The Southern Baptist Convention only exists two days a year – when we convene. The Convention is not a denomination but a convening of churches who have the same basic set of beliefs (Baptist) and have chosen to work together to do missions and ministries by creating, governing, and funding agencies. More than 45,000 churches and 15 million people participate in the SBC. These churches collect more than $10 billion annually and give more than $500 million to these agencies. These agencies, including the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention, the International Mission Board (IMB), the North American Mission Board (NAMB), Lifeway Christian Resources, Guidestone, The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission (ERLC), and six separate seminaries, accomplish purposes charged and assigned by the convening messengers. The SBC owns all of these agencies and appoints their trustee boards [technically The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is not owned but has a special relationship with the SBC]. All of these agencies have to report. The SBC has to make governance decisions related to the trustees of these agencies during these two days. A lot is accomplished in a short period of time.
These conventions can be boring. A succession of reports from committees and agency heads can try the most ardent messenger.
This year’s convention does not appear to be in danger of being boring. The convention is buzzing with involvement and vested interest. Robust debate, caucusing, contested elections, chair rulings, business sessions, and controversy will be the reality this year. Much of the buzz is associated with pain coming from some of our troubled agencies. The troubles have accumulated in the last seven months. Moral failures, injustices, resignations, leadership vacancies, proposed resolutions, racial challenges, and unrest have awakened passion across the SBC.
The interest level and sense of ownership among the messengers and churches encourages me. Our people care deeply. We feel responsible and we should. These partnerships matter to us, our churches, and to our Lord. The SBC does make a difference and our churches want our agencies to be effective and well operated. Therefore, we will convene and we will drain every drop out of the two days.
I believe that God will meet with us. Pastor H. B. Charles has arranged an amazing pastor’s conference. Dr. Steve Gaines has prayerfully lined out our convention. May God move to bring us to Himself, revive our love for Jesus, and compel us to fruitfulness. May our discourse and discussions be done in a manner pleasing to the Lord and in good order. May we listen and be heard. May we rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. May our fellowship be strengthened while a watching world wonders what all of this means. May God cleanse us from all unrighteousness, apathy, and ill will.
This could become an hour for us to rise. Brokenness is not the end of God’s work. Brokenness is the beginning. God could make this season of setbacks a set up for His glory and the furtherance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Join me in praying for the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention.