BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — “What do you see,” Ronnie Floyd asked, “for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?”
Floyd, the new president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, asked the question Tuesday morning (June 11) to 7,500 messengers at the SBC annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala., and to an extended audience watching online.
In his first convention message in leading the EC, Floyd said he refuses “to accept doom, gloom and despair. I refuse to believe that division, strife and disengagement is the will of God.”
Rather, God wants to set Southern Baptists “on a course with a future that He has for us,” Floyd said, noting, “One of our greatest needs is to create a new culture within our convention family” — one that is “healthy, life-giving and Christ-honoring in every way, the kind of culture that will help us flourish and be fruitful … [in] our work cooperatively to reach the world for Jesus Christ.”
Floyd drew from several Old Testament passages with the question, “What do you see?” in setting forth a vision in which Southern Baptists are:
— “Living and breathing with Gospel urgency.”
— “Empowering all churches, all generations, all ethnicities, all languages.”
— “Telling and celebrating what God is doing.”
— “Loving others like Jesus loves.”
— “Prioritizing, elevating and accelerating generosity.”
In his times of prayer prior to being elected to the EC’s leadership at an April 2 meeting in Dallas, Floyd said he had to ask himself if he really believed what he had been preaching over the years.
Revelation 3:8 kept coming to mind: “Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can close …” along with this conviction: “Whatever the cost, whatever the risk, this worldwide mission thrust must be our priority.”
Repeating a resolve he has voiced since becoming the EC’s president/CEO, Floyd said: “It will be to this end — the end of reaching the world — that I will give my life, 100 percent of my life, from before daylight until exhaustion, until Jesus comes or until He calls me home.”
Living and breathing with Gospel urgency
“We must become a convention that believes again that people need Jesus — and people need Jesus now,” Floyd said.
Jesus Christ is “the only way to God and there is no salvation apart from Christ alone,” Floyd said. “I believe people who have Christ in their lives go to heaven when they die and I believe people who do not have Christ in their lives when they die enter into a Christ-less eternity in a place called hell, all because they lived rejecting or ignoring Jesus Christ as the only Savior of their sins.
“When we are living and breathing Gospel urgency we will no longer have to bemoan annual baptism numbers,” Floyd said, “but we will begin celebrating growth and advancement like we have not seen in years. It is time for Southern Baptists to come home: We need to come home to evangelism. This is who we are and what we’re about.”
Floyd underscored the “Who’s Your One?” convention-wide evangelism initiative of SBC President J.D. Greear, describing it as “a genuine relational strategy that any Christian and any church can do.”
“As a convention, we’ve played it safe long enough,” Floyd said. “We move in slow motion in a real-time world. We hope things will get better, but hope is not a strategy.”
Empowering all churches, all generations, all ethnicities, all languages
“The greatest diversity movement in the history of the world is the church of Jesus Christ,” Floyd stated.
Southern Baptists will be strengthened, he said, by “a clear vision of becoming the most multigenerational, multiethnic and multilingual denomination in the United States, committed to presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in the world and making disciples of all the nations.”
Currently, he noted, more than 22 percent of Southern Baptist congregations are predominantly ethnic minority and multilingual; 62 percent of church plants last year were non-Anglo or multiethnic; and the Gospel is preached in 100-plus languages in any given week.
At this year’s SBC annual meeting, he added, closed captioning has been provided in 21 languages, including Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Japanese and Vietnamese.
The SBC is not simply about small churches or large churches, Floyd also said. “We are here to empower all churches. Let’s stop letting the segmentation and categories of man divide us as a convention. The Southern Baptist Convention … does not exist to govern our churches, but to serve and assist our churches in their mission with God.”
Telling and celebrating what God is doing
“God is doing some amazing things through our Southern Baptist missions and ministries,” Floyd said. “When we are telling and celebrating what Jesus is doing among us, it builds faith and belief in what God can do — that He can do anything, anywhere, at any time, with anyone.”
The SBC will mark its 175th anniversary in 2020, Floyd noted, voicing a prayer “that we will once again come together as one, prioritizing like never before all we do as a convention to reach the world for Jesus Christ.”
Loving others like Jesus loves
Citing Jesus’ command to love one another in John 13:34, Floyd stated: “Not one of us can run away from those words of Jesus, nor can we even debate those powerful words” that call His followers to “immediate accountability in our public demeanor, in our private behavior as well as our social media posts.”
Floyd said he is concerned at times over the culture within the Southern Baptist Convention. “We talk at each other and about each other, more than to each other. Oftentimes, our own culture is toxic,” he said. “We talk on top of our own good stories. If someone has a problem with what we do, they talk to others about us rather than to us.
“Is this what Jesus would do? … Do we really think we’re exempt from the words of Jesus as Southern Baptists to love one another?”
Southern Baptists must be known “for our love, not anger; trust, not distrust; unity, not division,” Floyd said. “We need a culture that is humble and honest and forgiving and servant-oriented in our leadership.”
Floyd said love is at the core of the initiative to amend the SBC constitution to specify the sins of sexual abuse and racism as cause for disfellowshipping a church and to repurpose the convention’s Credentials Committee to address instances brought to its attention.
These actions, he said, are “declarative statements and pronouncements that will be etched clearly and definitively into our historic governing documents.”
“The same heavenly Father who made you and me,” Floyd said, “has created every other person in the world — every family, every language, every ethnicity, every child, every teenager, every person at every age and stage in life — in His own image, for His purposes and glory. And He calls us — indeed He compels us — to treat them with the same glory, honor, dignity and respect with which He Himself has crowned them.”
Regarding the sin of sexual abuse, Floyd continued, “As a convention and in this very moment, we do lament any abuse that has ever existed in our churches or ministries, and we pledge to devote ourselves to aggressively promote, encourage and provide the safest of environments for all children and the vulnerable who attend our churches and are part of our ministries.”
Floyd then voiced a prayer for sexual abuse victims: “Our Father, our hearts are broken over any report of sexual abuse in our churches or ministries as Southern Baptists and followers of Jesus Christ. In humility and reverence of You, we come to You, God, seeking Your wisdom. Oh God, we pray for persons who have been abused. May You, God, heal each of them in every way. Lord Jesus, give all of us today the leadership of the Holy Spirit in these days, empowering us to come together as one, determining to leave here to protect children and resource our churches in every way possible so that every life, every church, every classroom and every ministry will be safe in every way not only for children but also for the vulnerable. And we pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
Prioritizing, elevating and accelerating generosity
“Money and generosity will always follow a clear and compelling vision, especially the vision of reaching the world for Christ,” Floyd said, underscoring the need to “communicate to our churches the importance of reaching their state, reaching our nation and reaching our world with the Gospel.”
“It is your churc’s generosity through the Cooperative Program that fuels what we do as Southern Baptists…. To the level of our generosity, our vision to reach the world for Christ will flourish.”
Through the Cooperative Program, Floyd said, “Mission is our vision, not money. Taking the Gospel to each state, across our nation and reaching the ethnicities of the world — this is what we do as Southern Baptists.
“Each church has been appointed and anointed to take the Gospel to the entire world, but together we can cooperate as a network of Southern Baptist churches and truly do even more for Jesus Christ,” Floyd said.
Southern Baptists must band together, he said, because: “We need more full-time missionaries all across the United States and into the entire world. We need to see greater church planting in our nation and across the entire world to where it’s a phenomenon that occurs to the glory of God. We need to advance the Gospel across the university campuses and college campuses of our nation. We need to do all we can to prepare and equip more God-called Christian men and women into the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We need to understand that the partnerships with our churches, our state conventions and national entities to take the Gospel across every state and the nation and world is what the Cooperative Program is all about.”