NASHVILLE (BP) –- The Southern Baptist Convention must stand for religious liberty and recruit congregations to the fold as God builds His church as promised in Matthew 16:18, SBC President Ronnie Floyd told the Executive Committee Monday (Feb. 16) in Nashville.
Unless Southern Baptists stand, Floyd said during his message at the EC’s semi-annual meeting, we will be as guilty as others who sat idle during unspeakable, historical atrocities against humanity.
“Our number one goal that should never ever be compromised is to penetrate and push back the lostness in this world,” he said, referencing reports of violent acts being carried out by ISIS terrorists.
“As followers of Jesus Christ, if we do not choose to stand right now and speak up and challenge our nation’s leaders — challenge our business leaders to stand up, challenge our churches to stand up, challenge our political leaders to stand up, challenge our state leaders to stand up and every person in America to decry this tragedy,” Floyd said, “we are just like those who turned their heads in World War II when six million Jews were being killed, or they turned their heads in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s when African American brothers and sisters and their churches were burned and persecuted and discriminated against all because of the color of their skin.
“Those days were horrible, but prayerfully they’re past, past, past,” he said. “But we cannot turn our heads again.”
Floyd issued four challenges to Southern Baptists, drawing from the excitement of the denomination’s blessings already realized.
— “How can you not be excited that we have one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, Bible studies, research, church music and supplies, and digital services, plus having almost 200 Christian bookstores in 28 states, and where ministry is happening right now in 120 countries of the world?
— “How can you not get excited about knowing that we have an excellent and influential diversified Christian financial services provider, offering retirement, insurance, investment management, property and casualty coverage, and executive planning products and services to the SBC and even the wider evangelical Christian community, as well as coming alongside of pastors and or their widows at times who have very little at all, but offer them dignity to their last breath, loving and caring for them, all because of their service to Jesus and to the churches of America?
— “How can you not be excited about knowing that our gifts from our churches through the Cooperative Program over the first four months that we’re ahead by right at 5 percent above what we gave a year ago?” Floyd asked.
— “How can you not be excited, knowing that both of our missional offerings — both our national offering and our international mission offering — right now is above that [5 percent] compared to last year?” he asked.
He challenged Southern Baptist leaders to fully promote and participate in the 2015 annual meeting and its preliminary activities June 13-17 in Columbus, Ohio; to tell the story of Southern Baptists with conviction and clarity, and to encourage other like-minded congregations to become Southern Baptists.
“I believe strongly that our story is so strong in many ways presently, and our mission is becoming so clear that we are here to reach the world for Jesus Christ,” Floyd said, “I believe there are churches all over America who have an interest in becoming a part of our network of churches called Southern Baptists.
“Perhaps some in our convention or beyond may think we will become smaller in years to come but we will be better. Perhaps so, but none of us really know,” said Floyd, now eight months into his presidency. “What if we begin to reach our goal of planting 1,500 churches annually for the next 10 years — and we can see it [since] we’re going 1,100 this year … and what if we continually help our established churches in revitalization and we turn that death rate down just a little bit?”
Floyd encouraged the committee to remain Kingdom focused, referencing the SBC’s 170 years of service.
“Unquestionably, our singular focus in our establishment must still be our singular focus today, mobilizing all our people from our network of over 50,000 churches and church-type missions to give their lives, their futures and their resources for the purpose of eliciting, combining and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians for the propagation of the Gospel,” he said. “From time to time in our 170-year history, we may have veered away from this path. But I submit to you today that I am committed more than ever before and believe that you join me in this unwavering commitment that we must do all we can with all we are and with all we have to elevate, enlighten and execute this singular focus more now than ever before in our generation. Herein, I stand. And I pray that you will stand with me.”
Prayer, one of Floyd’s priorities, was central to his address. He divided the gathering into groups of four, and led them in concerted prayer for persecuted Christians, President Obama and national leaders, and the Columbus annual meeting.
“Pray for our brothers and sisters globally, as well as those who do not know the Lord, who are facing brutality, abuse and murder; let’s ask God for this to cease, for a miracle to happen, and for leaders in the world [to] take decisive action now,” Floyd said. “Pray right now for the president and the nation’s leaders and the country in its need for God.”
He urged members to encourage God to bless the 2015 annual meeting, “to meet with us powerfully and to ignite us in an unprecedented way to reach the world for Christ.”