A half a century ago, Fred Allen was perhaps the most well-known and best loved humorist in America. Known as a master ad-libber, Allen once quipped about meetings, saying that “… a committee meeting is a gathering of important people who singly can do nothing, but together can decide that nothing can be done.”
Meetings seem to be a necessary evil in Missouri-Southern Baptist life.
Even as you are reading this issue of Pathway, many Southern Baptists are travelling to Orlando, Fla., for the biggest meeting of the year—the 2010 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). You still have time to get to Orlando and I hope that you will consider the business of the SBC to be important enough to take your time, even a portion of your treasure and make the trip and participate in the biggest Baptist business meeting of the year. I have always considered it a part of my stewardship: as someone who has supported and promoted the Cooperative Program (CP) in the four Missouri Baptist churches I have served; as a recipient of CP funds when, as a junior high schoolboy, my family served on the home mission field; as a beneficiary of Southern Baptist ministries in college and seminary days; and, as someone who has served on the trustee board of three CP entities; for me, it is a matter of stewardship that I participate in the process of determining direction and deciding financial priorities for the fulfillment of worldwide missions and ministry through the CP. It really is a matter of stewardship.
It is also true that many Missouri-Southern Baptists simply cannot take the time or spend the money to participate in the annual meeting of Southern Baptists. I understand that. If you cannot travel to Orlando, but are available during some of the sessions of the 2010 SBC annual meeting, I encourage you to view the convention proceedings on the internet. Simply go to www.sbc.net on the Internet and follow the prompts to view the convention proceedings through live-streaming. When I return from the meeting, I will give you an update. In fact, I plan to write a travel-log while I am there to give you a “blow-by-blow” description—I hope I am using that term euphemistically—but, I will tell you what happened when I get back. Still, I encourage you to watch as much of it as you can live. I hope you will see for yourself what happens in Orlando June 15-16.
As several of us travel to Florida to participate in the 2010 SBC, I also want to show you that the upcoming annual business meeting of the SBC will be a Biblical meeting—and now, I am speaking analogously—but, there is a Biblical example of a church business meeting, perhaps even a denominational business meeting much like the annual meeting of the SBC. If I were preaching, I would tell you to turn in your Bibles to Acts 15. Oh, well, maybe I am preaching—let’s look together at the 15th chapter of the New Testament book of Acts and see some of the similarities in that first annual meeting of the SBC. Actually Acts 15 records what theologians have termed the Jerusalem Council. It was a meeting to do the business of the church—not one local church, rather a group, maybe a convention of first century churches.
The similarities are uncanny between the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 and the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC:
TRAVEL—Just as we will have to travel to attend the SBC, there was travel involved in that first century meeting of church leaders. Acts 15 opens depicting the disciples travelling to the Jerusalem Council “… And certain men came down from Judea.” Many Missouri Baptists are, right now, in the air or on the road to Orlando. In Acts 15, verse 3, as the disciples were on the road to Jerusalem “… they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria.” Likewise, on my trip to Orlando, I will pass through, or over, at least four states.
MESSENGERS—Those of us who participate in the annual meeting of the SBC do so as messengers elected by our local Missouri-Southern Baptist church. The messengers to the Jerusalem Council also represented various, first century New Testament churches. Just like Southern Baptist messengers of the 21st century, the first century disciples were, according to verse 3, “… sent on their way by the church.”
DEBATE—Sometimes we lament the fact that our business meetings are peppered with vigorous debate. And that may be an understatement. But let’s also acknowledge that discussion and debate are nothing new in Christian circles. At the Jerusalem Council there was debate, discussion, even dissension. In fact, according to verse 7 “… there had been much dispute.” We will vigorously debate the issues at the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC. My commitment to you is that while I will likely be involved in the debate, even in the disagreement—I will not be disagreeable.
CONTROVERSY—Notice first that there was controversy at that first century meeting of church leaders. In fact, one of the first things we see in Acts chapter 15 is that there was “… no small dissension and dispute with them.”
There also will be controversy at the upcoming annual meeting of the SBC. Surely, the most controversial matter to come before the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC will be the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force (GCRTF) report. Most of you know my concerns about the report and the impact of the report. I won’t go back over those issues. Some of you also are aware that I will be making a motion at the convention that will ask the messengers to simply receive the report as information, refer the particular actions of the report to the appropriate agency/institution for their review and a report back to the convention in 2011 concerning the ramifications of the report and recommendations. My motion will simply ask Southern Baptists to count the cost prior to making life-altering changes in the way we do Kingdom business as Southern Baptists.
For some, my motion will be as controversial as the GCRTF report itself. We have to acknowledge that there will be abundant controversy at the 2010 annual meeting of the SBC. But here is another truth: when the meeting is over; when the vote is tabulated, Southern Baptists will come together in unity to follow the will of the majority. If the GCRTF report passes “as is,” you have my pledge to do everything in my power to comply fully and quickly with the wishes of the messengers of the SBC.
Controversy did not stop the work of the church in the first century and it will not stop Southern Baptists in 2010. We will go forward with a Great Commission resurgence in the SBC. With or without a vote of the convention, we will return from Orlando re-energized to reach the world for Christ, starting right here in the Show-Me state.