“This is my 13th convention,” Joseph Bunce shared during the Tuesday evening session of the Baptist Convention of New Mexico’s 2018 Annual Meeting. He continued, “In those 13 years there has been turbulence, change, disruption and reorganization. The landscape has changed significantly, but God has provided everything needed. The back-up plan is Jehovah.” Bunce serves as the BCNM’s executive director and lead missionary.
Bunce said that in New Mexico, ministries have changed and fields have changed, but all are compatible. He pointed out that there are still millions of people dying without Christ and we have an insurmountable task—but a huge Savior. He continued, “The church is under assault, but do not despair. Christ has overcome the world.” He said there is change in the future, but they will be amazing, incredible changes. New Mexico has experienced massive change already, causing some churches to be on life support.
Reading from Haggai 2:3-4, Bunce challenged listeners to remember the glory days and treasure nostalgia, but be willing to move forward with change. Haggai spoke God’s words, “Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now, it looks like nothing. But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work” (CEV).
As in Ezra 3:11a-13, some will weep remembering the past while others will shout for what is to come. Ezra tells of such a situation in the past, “Everyone started shouting and praising the Lord because work on the foundation of the temple had begun. Many of the older priests and Levites and the heads of families wept bitterly because they remember seeing the first temple years before. But others were so happy that they celebrated with joyful shouts. Their shouting and crying were so noisy that it all sounded alike and could be heard a long way off.”
Bunce pointed out several truths found in these Scriptures. First, God is in control. Through Jeremiah, He appointed Cyrus to be king of Persia 150 years before it happened. He knows what is happening now.
Second, everyone sees today's events differently. There is a generational divide, and it's scary. The excitement of the young is a shout for going forward and the old weep over what has been lost. But, God can build a bridge between the old and the new generations. And, He is doing just that in New Mexico as younger pastors are rising up. He encouraged the convention’s messengers to be diligent about staying with the centrality of Jesus.
His third point: everything belongs to the Lord. He said, “It is God's church, God's association and God's convention.”
His final point was that transitions take time. He explained that there were six decades between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra. He pointed out that 13 years ago when he came, the BCNM had huge debt—but God prepared us for what was to come. The convention has experienced recession and the Great Commission Resurgence, but God had prepared us.
After these years of hardship and change, we now have long-term partnerships with missionaries, Christian Challenge students are having more and more Gospel conversations, The New Mexico Baptist Children's Home and Family Ministries is seeing miracles in the lives of children, The New Mexico Baptist Foundation is providing funds where needed, two camps are bringing men, women and children to the point of interacting with the living God and a church in Union, Tenn. is planning to send students as interns under New Mexico pastors.
Before Bunce showed messengers the actual figures and the way God has provided for the BCNM in the past few years, he told messengers that the average church today only budgets 4.83% to the Cooperative Program. He said, “New Mexico has seen a decrease in funding from the North American Mission Board and has sailed the last two years on our own resources. He continued that we need an increase in Mission New Mexico offerings in order to plant more churches, but together we can do it, if we will.” He encouraged Millennials to study and understand the biblical instructions for giving. Bunce also announced that the BCNM has started a partnership with Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, which offers financial help for families and can change the lives of people in churches. He explained that two training opportunities will be held in 2019 to help churches begin Financial Peace University classes in churches.
Dr. Bunce used visuals to show the amount given from BCNM churches to the Southern Baptist Convention for Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for the years 2015-2018. He said, “Churches have been abundantly faithful.”
He concluded by saying, “But, we can do better. When I travel across the State of New Mexico, I see the 1.5 million people who are without Christ. That is our mission.”