NASHVILLE (BP) – Before we come together for our 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville, I want to share a few thoughts on the present state of the Convention.
This is not an easy task and time
Serving our churches across the nation and world daily, I do all I can to lead us as a Convention with consistent biblical leadership focused on advancing the Gospel and fulfilling our Great Commission work together.
For more than 32 years, I pastored one of our Southern Baptist churches that was a loving, unified fellowship of believers, committed to reaching its region, our nation and the world. When God called me here two years ago, I knew I faced an enormous challenge; but in all reality, I find that this task is difficult each day.
I remain astounded by what others perceive us to be and the direction some believe we are going. Please know that I will not fabricate a narrative, but I will be honest. As we come to Nashville for the first time in two years for an annual convention, we need to come with great expectation that God will meet with us, that God will lead us to face our challenges with objectivity and hope, and God will empower us to rally around our shared mission in a Christ-honoring manner.
Therefore, today, I would like to share with you four matters.
- Our Convention is facing unprecedented challenges.
We are a large and diverse network of churches located across the entire United States. Coming out of a global pandemic, our personal lives and churches have been affected in every conceivable manner. All of this is converging with an ongoing godless culture that saturates our lives and operates in a way that conflicts with our Bible-based, Christ-centered worldview as Southern Baptists.
The global pandemic has revealed that environments and mindsets are different depending on where you are located geographically. Therefore, an unhealthy collision is occurring.
When a diverse national organization like ours is constantly saturated with this godless culture, the challenges are immense. Some even appear to be insurmountable.
In this unhealthy culture, we are called on by our Lord to love one another and to advance His Good News to the whole world. The question this generation of Southern Baptists must answer is: Will we do this?
- Our Convention is struggling through this season.
With these unprecedented challenges piled upon us during this season, our Convention is struggling. Some predict we will decline our way into irrelevance, while others say we will destroy one another.
Some of our churches question their trust in us because of statements made or persuasions shared in news accounts or conduct on social media. Some of these things may be true, but we must also recognize some is rhetoric, and perhaps some of it misrepresents the situation. Regardless, we need to operate always with the highest level of integrity and with the highest skill possible.
Baptist associations, state conventions and national entities are accountable to the churches. These Baptist bodies should be representing our churches.
The Southern Baptist Convention is much better when pastors and laypersons are involved in every segment of Convention life. We need to work diligently and continually to build trusting relationships.
I pray our pastors and laypersons will clearly understand that our Baptist Faith and Message is still our confessional statement. Nothing has changed. This is who we are and what we stand upon as we move forward in our cooperative efforts. Additionally, we are still very committed to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and to make disciples of all the nations.
- Our Convention is doing many great things together.
Even in this pandemic year, our churches, working cooperatively, still:
- Sent 422 missionaries through our International Mission Board, planted 18,000 new congregations, and had no less than 144,000 professions of faith in Jesus Christ from people outside the United States.
- Planted 588 congregations across North America.
- Equipped more than 24,000 God-called servants through our six seminaries.
- Baptized more than 123,000 people when our churches were shut down for months beginning March 2020. Once things began to open, ministry was limited due to COVID-19 protocols – there were little to no events for children, teenagers and others, which can be great experiences of harvest evangelism. This baptism figure comes from only 69 percent of our churches reporting. Additionally, the professions of faith exceeded the numbers we have recorded, as significant numbers of people participated online.
- Gave $683 million through our Cooperative Program, our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, and our Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions.
- Gave more than $11.5 billion for their church’s work regionally, statewide, nationally, and globally.
Imagine what else God has done!
While we are facing unprecedented challenges, and at times struggle through this season of Convention life, God is still doing great things through our churches and the work we do together.
- Our Convention is pressing forward with a unified Great Commission vision.
At the time of this article’s release, we have 12,542 preregistered messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting on June 15-16 in Nashville. Since the year 2000, we have only had four conventions with at least 10,000 messengers. This year appears to be above all of these, if indeed the people come. This could be one of our largest gatherings since 1995 in Atlanta, when we had 20,654 messengers.
On Tuesday afternoon, June 15, at 2:30 p.m., we will unveil our unified Great Commission vision that will carry us through the year 2025. We believe deeply this vision is what our churches care about and will greatly represent their heart. We will request the Southern Baptist family support this vision in every way. We will also begin a major initiative in prayer across our entire Convention inside our nation and beyond.
When we get our eyes back on sending missionaries, planting churches, mobilizing people and reaching the next generation, we will not have the time nor the desire to chase after every whim or debate one another over every detail before a world that needs Jesus.
Southern Baptists, please hear me clearly: Nothing is more important than reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation.
To this vision, we give our lives.
Now is the time to lead.