EDITOR’S NOTE: Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — The size and complexity of the Southern Baptist Convention often makes it the recipient of unfair criticism. I believe there are reasons why you can be hopeful about our convention today and for the future.
This does not mean there are not issues to be addressed. As SBC president, I am privileged to be involved in matters across our convention. Yes, some things need attention and change. But today, I want to focus on four reasons why you can be hopeful about the SBC:
1. Our conversation today is about fulfilling the Great Commission more effectively.
For the past five to six years, our conversation as a convention has become focused on the right thing: Presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
Our convention is focused on this grand effort and is working at both the state and national levels on how we can best assist our churches in their God-assigned task of reaching the world for Jesus Christ.
This conversation in the past has, at times, been sidelined by the wrong things, leading to divisiveness and disunity, resulting in a lack of trust. Some of where we are in our statistics today is a result of the years where non-essentials became highlighted and negativity became fashionable.
But be encouraged! We have seen the focus turn toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, and we are continuing in that direction.
2. Our convictions today are setting us apart from many others.
Due to our two-decade-long and needed battle over what we believe about Holy Scripture, our Southern Baptist Convention today is not warring over the cultural issues that are dividing so many denominations. Why? Because we believe the Bible is the Word of God, and we believe it together.
While many denominations are signaling to the culture an uncertainty about many of these issues and even warring internally about them, we stand with clarity and unity. Thank God for our pastors and churches that are faithful to Scripture and courageous in their convictions. Because this is where our churches are, our Southern Baptist leaders can stand emboldened in this challenging hour.
3. Our convention today is becoming younger in age and more ethnically diverse.
If you were present in Columbus, Ohio, at our 2015 convention, you saw how much younger we are and how much more diverse we are becoming ethnically. This should encourage each of us greatly.
What is happening nationally in our convention will occur eventually in your state convention. Perhaps it is happening already. It needs to occur in our churches. The future depends upon it.
Fifty-eight percent of the new churches we planted in North America last year were non-Anglo churches. Prayerfully, this will continue to increase. With our focus on church planting nationally and internationally, we will see a younger and more diverse audience increase.
4. Our recent experiences are leading us to a growing hope.
Since being elected SBC president, I have tried to call us to extraordinary prayer for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America. The most recent convention in Columbus exemplified this in many ways, where thousands joined us in prayer during the Tuesday night session for the next Great Awakening and to Reach the World for Christ. In fact, I believe the entire convention, along with the ministries, meetings and conferences that preceded it were highly positive and hopeful experiences.
Then, as 13,000 of us gathered this past week in Nashville focusing on living our lives on mission with God, it was evident that God is working. What we saw and experienced in our SEND Conference in Nashville is the coming Southern Baptist Convention where the arena is filled with enthusiasm and life, abounding in young adults and ethnic diversity.
Therefore, be encouraged. If you missed the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention, watch this recap video here. If you missed the SEND North America Conference this week in Nashville, you can watch the recap here. Each have their distinct purpose, but this is what we are doing together. Be encouraged.
Not blind to reality
Dear friends, though I am increasingly hopeful about our present and our future, my eyes are not blind to reality. While I believe so passionately in our hope for the future, I am just as burdened by:
— Descent in evangelism and baptisms
— Lack of contagious and sacrificial giving in funding our mission to reach the world for Christ
— Minimization of the need for extraordinary prayer and the power of God
These begin in the local churches that comprise the Southern Baptist Convention. Somehow, some way, we need to prioritize these matters more than ever before in our churches and the result will be a robust explosion in our churches in reaching the world for Christ together.
Now is the time to lead.