To be writing this article is truly an overwhelming feeling. As I have said previously, the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention is not something I ever sought or ever believed to be possible. However, God directed this entire scenario in an incredible fashion. I also stated my belief that my election would simply not occur. Today, I confess that my belief was totally shortsighted. I believe that my election as president of the Southern Baptist Convention did not belong to any one subset of leaders of people. This Convention belongs to the Lord!
As a baby boomer (in relationship to generations), I confess that I, like many of my generation, am not institutionally loyal by nature. I am loyal by choice. We, as a generation, tend to judge institutions by their value and lack thereof. Therefore, I have often wondered if a denomination like the Southern Baptist Convention is going to have a great future. Are we rearranging deck chairs on a denominational Titanic? Are we trying to put new wine into old wineskins? These thoughts have come to my mind many times. Perhaps you've thought them as well.
To become an effective 21st-century entity, we must selflessly consider our vision, our current effectiveness, and our willingness to take bold and possibly unpopular moves. We recognize we are in trouble:
• Churches need help transforming. Most of our churches are plateaued or declining.
• Cooperation must be encouraged. Various factions and groups have splintered and have become static and arbitrary.
• Wide-ranging involvement must be sought. Many people throughout the Southern Baptist Convention believe that there is no place for them in leadership or even involvement. We must correct this errant thinking.
• We must encourage honest debate about many issues. The election of June 13 demonstrates that God's people in the Southern Baptist Convention are tired of an inability to dialogue. They want to be able to debate issues and to have a truly democratic process.
In order to see these things happen, I believe that we must give Him the glory! Ephesians 3:20-21 says, Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think — according to the power that works in you — to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
This powerful passage should set the direction for our Convention. We must affirm His power, His ability, and His heart's desire. He is able to do all the things we mentioned above. Far too long we have sought to receive the credit for doing some of the good work listed above. We must remember that it is His power and His alone! We must confirm that His power is at work in many places across our land. We must never seek to take credit for it. We must recognize that He wants glory and that He wants this glory to come from every generation.
I believe we can see victory! It will not happen when we take credit from the Lord. It will not happen when we depend upon our own resources, programs, and ministries. It will happen only when we seek the reviving hand of God. It will happen when we give up our selfish methodologies and join together in a cooperative spirit to teach all generations that the glory belongs to the Lord. Let us reaffirm our commitment to the Cooperative Program which helps fund the precious ministries that God gave to our forefathers and wishes to see strengthened through this generation. Let us give Him the glory!
God's Cause, God's Vision
Since June 13, I have been trying to learn what it means to be the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. I have tried to use this as an opportunity to bring glory to God. As I have indicated, Ephesians 3:20-21 should be a scriptural reminder that we are to be giving Him all the glory! I believe that great days are ahead for the Southern Baptist Convention if we learn that scriptural lesson. I believe God can do great things through His people called Southern Baptists.
How can God receive glory through our work? I believe that we do best that which we do together. In Psalm 78:4 the Psalmist says, We must not hide them [things we have heard and known] from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the Lord.
There is a serious shift toward individualism which is unraveling many institutions across our land. Is this happening to the Southern Baptist Convention? Bureaucracy and institutionalism are not popular with those of my generation. However, what we see as positive is a cause or a vision! We must do a better job of proclaiming that the work to which we are called is not bureaucratic or institutional. It is a cause from the Lord, a vision from God!
Most of us will not give allegiance to an unresponsive bureaucracy. We want to see where resources are making a difference. I will challenge all denominational entities to do a much better job of showing our people the cause, the vision! This is God's work, and we must seek His direction and give Him the glory for every good thing that happens.
What is God's work? What is His vision, His cause?
It is to see Philippians 2:10-11 come to pass. There the Scripture says, At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth — and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We know that will someday happen. Wouldn't it be wonderful if God's cause and God's vision occurred on this earth? Let us remember the call of our previous president, Bobby Welch, to be more involved in the task of soul winning than ever before. Pray that God would put more and more people in your path with whom you can share the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ. Please remember when God does give opportunity to win them to Christ, He receives all the glory!