NASHVILLE (BP) – Willie McLaurin called the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to servanthood and allegiance to the lordship of Jesus Christ in his first address as interim president and CEO at the body’s Feb. 21-22 meeting in Nashville.
“We are called to serve well. We are called to steward well. We are called to submit to the lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ,” McLaurin said in the Feb. 21 plenary, drawing resounding applause and standing ovations. “When we engage and develop people, when we rise above our limitations, when we value relationships and results, and when we endeavor to leave a legacy, we serve.”
McLaurin referenced Psalm 90:12 in numbering his days, noting his 783rd day serving the SBC EC, and his 21st day as interim president and CEO.
“Each of us have a predetermined number of days to invest in being stewards of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee,” he said. “We must ask the question tonight: ‘What legacy will we leave?’”
McLaurin specified a “core four” service area in his interim post, pledging to guide the day-to-day EC operations on behalf of the SBC, to lead the EC to be mission-focused, to work diligently in improving relationships and to personally focus on servant leadership.
“I will lead with HEART,” McLaurin said, presenting an acronym based on hungering for wisdom, expecting the best, accepting responsibility, responding with courage and thinking of others first. “Simply put, my job description is to ‘wash the feet of those that serve the bride of Christ.’”
He pledged to see and shape the future, to engage and develop others including the culture and the local church, to rise above limitations, to value relationships and results and to endeavor to leave a legacy.
EC officers, with chairman and California pastor Rolland Slade at the helm, appointed McLaurin Feb. 1 as the interim CEO to serve in the post vacated in October 2021 by former Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd. The EC ratified McLaurin’s selection and compensation package at the Feb. 21 plenary.
As interim EC president and CEO, McLaurin promised to undergird all decisions in prayer and godly and wise counsel; to create an atmosphere of collaborative partnerships, cooperation and generosity and to build trust by demonstrating concern.
McLaurin pointed to the Great Commission in encouraging the EC to engage the culture with the Gospel, specifically pointing out the need to engage with compassion survivors of sexual abuse and victims of discrimination based on ethnicity.
“May this world know on this day that the Southern Baptist Convention stands against all forms of sexual abuse, and may this world know that this convention of churches stands against all ethnic discrimination,” he said. “We not only have a watching world, but we have a God in Heaven who is watching us. Jesus teaches us in John 13:35, ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. And by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, that you have love one for another.’”
He exhorted the EC to engage the local church, which he described as the headquarters of the SBC, and uplifted pastors.
“When our pastors and their families are served well, they can serve their congregation and community well. We must engage every church regardless of the congregation size or budget. We must engage existing churches and new church plants,” McLaurin said. “We must engage churches in the South and those in the non-South regions. Why? We must remember that Jesus said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my church and the very gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’”
McLaurin referenced the sin and repentance of the biblical King David in exhorting the EC to rise above its limitations in the midst of a challenging season. As David repented, he still suffered sin’s consequences.
“As we await the release of the Sexual Abuse Task Force report, may we be reminded tonight that God only blesses those that have clean hands and pure hearts,” McLaurin said. “During this season of uncertainty, we know that our God is certain. Yes, we find ourselves in a storm; however, we must remember that just as Jesus was with the disciples in the storm on the sea of Galilee, He is with us. He’s with our sexual abuse survivors. He’s with those who have been victims of racial discrimination. The only person who can provide peace is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
He recognized Black History Month in further exhorting the EC to rise above limitations, relying on the example set by the late Rosa Parks who went beyond designated boundaries and refused, as a Black woman, to give up her seat to accommodate white passengers.
In Parks’ autobiography, “My Story,” she said she was not too tired to relinquish her seat, but “was simply tired of giving in.”
“We must not give up,” McLaurin told fellow Southern Baptists. “We must not give in.”
He exhorted Southern Baptists to “pray for one another, and not prey on one another,” pointing out Slade’s special prayer gathering at the start of the two-day gathering.
McLaurin thanked Southern Baptists for having given $20 billion to the Cooperative Program of giving that has fueled Southern Baptist work since 1925.
“I am delighted to report that at the end of the first four months of our CP budget year, gifts received are above 12 percent over budget and 9.89 percent more than last year’s budget contribution,” McLaurin said. “Our great God has provided exceedingly, abundantly and above. We have much to celebrate.”
McLaurin is the first African American to serve in the post, and is serving as Slade, the first African American EC chairman, completes his term in June. McLaurin has served since 2020 as EC vice president for Great Commission relations and mobilization.