Traveling across the Southern Baptist Convention over the past year has given me an opportunity to see the hearts of many people.
I have traversed this nation visiting state conventions, colleges, seminaries, associations, and churches. While I cannot claim that I have a window into every heart across the Convention, I have learned a great deal. What are some of the lessons I have learned this past year?
I have learned that people desperately want a choice in leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. I am encouraging all Southern Baptists to pray diligently about the leadership of our Convention in the days ahead. Encourage a number of people to consider running for president and vice presidential slots over the next few years. Pray that people of different ethnic backgrounds might consider being a part of leadership. Pray that the day will come when laypeople will once again feel a calling to be a part of this leadership.
I have also learned that people want to be able to dialogue and discuss important issues. One of the things I stated upon my first election was that there seemed to be a great disconnect between leadership and the people in the pew. I continue to believe this. People want an opportunity to discuss important issues. People want to be heard! Sometimes, these expressions find themselves being manifest through blogs, state convention newspapers, associational newsletters, or simply in hallway conversations in meetings across this land.
I continue to encourage people to debate, dialogue, and discuss important issues, but to remember the words of Ephesians 4:15 which commands us to speak the truth in love.
I am also discovering that there is an amazing number of people of every age who are concerned about our Convention. I have discovered that there are many young pastors who are deeply interested in the work of our Convention. While many of our annual meetings clearly manifest an older group of people, I find that there is still a large number of young pastors and laypeople who truly are interested in the future of our Convention. It may be manifesting itself in differing ways, yet they have a deep heart of concern. This gives me encouragement for the future.
I have encouraged and continue to encourage young leaders, both pastors and laypeople, to be involved. Do not give up on the Cooperative Program! Do not give up on our missions offerings which support such a great work. Please continue to tell people that we can do more together than we can do separately.
I've also learned that there are some angry people out there. I receive communications regularly from people accusing Southern Baptists of all kinds of terrible things. Some of those people are clearly outside the Kingdom of God. However, I receive many letters from people who claim the name of Christ. Personally, I have been accused of being negative on occasion. To such an accusation, I plead guilty. There are times I have been negative. However, I have attempted to manifest a peaceful spirit wherever I have gone. Although I may disagree with people, I will not let points of disagreement break relationships with precious brothers and sisters in Christ. Please pray for me that I will be a bridge builder and an encourager of God's people.
I've also learned that there are people who feel the need to control our Convention. Early on, I stated that I have learned the Southern Baptist Convention does not belong to any one group. It certainly does not belong to me. It belongs to our Lord. I ask people to recognize the need to influence our Convention in a positive, godly way.
Please know, even now, there are people meeting who are trying to develop strategies to effect the direction of our Convention in the future. Am I disturbed by this? The answer to that is an absolute "no." However, I caution all people who seek to influence the future of our Convention to do so in a way that honors the Lord and at the same time hears the deep concerns of God's people.
Yes, I have learned a great deal over these past months.
Compiled from "First Person" columns in Baptist Press.