While at the Southern Baptist Convention, the National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs were underway. Unless you were in “airplane mode,” you know that the St. Louis Blues decisively triumphed! A big win for the team. A great win for St. Louis area supporters. The rest of the “Show-Me” state celebrates the winners.
As I write, I’m on the plane from Birmingham. I began reflecting/evaluating about the past few days of SBC activity. I must confess that responsibilities as the recording secretary does not allow me the luxury of participating in the myriad of peripheral activities connected to the Annual Meeting of the Convention such as the Pastor’s Conference, luncheons, dinners, exhibits, etc. I’ve heard from others that the activities were excellent and considered to profitable for men and women.
Allow me to list my top seven winners that I experienced in the arena where the Annual Meeting was held:
1. The Tuesday afternoon session when twenty-six new missionaries were appointed by the International Mission Board was from my perspective the most spiritually meaningful event at the Annual Meeting. You’d have to be suffering from fallow ground in your heart not to have tears streaming down your face at the testimonies about the call of God on the lives of these precious souls. The stage lighting on the platform was used to mask the identity of many of these people when they told us about their assignments to high security areas in the world. In each testimony, you could hear their determination to reach the lost who have never heard the gospel message. Every one of them expressed gratitude to you for your church’s faithfulness to the Cooperative Program and the Lottie Moon Offering for International Missions. We are part of their work because we hold the rope of support for them and their other 3,600+ colleagues.
2. The Christ-centered worship was phenomenal. Oh my! The Summit Church worship team, where J. D. Greear pastors, is one of the best. It was easy to hear the message of the gospel in every set. They used their giftedness to mix classic hymns, gospel songs and new Christ-centered songs into such a worship time where everybody in the house praised the name of the Lord our God. Parenthetically, I have to add that I loved the keyboard sounds during prayer and in the later moments of a sermon. The keyboard instrumentalist was amazing.
3. In his first address to the convention as the new president of the SBC Executive Committee, Ronnie Floyd cast a cooperative vision that was right on target. “I do believe that money and generosity will always follow the vision of reaching the world for Christ. It is important that we communicate to our churches the importance of reaching their state, reaching our nation and reaching our world with the gospel. It is your church’s generosity through the Cooperative Program that fuels what we do as Southern Baptists statewide, nationally and internationally. To the level of your generosity, our vision to reach the world for Christ will flourish.”
4. Historically, we need to understand that Southern Baptists amend their governing very rarely. This year, messengers started the process to amend the SBC governing documents to express a clear statement about our intolerance toward sexual abuse and prejudice. Not only that, we created a standing Credentials Committee to verify churches with reported deficiencies in the specific areas that are incompatible with our Convention’s identity. This process is not unlike what many state conventions do and the Southern Baptist Convention is taking this powerful step forward to determine appropriate affiliation parameters.
5. The panel on secondary issues is worthy of listening to again. First, J. D. Greear is an excellent panel leader and there was something to glean in every panel convened on the platform of the Convention. However, in this particular panel, our fellow Missourian, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president, Jason Allen powerfully articulated the biblical basis for complimentarianism, clarifying the roles of men and women in the church. His statements were worthy to record in the margin of your favorite Bible.
6. The annual sermon by Steven Rummage was one of the most biblical, text-driven messages ever delivered during my tenure as recording secretary. His message on the Cross based on Colossians 2:13-15 was rich in exegetical study, application and careful illustration. We win because of the cross.
7. The commitment of Southern Baptists to weed out any form of sexual abuse is a high value step toward being godly people in a hedonistic culture. J. D. Greear called it a “good first step of capturing where we have come from and where we must go to serve the vulnerable. The Sexual Abuse Advisory Study listed three necessary steps:
• Education of Southern Baptist churches to understand abuse and its prevalence, effect, underlying issues and failures as churches;
• Equipping of Southern Baptist churches to care for abuse survivors;
• Preparation of Southern Baptist churches to prevent abuse. Missouri Southern Baptist leaders have encouraged some of these steps in the last year prior to the report’s release. At www.mobaptist.org/churchprotection there is a list of resources to assist churches with MinistrySafe, CaringWell, and MBCH church services. We must make our churches safe places for children. That is a winning mindset!
My list of winners at the SBC annual meeting could double in size fairly rapidly. The SBC Annual Meeting is the mother of all Baptist meetings and it is worthy of your time and energy to participate as a messenger from your local church. Let me encourage you to plan to attend next year June 9-10 in Orlando, FL. Stay until the gavel drops on Wednesday afternoon and then enjoy the amusements in the central Florida region.