Jack Graham is pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
DALLAS (BP) — This week we welcome the Southern Baptist Convention to Dallas, marking the 161st gathering of the convention. Prestonwood is a Southern Baptist Church, which means we cooperate with more than 47,000 churches in supporting the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, GuideStone Financial Resources, LifeWay Christian Resources, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and six seminaries, which includes Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth. The SBC is the largest protestant denomination in the United States with more than 15 million members.
The doctrinal foundation for Southern Baptist churches is the Baptist Faith and Message, a clear statement of biblical faith. We are a conservative body of believers built upon the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.
Missions and evangelism are the primary reasons we unite as churches, and they provide the momentum for cooperation. The SBC meets annually to discuss Kingdom business and advance our work and witness nationally and globally. At the heart, the SBC is a local church movement. Churches of all sizes join hearts and hands to proclaim the Gospel to the nations. There is no institutional hierarchy as in many denominations, and the local church is the missional core of the convention. Each local church is autonomous and cooperates voluntarily without interference from any denominational entity.
This year we will elect a new president and resolve to renew our commitment to the Great Commission and speak to the spiritual and cultural issues of our times. We will pray together and ask God to pour out His power upon us. The Southern Baptist Convention gathers to scatter. It is a time of fellowship among co-laborers who then go back to our church fields to proclaim the message of Jesus and serve our communities.
I have been a Southern Baptist my entire life. I was baptized as a child in the First Baptist Church of Conway, Ark., and God called me to preach at the Sagamore Hill Baptist Church in Fort Worth. I was educated at two Baptist institutions, Hardin-Simmons University and Southwestern Seminary. It has been my privilege to pastor Southern Baptist churches for more than 40 years. Of course, the joy of my life has been to pastor Prestonwood for 29 of those years. I am so thankful for the opportunities Southern Baptists have given me and our church to serve and witness.
This year I will bring a message to the Pastors’ Conference on Monday (June 11). Please join me in praying for current SBC President Steve Gaines, pastor of Memphis-area Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., as he presides over the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s celebrate together the mission of our churches as we fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission until He comes!