Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — A reporter recently asked me a very thought provoking question: If you had two more years as president of the Southern Baptist Convention, what would you do? I was not intimidated by the question; in fact, I have thought about it since the beginning of the year.
Every president in the past and every president in the future must lead the convention in the direction he believes God has put on his heart. Yet, he must also ensure it coincides with what the Lord is doing among the people and is done in the Lord’s timing. Additionally, the president must be more than prepared because the Lord may open unique doors for him during his term.
A personal moment
I have no idea how past presidents felt as they concluded their journey in this leadership responsibility. I am sure the emotions are plentiful. I am often asked, “Won’t you be glad to see this conclude?” I can honestly say that while I am humbled deeply and grateful to God for it, I have loved it all and will miss it.
I entered this year with these emotions and the vision of the needs that are so great before us. Therefore, I want to speak to two of our major needs today.
Because these are such major needs in Southern Baptist life, I have already been addressing them both. Yet, as we draw closer to this journey’s end, I feel the need to continually speak to their importance.
Prioritizing evangelism again
I will speak to some of this in my presidential address at our upcoming Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting. I have already been speaking about this subject in writing and in leadership. A couple of months after being elected in 2014, I began conducting conference calls with large groups of leaders, challenging ministers to lead the way in seeing a change in our present negative trajectory.
Prioritizing evangelism again in our lives and churches is imperative. We need to emphasize personal evangelism as well as church evangelism.
We must hold high the dynamic need of reaching our own town, community, or city for Jesus Christ. We need to recapture the vision that God has taken us into our specific towns or regions to invest our lives until every person hears the Gospel and comes to Christ.
Our pastors and churches must not just be equipped with evangelistic tools, but must adjust their thinking about their region and strategy.
Pastors and church leaders must begin to see their community as lost and in dire need of Jesus Christ. We must know our area demographically. If we are called to reach the people of our communities, we must first know who is there so we can develop a strategy to reach them.
Therefore, we must see each church as being on mission with God to reach their community with the Gospel, and the pastor must see himself as a missional strategist, thinking and mobilizing people on this grand mission. This will take a major transition in our thinking as leaders.
Until personal evangelism and evangelism through the church are our priority, we will continue to see what we have seen — mediocrity. Pastor and church, re-prioritize your life and church for evangelism: sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit with the sole intentionality of leading each person to Christ.
Bring laypeople back into Southern Baptist life
The conservative resurgence would have never happened without laypeople leading and participating. Judge Paul Pressler, a layman, and a tribe like him were side-by-side with our pastors in leading this needed return to the Bible. They were vigilant in the battle, which was so needed. They were only beholden to the Lord they served, the Word of God they loved, the church God used to bring them to Jesus Christ, and the convention they believed God had raised up to reach the world.
While pastors were always in leadership, these strong laypeople were holding up the arms of our leaders, praying and serving admirably and unselfishly. When the resurgence was completed, many of these laypeople eventually ceased coming to our convention.
While this was understandable, today I really believe it is important to our future to re-engage our laypeople. It would take us from where we are to where God wants to see us go. We cannot get there without them.
Being in northwest Arkansas at Cross Church, our region is flooded with the promise and hope of laypeople. As the global headquarters of Walmart, J.B. Hunt, Tyson Foods, and the home of the University of Arkansas, business giants and leaders fill this region. With at least 1,200 to 1,400 national and global companies that have some level of presence here, laypeople are robust in our area. I thank God for the involvement of many laypeople in our fellowship and what they teach me continually.
Southern Baptist laypeople have so much to offer our convention. We need them more than they need us. Thank God for those who are still engaged with our meetings and for those who serve as trustees of our 11 national entities and Executive Committee.
Next year’s convention is in Phoenix, Ariz. Two summers from now, our convention will be in Dallas, Texas. Since thousands of churches are within driving distance of Dallas from surrounding states, if I had two more years to serve as president I would begin promoting this immediately. Unquestionably, I am convicted about it.
I will be handing the gavel to the next leader
When the gavel rings through St. Louis’ America Center at the close of our convention on Wednesday afternoon (June 15), I will no longer be serving as president. It is important for each of us now to pray diligently about the next leader God is raising up to serve.
I am praying with you for the Lord to raise up His next leader for us. I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God and to you for this generous privilege and responsibility extended to me.