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What if?

MOBILE, Ala. (BP)–Historians sometimes use a mental tool called a counterfactual, best understood by the simple question “What if?” A counterfactual can clarify actual events in history when applied to subsequent events.

For example, we discover that an unseasonal fog set in on the Hudson River, allowing General George Washington to escape the massive British Navy and Army at Brooklyn Heights and thus preventing the death of the birth of our nation. Counterfactuals shed light on the often forgotten elements of history and reveal in greater clarity God’s divine providence. I am amazed how history often hinges on seemingly insignificant events that prove to turn the tide. God often shows up in the fog and provides a way of escape in perilous times.

The Southern Baptist Convention stands at a seminal moment in our history. The idea of using a counterfactual in reverse, to help us think more clearly and see more plainly our place in history and God’s divine intervention, captured my imagination. The theme of this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference (June 21-22 in Louisville) is a counterfactual question, “What if?” The biblical foundation for this meeting is found in Philippians 2:2:

“Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”

How can the future be changed if we as believers really seek to have one mind, one love, one spirit and one purpose? This question, properly answered, can and must change the course of the way we cooperate. I hear and read a lot of things that concern me about our current situation, but I am confident that these “realities” are but opportunities if we will meet the Lord together in Louisville.

What if we came together to do more than our business? What if we met to seek the Lord? What if we met to get things right with Him? What if we met to be made right with one another? What if we came together and allowed His heart for the nations to consume us to the degree that our differences faded into the backdrop of a great continuum, a God-woven tapestry begun in the book of Acts? What if we as Southern Baptists met and refused to allow God’s work among us to become irrelevant to our generation? What if?

I am praying and believing that this Southern Baptist Convention will be different, in the sense that we will see a genuine move of God and our hearts will be refreshed, renewed and strengthened for these great days we are living. Will you join me in prayer to this end? Will you refuse to allow cynicism to rule your heart and believe that God has an infinite capacity to surprise our plans and that He moves in such moments in the lives of His people? Will you ask the Lord if it is His will for you to be at this year’s Pastors’ Conference and ask Him to make a way if there seems to be no way?

One thing is clear in the study of history: There are moments that few expected to be so significant — yet wars, nations and great movements hinged on these moments. What if this year’s Southern Baptist Convention would be one of those historical moments that finds us standing in awe of God, as He moves providentially to fulfill His purpose?
Ed Litton is president of the 2009 SBC Pastors’ Conference and pastor of First Baptist North Mobile in Saraland, Ala.

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  • Ed Litton