fun educational environment. Imagine what this does for parents, especially single parents who can’t afford day care every week. And according to Pastor Les Banks, two families have been attending Indiahoma Church because of MonDay Camp, and a 5th grade boy has made a profession of faith one afternoon at MonDay Camp.
I love hearing about the innovative ways Oklahoma Baptist churches are impacting their communities. In a couple of weeks, the Baptist Messenger will be featuring a story on First Baptist Church in Red Oak and the church’s Baptist Breakfast Club ministry that has been serving breakfast to shut-ins every Sunday morning for the last 17 years.
There are many great large churches in major cities doing tremendous ministry work, but what about smaller communities that are not near a metropolis? This is where Oklahoma Baptists are making a difference. Places like Indiahoma and Red Oak rely on the support of the Oklahoma Baptists in their respective communities.
- Disaster Relief
National news reporters have called it the “Faith-based FEMA.” Baptist Disaster Relief (DR) has helped millions recover from natural disasters all over the world, and the top state DR team of volunteers is in Oklahoma, led by Sam Porter. This former Baylor University football player stands big and tall, but he’s not intimidating. His compassionate demeanor is quickly recognized. Consider him a real life human version of Smokey the Bear.
Porter has been interviewed many times, both locally and nationally, giving updates on what DR has done in impacted areas. But it’s who Porter represents that’s the story.
Oklahoma Baptists have been a part of many major tragedies. Oklahoma Baptist DR volunteers were involved in Ground Zero in New York City after 9/11. They were the point people after Hurricane Katrina, helping New Orleans recover. Think of the many hurricanes, tornadoes and other major storms that have been in the news for the past 20 years, and Oklahoma Baptist DR volunteers were there soon after these disasters occurred.
Probably the best publicity DR ever got was during a national broadcast on NBC in 2013. News anchors Brian Williams and Harry Smith were reporting live from Moore, after the historic May 2013 tornadoes struck. Smith turned to Williams, when talking about recovering from storms and said, “If you’re waiting for the government, you’re going to be in for an awful long wait. The Baptist men (referring to DR volunteers), they’re going to get it done tomorrow.”
- Falls Creek
Other than the Disaster Relief ministry, Oklahoma Baptists are best known for Falls Creek. Known as the largest Christian youth camp in the world, Falls Creek Baptist Conference Centers is about to celebrate 100 years of impacting young people for Christ.
Last year, almost 90,000 students attended one of the summer weeks at Falls Creek. Its history and impact on many who have made life decisions for Christ would be almost incomparable. I suspect only the Billy Graham Crusades in the past century could surpass the Kingdom work that has been done in the Arbuckle Mountains in southern Oklahoma.
- Prominent Public Servants
James Lankford and Todd Lamb are two of the most prominent Oklahoma Southern Baptists who are among the state’s government leaders. Lankford begins his second term as U.S. Senator. Lamb also is in his second term as Lt. Governor.
Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma State Attorney General, is about to be approved to serve as the national administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Though this has been a controversial decision, Pruitt has withstood his critics and answered more questions from Senate committees than any other appointee by President Trump.
Pruitt is a member of First Baptist Church of Broken Arrow and has been said by those who know him well to be a respectful servant-leader and a man who lives by the teachings of Scripture.
And I know other Oklahoma Baptists who have held government positions on different levels and have honored God through their service as public servants.
- Leading in Baptisms
It was reported this week that Oklahoma Baptist churches have an increase in the number of believer baptisms. In 2016, Oklahoma Baptist churches baptized 830 more believers than in 2015. Compared to other Southern Baptist churches in other states, this is a major trend breaker.
I believe it is due to the recent emphasis Oklahoma Baptist churches have placed upon revitalizing Sunday School and small group Bible study fellowships. The BGCO has led churches through an initiative called ReConnect Sunday School. From this initiative grew a stronger focus on evangelism through Sunday School and small groups, as churches focused on training members how to share the Gospel, providing plans and scheduling dates on how and when to invite people to church and then following practical approaches for witnessing to friends, family, co-workers and neighbors.
I remember a large publication, a few years ago, making fun of this emphasis on Sunday School, using antiquated references in mockery. This magazine’s jeering didn’t last, while Southern Baptist churches across Oklahoma have found new believers who are following the Lord in obedience through observance in baptism and getting involved in local church ministry.
May God continue to use Oklahoma Baptists to impact His Kingdom!