In June 2011, I stood in the Phoenix convention center to deliver my first report as president and chief encouragement officer of the SBC Executive Committee. At that time, I introduced an “Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation” pledge that was signed by all eleven SBC entity leaders, the executive director of WMU, the SBC president, forty-one state convention executives, more than a dozen ethnic fellowship leaders, and me (see page 19).
The document had five core points, with the heart of it a pledge to “walk in unity as brothers and sisters in Christ.” These precious men and women gathered behind me on the platform in a visible display of that unity and cooperation, asking all Southern Baptists to lay aside the self-centeredness that mirrors our own culture and adopt a spirit of Christlike selflessness.
As I prepare to stand before the Convention on the one hundredth anniversary of the Executive Committee, I am more convinced than ever that if we hope to make an impact on the vast lostness across our nation and around the world, we must continually reclaim the principle of respect in our dealings with others.
I have often said that the twin ditches of anger and arrogance run along every mile of the road of cooperation and pose constant danger. This is something I must watch constantly in my own life, and I believe it is a danger for all of us. We must continue to seek for a Christlike gracefulness in our dealings with one another.
Satan delights when he is able to divide and conquer. On the other hand, our Lord is honored when His prayer for us is fulfilled: May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me (John 17:21).
I am burdened by the fact that many people outside the faith constantly point toward the fighting within Christian groups, and among Baptist groups particularly. As I have said many times, we are too often known for what we are against rather than what we are for. I am convinced that we must work together in such a way that more people are won to faith in Christ.
Our overriding passion must be to see men and women, boys and girls won to faith in Christ. An ill, cranky, and distracted person can do some good things; but imagine how effective that same person will be if he or she is blessed with vibrant health, manifests a harmonious manner, and radiates spiritual wholeness! If we are to maximize our effectiveness as Christ followers, that’s who we must be spiritually.
As Southern Baptists again gather in Phoenix for the SBC annual meeting, I truly believe that if we continually reclaim the principles of respect, honesty, trust, and Christlike selflessness in our dealings with one another, our brightest days of Kingdom advance are still before us. Cooperative ministry can occur only where there is Christlike selflessness.
To that end, I call on our Southern Baptist family to join me in praying for the health, harmony, and wholeness of our Southern Baptist Convention.
Imagine the impact if ten thousand Southern Baptist pastors added this small phrase to their weekly pastoral prayer at their churches.
Imagine the ripple effect if hundreds of thousands of godly laymen and women added this phrase to their small group prayer gatherings and penned these words in their personal prayer journals.
What an impact these twenty-four words would make: “Dear Father, for the benefit of your Kingdom’s work on earth, we ask you to bind Southern Baptists together with health, harmony, and wholeness.”
Perhaps the cumulative impact of spiritual health, harmony, and wholeness is what the Apostle Paul had in mind when the Spirit of God prompted him to write these words—Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. And may your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).