EDITOR’S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — When I was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention last year on June 10, I realized I was about to begin a great journey. I had the distinct privilege of following Fred Luter, a great friend, pastor and leader.
I cannot even begin to count the places I have been, the people I have met and conversations I have had about the Southern Baptist Convention. I have enjoyed every minute of serving our Lord and churches over these months. It has been an amazing and blessed journey. Thank you for this privilege.
While the lessons are many, I will focus on three lessons I have learned about the Southern Baptist Convention.
Lesson #1: Change is in the air
While many imagine that our convention never changes, this is just not the case. Churches, associations, state conventions and Southern Baptist entities are changing. Are they all changing? Probably not, but I would say many are changing because they know they must change to stay or become relevant. Some are changing rapidly, but most change is incremental.
Whatever level or pace, there is definitely a spirit of change in our convention. This is tremendous and highly commendable. Just a couple of years ago, resistance to change was probably more embraced than friendliness to change.
Let’s pray for one another to be so open to God’s leadership that we will change as He wills and directs.
Lesson #2: People are desperate
There is a growing desperation because of all that is happening in the world today. We are ever-increasing our belief that we cannot fix ourselves. While this may concern some, it absolutely encourages me greatly.
As people describe this desperation in our churches and nation, they usually follow it with the confession that we need a move of God among us. I could not agree more. God is our only hope.
I have found that God will meet us to the level of our desperation. May He do so again.
Lesson #3: We have a great story
I realize we have issues at times. In fact, the looming issue before us is our lack of growth in reaching, baptizing and discipling new believers.
Simultaneously, we are doing some tremendous things together for the Lord. If we continue on this road, we will see a turnaround in this looming issue I just described.
God is preparing us for a mighty movement among our churches. With a growing spirit of change occurring, a desperation that is rising among us, and so many wonderful things happening now already, I believe God is getting us ready for a mighty movement among us.
Tonight (Feb. 16) when I speak in Nashville to the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and the other leaders of our convention, I will talk about our great story that I believe God is creating among us. Please pray for me.
Meanwhile, I have heard many things about our Southern Baptist Convention over these past eight months, some of which were concerns that cannot be ignored. I want to share three of these concerns with you. I only list these in numerical order for clarity, not by means of any priority.
Concern #1: We must prioritize evangelism again
It is hard to know what it means when people talk about prioritizing evangelism, but this is what I do know: We do not need to blame our lack of evangelism in our churches on our associations, our state conventions or the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Evangelism will only be prioritized again when it becomes prioritized by each of us personally and our churches collectively. Listen carefully: We must own the Great Commission personally. Until this occurs, our evangelism will continue to limp along.
I realize that the associations, state conventions and entities of our convention can raise the standard as leaders in evangelism. We need them to do this and help all of our churches reach our communities more effectively. Yet, please know, it is not about they and us; it should be about we.
Concern #2: Our Cooperative Program
While some may think our Cooperative Program is becoming irrelevant, I just do not see it. As we look toward the 90th anniversary of the Cooperative Program this year, unquestionably we need to evaluate it continually.
But here are the facts: We are 5 percent above in giving through the Cooperative Program through the first four months of our fiscal year compared to last year. Be encouraged! Another reality is our offerings for international missions and North American missions are showing growth over a year ago. Be encouraged!
Our gifts through the Cooperative Program are still funding the missions and ministries of our Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, it needs to improve, and I am committed to seeing this done. I am doing all I can to address not just the Cooperative Program, but the entire financial future of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s pray and work together toward increasing our financial support of what God is doing and wants to do through our Southern Baptist Convention.
Concern #3: Our established churches need to be revitalized
We are a convention with many more established churches than new churches. I am very grateful that as we raise the flag for church planting, we are also raising the flag for the great need for many of our established churches to be revitalized. Personally, I think if a church is over five years old, it is an established church and will inevitably deal with the challenges of reinventing itself and renewing its commitment to its missional vision.
We must pray for a generation who will not just desire to plant new Gospel churches nationally and internationally, but also a generation of leaders who will lead our established churches as pastors.
The lessons and concerns are real.
We need to rise up as leaders and churches, learn from each other, and work through our concerns together. Our future individually, in our churches and our convention will depend on our willingness to change and take action to address these needs strategically and aggressively.