Ronnie Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.
SPRINGDALE, Ark. (BP) — Unity demands we accept one another in love. Unity requires work — hard work. Unity is an act of humility.
In a convention of over 51,000 churches and congregations, eleven national entities and our Executive Committee, forty-two state conventions, and more than 1,000 associations, unity does not happen without intentionality.
A brief look back
As a young pastor in seminary, I remember some of the beginning days of the conservative resurgence. These were very difficult and tumultuous times. When the movement was declared successful, most were hopeful we could enter into more peaceful days together as a convention.
Unknown to us then, we were entering one of our most challenging seasons as a convention of churches.
A present reality
Southern Baptists are no longer in a battle for the Bible, but in a battle with one another. The very soul of our convention is at stake.
Almost two years ago when I became president, I was determined I would do all I could to bring us together. I have given myself to this task, not just in words, but also in deed. I have gathered groups from all sizes of congregations, groups of church leaders and convention leaders, state leaders and national leaders, and members from different ethnicities and generations. Yet, we find ourselves in a continual struggle to come together in unity. Why?
Unquestionably, we are affected by the culture we live in today.
Narcissism and independence infects us just like it does others and challenges our paradigm of working together. Transition within our national entities and state conventions is occurring, and adjusting to change can be uncomfortable.
If this was not enough, America is in an election for the office of president of the United States. Way beyond the normal, opinions on the election are not just felt, but are being expressed publicly and demonstratively.
Each of these things, and so much more I could share, challenge the very soul of our unity together.
5 intentional actions for unity
The amazing thing through this season is we are still seeing so many wonderful things occurring. Yet, the threats relating to our unity are undeniable. If the enemy cannot destroy us from the outside, he will attack us from the inside.
I want to challenge each of us to take five intentional actions relating to unity within our convention:
1. Accept one another in love
None of us is alike. The Divine imprint upon us causes us to be unique. Unity is not uniformity, but intentionality. Unity will not happen without accepting one another in love.
God wants us to accept one another in love. We need to love people like Jesus does: willfully, sacrificially and unconditionally. None of this is possible without personal humility, gentleness of spirit, and patience with one another.
Accepting one another is holding on to each other, enduring our differences, and bearing up under the relationship to seeing it through and sustained for the glory of God. This takes the discipline of intentionality.
The next time you are challenged to love a brother or sister in Christ, ask God at that very moment, Lord, give me the power to love them willfully, sacrificially and unconditionally.
2. Work toward unity
We need to earnestly and promptly take the needed actions to guard our unity. This may require each of us to take action — conduct a phone call or visit, write a genuine email, letter, or text to someone or a group of people. Unity is work!
Refuse disunity within our ranks! There is nothing biblical or godly relating to creating disunity.
In this social media world, we need to cease writing or saying things that can be misunderstood easily. We need to understand that one day we will answer to God for every blog, article, tweet and conversation we have with one another.
Romans 14:12-13, “So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore, let us no longer criticize one another. Instead decide never to put a stumbling block or pitfall in your brother’s way.”
We need to denounce the personal temptation to be motivated by the praise of others, their comments and retweets rather than being motivated to live holy, because one day we will answer to God Himself. Yes, unity is work. Work takes discipline. Every day.
3. Be humble before God and others
A runaway, unaccountable church lay leader, pastor, or a leader in our convention poses a major threat to unity among us. Humility is not just a description we should have, but the prescription for us to become what God wants us to be as Christians and Southern Baptists.
A lowliness of mind about ourselves is hard to find in a world where we think more about ourselves than we should. Remember these words: A person who is not humble before others is a person who is not humble before God.
Humility before God demands He is first every day of our lives. Humility before God is a voluntary and willing action, surrendering to Him even in seasons of prayer and fasting periodically. Personally, I am convinced more than ever before, church leaders and convention leaders need to spend time praying and fasting.
4. Pray for unity
The walls come down between people and groups when we pray for and work together toward unity. Prayer crosses over the perceived barriers of ethnicity, race and generations, bringing down the walls that divide us.
Regardless of your political party or personal feelings, we need to navigate through these turbulent times together. Regardless of what you think about someone, a certain entity, or who should become the next president, it is incumbent on us to pray for and work together toward unity.
5. Come to St. Louis in the spirit of unity
I have said this over and over again across this nation: I am bringing people together so we will start talking to each other and praying for each other rather than talking about each other. The Southern Baptist Convention is your family. We are family.
On June 14-15, our family will reunite in St. Louis. It may not be convenient for you to attend, but we need you there. Our family is meeting.
For the sake of unity, come to St. Louis. Nothing brings us together more than when we gather, pray together, and leave on mission together.