I have been a Southern Baptist for most of my life and for all of my ministry. While I was “brought” into the SBC by my family at a young age, I have chosen to remain for many reasons. Not the least of which I enumerated here.
Unlike many of my peers, I’ve never been a “young” pastor at odds with my convention. I affirm our theology, acknowledge our diversity, and appreciate our missiology. Having attended the Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this past week in New Orleans, I was reminded of five reasons I’m grateful for the SBC.
1. The election of Fred Luter
The biggest news to come out of New Orleans this week was the historic election of Fred Luter as the first African-American president of the SBC. I was humbled and grateful to be a part of it. While I’m not naive enough to believe that all of our racial problems disappear with the election of Fred Luter, I do believe it sends a powerful signal – regardless of what our convention once was, we are no longer that. I pray that we have turned to a new page in our history that represents a new emphasis in unity, multi-ethnicity, and diversity.
2. The approval of the descriptor, Great Commission Baptists
While I recognize that this is a point of contention for many, I believe this is a very positive decision for the SBC. Here’s why: it goes a long way to tell church planters, missionaries, pastors, and ministry leaders in frontier areas that we understand their needs and we have their back. While it may not be a problem to be Southern Baptist where I pastor in Georgia. It could be a problem for someone in the northeast or the west. Why not give them an option that has the support of our convention.
3. The friendly discussion about Calvinism or Non-Calvinism
And I emphasize the word friendly. While we have Southern Baptists from all sorts different theological places, what I observed was a friendly discussion about the issues. Yes, it is critically important to discuss the finer points of theology. I believe it is necessary and helpful. But it is not helpful to be critical, divisive, dismissive, or condescending. From where I sat, it looked to me like we had a nice family discussion about some important issues.
4. The emphasis on reaching the nations for Christ
The theme of this year’s annual meeting was, Jesus: to the neighborhood and the nations. This was more than just a theme. It was the heartbeat and pulse of this convention. I saw it with my own eyes at the NAMB luncheon and the IMB report. Heard it from preachers at the Pastors Conference. And talked about it with my friends over lunch. Another reason I’m grateful for the SBC – no matter the minor theological differences, we can unite behind the common theme of missions and evangelism.
5. The friendships forged and strengthened
I love pastors. I mean it – I’m not exaggerating to sound compassionate or relational. I really love pastors. And I love spending time with pastors. Not only do I get to see some old friends. I get to meet new friends as well. And as an added bonus I get to rub shoulders with some heroes of the faith.
So there it is. I’m not an angry “young” pastor. I’m not “restless” or “reformed.” I don’t have an axe to grind. I don’t have a point to make. I’m simply grateful to be a part of the greatest denomination on the face of the earth. All for Jesus and for His glory.