The 2014 Southern Baptist Convention

sbc14logoartFor two days in Baltimore this past week (June 10–11), 5,294 Southern Baptists (plus guests and children) met to spur one another on in the Lord and discuss business pertaining to the Southern Baptist Convention. (See this earlier post for more information on the SBC).

Representing our church, Wendy and I had the joy of hearing what God is doing all over the world among Southern Baptists. Let me share a few of these things with you.

The Resolutions

In total, messengers adopted nine resolutions ranging from payday lending to church revitalization to the celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Resolutions are statements adopted by the convention that speak with biblical conviction about beliefs that Southern Baptists share in common.

The most important resolution, and the one you are likely to hear misrepresented in the media concerns transgender identity. Denny Burk, along with Andrew Walker, made a proposal that Southern Baptists should treat with compassion those who adopted transgender identity, but that in no way should we permit or condone such behavior. Since transgender acceptance has reached a tipping point in our culture, according to Time magazine’s recent cover story, it is worth your time to read the resolution. Although, this resolution has received secular condemnation, it is a vital statement about the gospel and God’s good design for humanity as male and female. 

The Reports

The most encouraging aspect of this year’s convention were the reports, especially those of the IMB, NAMB, and the ERLC. First, Tom Elliff, the outgoing president of the International Mission Board, reported on the effect IMB missionaries are having overseas. In particular, the story of God’s work in Cuba was most powerful. After decades of opposition in that nation, the church is flourishing in Cuba. Pray for them.

A similar report came from the North American Mission Board, where Kevin Ezell introduced the work of a French-speaking church in Montreal, Quebec. In a totally secular culture, this church has grown to nearly one thousand people. Such reports remind us of how our God is at work, and that our cooperative program, Lottie Moon, and Annie Armstrong giving supplies aid to these missionaries and local pastors. This report also introduce a new “tract” created by Jimmy Scroggins that helps connect broken people to the healing and saving power of the gospel. It is called 3 Circles and can be found on line, accessed by mobile app, or drawn on a napkin. Check it out!

The ERLC took time to honor the Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, and Saeed Abedini, prisoner for the gospel in Iran. Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, was present at the convention. Russell Moore commended these families, and encouraged messengers to learn from their example. A time of dedicated prayer was made on their behalf.  As religious liberty continues to be a focal point of discussion in our culture, the ERLC is going to have an increasingly important role in the convention and beyond. I am thankful to be a part of a new ERLC research institute that has recruited upwards of sixty fellows and will be coming online in the next few months!

Each seminary also reported. Midwestern in Kansas City has seen new life since Jason Allen became president two years ago. Golden Gate in California has moved locations (within the state) to equip more students. And Southwestern reported on the evangelistic aims of permitting a Muslim student into their doctoral program. Overall, the trend in Christian education continues to move towards the Internet. We need to pray that schools have great wisdom for training the next generation of pastors, missionaries, and leaders. We also need to pray for Christian colleges that are beginning to face inquisitions from the Department of Education on matters like transgender accommodations.

The Sermons

Each convention has two sermons, one from the convention president and one from an elected preacher. It was a special treat for me to hear my former pastor, John Meador, in the second sermon. He called pastors to lead the charge in evangelism and make a plan for reaching out to the lost. He called for less bickering about Calvinism and more intentionality about reaching the lost. In a powerful illustration, he called Southern Baptists to “Grab a hoe!” and “Pick a row!” Let’s get busy with reaching the lost.

The first sermon, given by SBC President Fred Luter, called Southern Baptists to pray for revival. His message stirred the messengers, but it also agitated some not attending. Sadly, Andy Stanley, an influential pastor with SBC ties, criticized Southern Baptists for such a call to prayer. In a handful of tweets, he said, “Praying for revival equates to blaming God for the condition of your local church,” and about Johnny Hunt’s church, “Your church is a great church because it’s led well, not because your folks are praying & waiting for revival.” A number of SBC pastors responded, including David Prince, whose comments remind us that we need not pit prayer for revival against leadership skills.

Opposition to the SBC is nothing new. Often online jabs and picketing lines come with the SBC, but it is a shame when it comes from those who should be our allies. Pastor Stanley’s response is exactly the reason why we must give ourselves to prayer for revival. Is it any wonder why the church lacks power, when pastors mock prayer?

The New President

Fortunately, for Southern Baptists, our new president has given himself intently to prayer. In a three-way vote, Ronnie Floyd was elected over Jared Moore (last years second vice president of the SBC) and Dr. Dennis Kim (pastor of a Korean church in Silver Spring, Maryland). Floyd is the pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. Since being nominated for president in 2006, and losing to Frank Page, Floyd has led a number of initiatives in the SBC, most importantly spearheading the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force and more recently leading a Call to Pray initiative among SBC pastors.

More personally, it was a touching gesture at the SBC, when my family and I bumped into him rushing to a meeting. Despite his lateness to the meeting, he took time to meet my boys, ask their names, and wish them well at the convention. Let us pray for Pastor Floyd as he gives leadership to our convention for the next year (or two).

The Best of the Rest

So much more could be added to the list of highlights. You can find more information about the whole convention here, the state of Southern Baptist seminaries here, and general tone of the convention here.

On the whole, the SBC was a great two days. Much was accomplished for the cause of Christ, and this messenger left Baltimore more thankful to be a Southern Baptist. I am excited about how God will continue to work through our denomination. I urge you to continue to pray for the churches of the SBC.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss