MOUNT VERNON, Ark. (BP) — I became a Southern Baptist by accidental providence. I was an out-of-work youth pastor who went to spy on a large Baptist student ministry that, unknown to me, was praying for an assistant. That was 14 years ago and now I am a Southern Baptist pastor.
I have friends who often ask me what it is like on the inside of a denominational behemoth, as they see it.
My answer: Bavarian nuts and a business meeting.
Yes, you read it right. That is my description.
My church sent me and my wife to the SBC annual meeting in 2006 in Greensboro, N.C. It was our first real taste of broader Southern Baptist life. I was looking forward to the two-day Pastors’ Conference, but to be honest, I was dreading the business portions of the subsequent two-day SBC annual meeting.
As my wife and I headed into the arena with our ballots in hand for the annual meeting, our fortunes changed. We spotted a Bavarian nut stand. You know the pecans or almonds covered in cinnamon, sugar and who knows what else. We could not believe we would be able bring concessions into the meeting. So, we bought a couple of cone packages of nuts and sodas.
As I sat there eating nuts during a business meeting, it clicked — I was glad to be Southern Baptist. I had been to national meetings of other denominations, but that day, in a combination of the enthusiasm of the arena’s large crowd and my snacks, I felt a freshness, a joy and some biblical pride.
So for me the balance of a business meeting and Bavarian nuts helps describe our Southern Baptist Convention.
Like the facts of the business meeting, we stand upon truth. We are uncompromising people of the Book, but even in that we love still love people — we let nuts in (pun intended). In our convention there is a melding of truth and love. Our commitment to the commands of Scripture is joyous but not legalistic.
Like the combination of business and concessions, we don’t depart from Scripture but we are willing to be innovative and creative.
We are conservative but not stale.
We are connected but preserve our own local personalities.
We are willing to be multi-generational.
We stand against sin but love the sinner.
We are committed to both doctrine and missions.
There are many reasons to be proud to be Southern Baptist, one of which, I admit, was when I ate Bavarian nuts at a business meeting.