My family and I returned to the SBC this year in Dallas. My parents attended as well as messengers from their home church. Mom and Dad talked with me today about the US Vice President speaking to the convention Wednesday and the stir that created (security etc). But we hearkened back to a 1976 appearance of our US President when we were present at that convention. Obviously, I have been to a few SBC’s through the years! US Politics aside, this convention did not fail to have its ups and downs, times of encouragement and discouragement; things to praise and things to confess and repent. But, overall I left this year’s Southern Baptist Convention heartened and encouraged about our future. Why?
Clear mission. While a massive entity made up of thousands of churches representing millions of people, the SBC is bulky and perhaps clunky, but healthy. My home church sent voting messengers to the meeting, as all SBC participating churches can and should. For the differences among churches and individuals, we clearly unite around the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. And, we are clearly united around partnering together to send that message globally.
Clarifying meetings. Beyond our unifying mission, churches that comprise the SBC give financially through the Cooperative Program. By the Lord’s hand, the CP funds our efforts to partner together to equip, resource and deploy our energies in the Great Commission. This happens through Mission Boards, Seminaries, our voice in the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and through powerful ministry aid like Disaster Relief. Our annual meetings shine a light on that work; accountability if you will. The older I get the more I realize everyone has a boss. Listen, all we do in the SBC can be clarified or called into question by any messenger at any microphone at our annual meetings. This is good. In the end, we all get the privilege to show up, pray and worship at our gathering, listen, give input or speak up if needed, and most importantly vote. I heard one fellow mention, “this is why we don’t do business meetings at our church anymore.” Really, that is sad. Our polity and local ecclesiology is set up to be quite flat and in the end, purposefully shared. An influential pastor in my life realizes the importance of this shared responsibility in business meetings in the form of forcing communication. If decisions are going to be made – the content about those decisions must be shared.
Humble Champions. Look, no one is or should be an idol and no one should be put on a pedestal. AND it is refreshing and encouraging to find faithful leaders who are compelling us to the future. Number one, there are the 79 we sent to the nations, leaving heart and home to share the Gospel. There were the heartfelt stories of the Pomeroy’s of FBC Sutherland Springs, TX who have ministered faithfully in the midst of unimaginable grief and are pressing on to a new day! There were the bold, transparent and solid words of our Seminary Presidents like interim SWBTS president Dr. Jeffrey Bingham, in the wake of a tide of sobering, bold and clear needed changes. And many more are faithfully following Christ and serving! Listen, I thank the Lord for H.B. Charles, Bart Barber, J.D. Greear, Felix Cabrera, Russell Moore, Tate Cockrell, David Platt, and many many more, faithfully following Christ. And there are those who serve that are not on the platform so to speak – champions that serve on the committees and boards of the SBC bearing as we have seen in recent days, burdens of responsibility that create personal anguish and the need for bold decision making – for no pay, no accolades, and perhaps no recognition.
I’ve been going to the SBC for over 40 years. We have weathered much through the years. There will be more storms ahead. But, as Augie Boto reminded us, this old ship is sturdy, and at the helm are new vibrant leaders humbly following the Lord. I hope and pray when Jennifer and I join in the convention halls with our kids and grandkids in the future we also reminisce about this current group of leaders, commission new servants in the Kingdom, and commit to stay focused on the Word and the Gospel.