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FIRST-PERSON: Too much is at stake

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (BP) — It’s a great day to be a Southern Baptist! We are the largest Protestant denomination in America on mission to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. We have six of the greatest seminaries in the world. We are experiencing a church planting movement that is nothing less than amazing. We have the missions funding mechanism in place that is the envy of other denominations. We have a doctrinal statement that allows us to be narrow enough to hold fast to Scripture, yet broad enough for us to work together to change the world. How can you not be excited about the SBC in these days?

Yes, we have our challenges. All organizations of our size have obstacles to overcome — we even more so since spiritual warfare is involved. However, we must remember that God has placed us here together for such a time as this.

There has been a significant amount of discussion regarding the upcoming SBC annual meeting in June. Some of this discussion has been helpful and healthy; some has not. Discussing the issues at hand in our annual meeting is not a bad thing. In fact, having these conversations is evidence that Southern Baptist pastors and leaders genuinely care about our cooperative work and are committed to our future together.

As we move toward the SBC meeting in Dallas, may I suggest we keep a few things in mind for the sake of unity?

1) We are not the enemies.

It is easy and natural in an SBC presidential election year to pick or choose a candidate who best aligns with your preferences. This is expected and is why we have the opportunity to vote. However, it is not healthy to tear down brothers in Christ to make a point. We must remember in expressing differing opinions or preferences that we are not each other’s enemy. We have an enemy that not only wants to destroy us, but takes joy when he doesn’t have to work at it because we are destroying each other. May we remember that our mission is not self-destruction, but Kingdom advancement. We only do this when we are focused on the task and realize we are in this together.

2) We must be burdened for the mission.

Do you remember the time when God called you to serve Him in ministry? What a powerful and joyful moment we get to experience as ministers of the Gospel. I can still remember the exact place I was when I began to feel that call. We must keep in mind that God called us to serve His Kingdom, not ours. We must find ourselves more concerned with the work of the ministry than with the ever-passing issues of an annual meeting. I am not implying the SBC annual meeting lacks significance. It is absolutely essential. However, we must remember we are not politicians. We are preachers. We must be burdened for our communities, cities, nation and world. We must keep in perspective that God has called us to advance His Kingdom, and the best way we can do that is together. Can we really expect God to bless our convention if we are more bothered by the issues we will face in Dallas than we are burdened for the mission for which He has called us? We must not spend more time on articles, blogs, emails and voter guides about an election that will be over in a few weeks, than we do leading the people we have been entrusted with to live on mission for Christ. I implore us to come to Dallas so burdened for a move of the Holy Spirit that all these other things will fade into the distance.

3) The time for unity is now.

We are at a crucial time in Southern Baptist life. Two of our entities are seeking leaders. We can’t afford to be divided into factions over secondary issues. Too much is at stake. I humbly call on all of us to realign our hearts and minds to that of our Lord Jesus. We are privileged to be a part of a body that gives us ballots to vote. This is what we should do and move forward together. We need God’s man, whoever that may be, but we need him through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, not manipulative efforts on any side. Friends, we need a move of God among us. We cannot expect such a move of God if we are not emptied of ourselves. Let’s come together in unity in Dallas, burdened together for a spiritual awakening.

We are living in exciting times. We have the honor of being part of such a great denomination. However, it is time to lay down our arrows and seek the face of God together. There are millions whose eternities hang in the balance of us being united in the mission and task that God has created for us. Will you join me in praying for a move of God among us? Will you join me in relentlessly loving each other and moving forward together on mission? I believe that greatest days for the SBC are ahead. My prayer is that we will move forward and experience it together.