As we gathered in Nashville for the called special meeting of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, it felt more like a wake. The conversations were more like what you would find when the family gathers during a funeral. Never in our Southern Baptist history has anyone resigned the post of president of the Executive Committee because of “a morally inappropriate relationship.”
The members who were able to quickly rearrange schedules and form a quorum did so with a sense of purpose. We had the Lord’s business to tend to and no posturing or outside agendas would distract us from the mission. Appropriate measures were taken by all those leading the meeting. Every decision was accomplished with facts, good discussion, decency and order.
The selection of the search team was bathed in prayer. We had a new procedure to follow. In past searches, the Executive Committee Chairman simply appointed a committee. This time a new set of bylaws called for the Executive Committee members to nominate from the floor a slate of nominees. Then the members by secret ballot chose six members from the nominated slate.
Their work began the day they were elected to serve. They met for organizational decisions and prayer. Before they met, I jotted down a few notes about leadership for our Southern Baptist Convention. What key descriptors clarify the leaders we yearn to follow?
A man of God – demonstrates the disciplines of the faith. The man God chooses for us is passionately committed to obedience to Christ. He is consistent in his time in the Word and prayer. He boldly seizes opportunities to share a gospel witness and he loves the churches who comprise the SBC.
A man of integrity – humility captivates his style of leadership. The honest man knows he is not entitled to any position of influence. Therefore, how he holds accountable a multimillion-dollar finance sheet or his personal finances demonstrates his servant leadership. How he uses his words to communicate with the smaller-in-attendance church leader or a megachurch pastor demonstrates he is a man under authority. How he works with an administrative assistant through a difficult process, or with a colleague who heads a huge mission organization, or with a theological institution speaks volumes about his being a man who regularly washes feet like his Master.
Not just everyone who aspires to be president of the SBC Executive Committee should be. Someone who thinks he wants the post should go quickly to the cross and surrender himself afresh. He should do Southern Baptists a favor and recuse himself from the process. May godly humility once again flourish among us.
A man of loyal discernment – current practices reveal his true heart. He has lived long enough, faithfully served long enough, to gain the experience necessary to discern what is of God and establish his loyalties.
Trevin Wax, in his most recent release Eschatological Discipleship, quoted Simon Chan’s Spiritual Theology, “Discernment is knowing God’s will in particular situations. And knowing God’s will, as we learned earlier, is not just a matter of grasping a piece of information. It has to do with our whole attitude toward God and ourselves, with an ongoing relationship with God and loving Him. Discernment, therefore, is more than just the scientific application of principles to particular situations. It requires practical wisdom that no amount of formal study can impart, that is, a kind of spiritual sensitivity that comes with long experience.”
In our Southern Baptist context, it is imperative that this new leader’s practice reveals discerning loyalty to the education and promotion of the Cooperative Program as the primary mission funding methodology for our churches. This is not something to which he merely offers intellectual assent; rather, he has discerned that the CP is our primary conduit for our Southern Baptist work together. He must be currently a leading advocate for CP among our people, churches, associations and networks.
These same attributes could be said of leadership posts in all levels of Southern Baptist life: national, state, associational networks, and local churches. These attributes would facilitate the rebuilding of trust, model humble leadership, encourage godly living in our homes and churches, and prayerfully lead to a resurgence of cooperative mission among our pastors and our churches.
What can we do?
Above all things, prayer is the need of the hour for Southern Baptists. Pray that the search committees for the Executive Committee and the International Mission Board are discerning and wise.
Secondly, be a gospel witness right where you are. In 50 days, we have Crossover, a major evangelistic crusade, and an Annual Meeting in Dallas. There are souls in the DFW Metroplex who need someone to pray for them and someone to talk with them about their eternal destiny. We have financial decisions to make and trustee selections and resolutions to adopt.
The world is watching – they want to know if we authentically love them. They are watching to see if the manner in which we treat one another is different from the world.