My current reading material includes an excellent biography of the history of Oklahoma Southern Baptists entitled "The Two Became One," written by Dr. Robert L. Ross. Most Southern Baptists, including Oklahomans, have little knowledge of the distinguished history of Southern Baptist mission work in our state.
In 1832 the President of the United States employed Isaac McCoy to be the official government surveyer of what was then called Indian Territory. The government promised the Indian tribes of the United States land in "Indian territory" in exchange for taking their land in states already a part of the union. McCoy made a number of trips into what is now northeastern Oklahoma to survey the land. In addition to his government job he also had a relationship with the American Indian Mission Association.
In the fall of 1832 McCoy arrived at a place called Ebenezer Station, located three miles north of the Arkansas River and eighteen miles west of Fort Gibson. Here McCoy met John Davis, a Creek Indian who was under appointment by the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, the forerunner of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, and of course, now called the International Mission Board. In 1832 Indian Territory was considered a foreign mission field and remained such until 1907 when Theodore Roosevelt declared Oklahoma the forty-six state of the
union. Okla is the Choctaw Indian word for "people" and humma is the Indian word for "red." Oklahoma means red people.
The Baptists of America placed their mission emphasis in the 1830's on the Indian territory I now call my home state. The great missionary Isaac McCoy, along with the Creek Indian John Davis, founded the first Baptist church in Oklahoma on September 9, 1832. That first church had six charter members. One Indian, two Caucasians and three Negros who were named Quash, Bob, and Ned, all three black slaves for the Creeks.
Within a month, this church grew to a membership of forty-five. On October 14, 1832, thirty-seven new converts were baptized. Ten were Creek Indians, the others were black slaves of the Creeks. On November 10, nine more were baptized.
Every time I pass by Fort Gibson I think of this first Baptist church in Oklahoma and its humble beginnings. Within seventy years this one Baptist church in Indian territory had turned into many Baptist churches and on November 9, 1906 the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma was born, one year before official statehood.
This fall 2006, the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma will celebrate her one hundredth year anniversary. Since the first missionary efforts in Oklahoma in the 1830's, Oklahoma Baptists cooperating together have become the largest, most prominent evangelical movement in Oklahoma. Our headquarters are in a gleaming six story modern building on Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City and we are impacting the world for Christ through our missionary efforts.
The humble have become the mighty.
May God allow us as Baptists, whether it be Baptists from Oklahoma, Southern Baptists within the United States, or International Baptists through the mission efforts of the International Mission Board, to never forget our humble beginnings.
When the gospel becomes big business the gospel is ultimately compromised.
When the gospel remains the main thing, the world is ultimately transformed.
Let's keep our minds on the main thing and remain a humble people seeking to reach the world for Christ. It's tempting to forget our main mission when we get so powerful, but by God's grace, we will resist that temptation. When the humble become mighty it is always good for God to send trials to keep us humble. It helps us focus.
In His Grace,