NASHVILLE (BP) – Willie McLaurin encouraged the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee to pray, plan and push forward in Kingdom work in his president’s report to the body Monday night (Feb. 20).
“Brothers and sisters, our time is short. The Lord Jesus Christ will come back any moment, and we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and hope something will happen,” said McLaurin, who is completing his first year as interim Executive Committee president and CEO. “We must be willing to push forward with prayer and a plan. Listen to me, it’s not the most elaborate game plans that win the game in life, it’s the plays that you execute every day that win the game.”
McLaurin drew from Nehemiah, pointing out that Nehemiah prayed frequently, devised a work plan and pushed forward to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall.
“Nehemiah reminds us that if prayer is not the foundation, the foundation will fall apart. Jesus teaches us that sincere, secret and simple prayers honor God,” McLaurin said. “Nehemiah gives us a fresh reminder that our task is to be in constant communication with God. When you don’t know how to talk about a topic, you should be able to pray about it.”
Nehemiah didn’t just ask for permission to do the work, but created a detailed plan worthy of consideration, McLaurin noted.
“The lesson of Nehemiah reminds us that we can accomplish so much more when we align ourselves with the will and the plan of God,” he said. “Nehemiah and the people cooperated to do the impossible because they were willing to cooperate with the God that specializes in taking the impossible and making it possible.
“Brothers and sisters … now is the time for us to recommit to praying, planning and pushing forward so that the Gospel can be spread to the neighborhoods and the nations.”
The Great Commission, Cooperative Program giving and Great Commission-aligned ministries have progressed in a year McLaurin described as a “tipping point.”
“The year started with much uncertainty,” he said. “Yet, with a resurgence of prayer and a renewed focus of the Great Commission, we were able to avoid mission drift.”
McLaurin thanked the 26 diverse EC staff members including the Great Commission Relations and Mobilization team, the accounting team, the communications team and the convention planning team for continuing work and accomplishments.
“Our team has placed a laser-sharp focus on serving our Great Commission partners so they can focus on reaching their harvest fields,” McLaurin said. “In the past few months, the Executive Committee has made bricks out of straw to ensure that Cooperative Program dollars are distributed according to the budget approved by our messengers at our SBC annual meeting.”
Cooperative Program giving was the largest in 14 years, he said, surpassing $200 million and exceeding the CP budget by $10 million. He noted historic giving through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering and many state mission offerings.
“I am thankful for the sacrificial and faithful giving from local churches that made this possible. In a season where pennies have to be pinched and spending is strategic, we experienced only what God can do,” McLaurin said. “We continue the daily task of leading in the fiscal, fiduciary and executive responsibilities. Every decision is undergirded in prayer and informed by Godly and wise counsel.”
He expressed excitement at the 2023 SBC Annual Meeting set for New Orleans in June, which was moved from North Carolina to accommodate growing projected attendance.
McLaurin pointed to progress across the SBC that the EC worked cooperatively in helping Southern Baptists achieve.
The EC partnered with the Abuse Response Implementation Task Force in making sure that the Sexual Abuse Hotline remained active, giving abuse survivors a “safe place to call where they will receive care.”
He pointed to the 3,500 International Mission Board missionaries taking the Gospel globally, and the North American Mission Board Send Network planting churches across the U.S.
As the SBC approaches its 100th anniversary in 2025, McLaurin said the SBC can praise God as the largest evangelical network in the nation, can count $20 billion in giving through the Cooperative Program over its 97-year history, and celebrate its distinction as the most racially and ethnically diverse group of churches in the U.S. Specifically, the SBC has more than 11,320 ethnically and racially diverse congregations mobilized at every area of Southern Baptist life.
“God is at work,” he said. “What God is doing is bigger than all of us.”
McLaurin celebrated SBC diversity in leadership that wielded the first African American state convention president in North Carolina and the first African American state executive director at the Baptist General Convention of Virginia. McLaurin himself is the first African American to head an SBC entity.
“I am thankful for our entity leaders, state convention executive directors and association leaders,” McLaurin said. “These strategic relationships have provided mutual encouragement and accountability. The relationships with our 32 ethnic fellowships continue to amaze me.
“All of these relationships have contributed toward that renewed sense of trust in the SBC Executive Committee,” he said. “May we continue to build on these trusted relationships so we can witness to a lost world.”