I Heart Southern Baptists
Stephanie and I will travel to Nashville this weekend for the Southern Baptist Convention. It is always a sweet time of reunion with “extended family” who serve faithfully in places around the globe. We will spend time with pastor and missionary friends that we don’t often have the luxury of time with.
Inevitably, you’ll hear news reports flow from the media about fussing, feuding, and fighting. There will be accusations about wokeness and liberalism, about power grabs and politics… about doctrinal disputes and dogma.
Any and every disagreement will be painted as evidence of a fractured and broken foundation that point to the sure ruination of the convention.
BUT NOT SO FAST… Don’t believe all the hype.
It’s almost as if the media world is waiting and watching for a fight as if they were at turn three of a Nascar track hoping to see a crash. Why? Because conflict breeds curiosity and bickering is good for business. Those are the stories that sell.
What you probably won’t hear out of this convention is report of the powerful prayer gatherings and the highlights of how God has used faithful pastors and churches to meet mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs through the pandemic.
At the SBC Annual meeting, we will hear first-hand reports of how orphan care ministries have touched lives globally. We will learn of how faithful Southern Baptists are providing care by feeding the hungry and providing clean water, building community infrastructure & improving quality of life. Baptists are building and staffing hospitals and orphanages, planting churches, training and equipping people, and loving the lost!
Most significantly... You probably won't hear widespread report of how Southern Baptists are sharing the Greatest News ever spoken - Jesus Saves!
Why won't that be reported? Because that is a message that the enemy doesn't want getting out! He'd rather that we are known by what we are against, than what we stand for.
I wish so desperately that the world would see the unity and love that believers have as they focus on God's glorious mission. My hope is that we will display to the world the beauty and majesty and love of Jesus.
My experience with SBC life has been incredible! I know Southern Baptists to be deeply devoted to the Bible and passionately committed to missions. It has been my faith family that has walked with me in times of grief, pain, and struggle. It is my Baptist brothers and sisters who have encouraged me and they are the ones who celebrated with me in times of joy!
It was the ministry of South 28th Avenue Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where I experienced the love of God through faithful and dedicated Sunday School teachers and pastors.
I attended children’s camps and youth retreats there. It was formative. It was there that I sensed God. There, a faithful Southern Baptist Pastor, Gibbie McMillan, shared the Gospel with me. Another Godly Pastor, Ryan Whitley, invested in me through personal discipleship and helped shape my thinking and my ministry!
It was an education through the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that prepared me to preach, to teach, to disciple, to pastor, to nuture, to counsel, and a myriad of other skills that are necessary to shepherd broken people.
So many people that I encounter have stories tied to the impact of a Southern Baptist Church. Friends and neighbors tell how the church of their childhood made a lasting impression, or how their church was a lifeline after an event such as Hurricane Katrina, the death of a loved one, or some other crisis event.
I thank God for Southern Baptists!I love our SBC! I am a Southern Baptist by birth, by conviction, and by choice. Rank and file Baptists are largely unconcerned about convention politics and differences. They are quietly and faithfully loving their neighbors, leading their families, and following the Lord. They are showing up in the wake of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. They are putting on Vacation Bible Schools, teaching English and a second language, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and holding out HOPE!
So Scott, are you saying that we should not bother with contending for truth? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I am not saying that at all...
YES, doctrine matters! And that may very well be one of the most encouraging facets of the SBC... We are a people who have faithfully made the Word of God central. It is our Baptist Faith & Message that clearly defines the distinctive boundaries of what matters! Yet, sadly I fear, that our message will be drowned out by our methods.
So, be warned… you’ll likely hear reports of all manner of division, disdain, and disorder reported from the convention...but don't be too hasty in a rush to judgment.
Oh, there will be disagreement and some things will be stirred up... In fact, I am praying that it will be stirred up…but not by the messengers - rather by the hand of our Sovereign God! You see, I am praying that we experience an awakening in Nashville next week - a spiritual awakening. And I am praying that it begins in my own repentant heart.