I was able to attend the SBC in Nashville this week along with over 16,000 other messengers across the nation. It was the first time I was able to go in a few years. In that time there have been many social issues attack Southern Baptist, and some pundits have tried to say that the SBC is divided and in serious trouble. It's true that we have some hurdles to overcome, but that is only because we are humans living in a fallen world that is ever-increasingly hostile. I left our meeting encouraged and thankful to be a Southern Baptist. Here are my 5 takeaways in no specific order.
The messengers sought God's will and direction: Multiple times in our meeting the messengers were called to prayer and repentance over social injustices, and to turn back to God's purpose for us all. I was greatly encouraged for the extra emphasis on prayer. The people of God knew that the only way to minimize conflict, and stay on mission was to lay aside personal agendas and to truly seeks the Lord's face in the matters facing our convention. It is amazing how prayer diffuses seemingly tense moments. Through prayer our messengers demonstrated civility and Christ-likeness towards one another.
The SBC is unified on Convictions and Mission: Over and over and over again, our messengers addressed the need to not compromise on our Biblical convictions and statements as specified in the Baptist Faith and Message. The messengers also affirmed the need to send out more missionaries to the nations and US. The reports we heard from the IMB and NAMB were encouraging especially when people thought that numbers were going to be down due to COVID. The IMB (International Mission Board) reported more salvation decisions, more Baptisms, and more church plants than pre-covid numbers. In a time when people were losing hope, Southern Baptist were able to offer hope in Jesus.
Diversity is a good thing: My good friend Barry Fields eloquently put it this way"The SBC annual is the largest deliberative body in the world. Which means at certain times, anyone form anywhere can say anything. For better or worse. Imagine a business meeting in your church with 16,000 of your closest friends. And your crazy uncles". One thing the annual meeting showed me is that not everyone is in the South, nor do they live in rural areas. But rather we have a diverse convention of all nationalities, in all parts of the US. Not only are we from various parts of the US but we also have different context in how we do ministry uniquely as God directs, but we put those things aside so that we can focus on what unites us as Southern Baptist instead of focusing on what divides us. We have a Big Tent convention, and at times we may not understand where one another is coming from in their point of view but open dialog is a necessary thing in cooperation.
Challenged to unite around the 2025 vision: Our Executive Director Ronnie Floyd, presented goals as a convention that he wants to see our churches champion together.
Increase Full time, fully funded missionaries by a net gain of 500, giving us over 4200 full-time, fully funded missionaries through the International Mission Board.
Add 5,000 new SBC congregations to our SBC family giving us over 50,000 SBC congregations
Increase the total number of workers in the field through a new emphasis on "calling out the called" and then preparing those who are called out for the Lord.
Turn around the decline in reaching, baptizing and discipling of children and teens under the ages of 18.
Increase annual giving in successive years and establish a new path of growth that will lead to reach and surpass 500 million in Cooperative Program Giving to achieve these Great Commission goals.
Stand for those who have suffered abuse and other injustices in our world
5. More support is needed for Cooperative Program. For me it was alarming to learn that nearly 40% of our congregations do not support the Cooperative Program in any way. Meaning those churches are not strategically involved in the mission sending and supporting of the missionaries of the Southern Baptist Convention. As a Mission Strategist I too feel the weight of this. We need to do much better in supporting missionaries. Resources are being developed to help churches understand the value of the Cooperative Program and that we can do more together. Imagine if all of our churches pulled together.
These are my 5 takeaways what would you add?