This year’s SB Convention has come and gone without nearly as much fanfare and controversy as I expected. I am now back home, settled in, preparing for ministry in my home-church, and reflecting on many things that I walked away with from this year’s SBC. I make the following observations, and please remember…these are merely my personal opinions:
First off, the best thing about this year’s convention for me was the time spent with my wife. She is my best friend and my greatest companion. She is also a source of great strength and spiritual wisdom for me. She also makes me look really good. I wish more men would go to the convention with their wives rather than forming or joining with some “entourage.” I really think the time alone with our wives in a spiritual setting would be a great thing for more of us. The entire trip home (from Indy to SE KY to pick up our kids) was spent with my wife and I doing some SERIOUS spiritual reflection. We discussed many things about ministry and our personal spiritual lives; thoughts that were provoked by happenings and observations made at the convention. We honestly discussed our individual and corporate failures as people and as a family. Many tears were shed and we prepared ourselves for much spiritual change when we got back home. We have begun a journal chronicling the things from which we need to repent as well as documenting the things that we need to change in our lives and our home. We recognized pride, cynical attitudes, unforgiveness, compromise and a lack of passionate family-worship as some things that need to change. We are working together to take our relationship, family, and personal spiritual-lives to new heights. Pray for us.
Second, although Dr. Hunt was not the candidate I backed personally, I do believe that he will be a great leader and unifier for the SBC over the next 2 years. I believe him to be a man of God more concerned about the future of Kingdom-work than he is his own reputation or building his own private kingdom. He is passionately committed to bringing along the younger generation and I believe that he will invest much of his energy to that noble end. Though he personally disagrees with (my) reformed theology, I do not believe he will make it his agenda to root-out the Calvinists. On a personal note, after the elections on Tuesday night, I was walking from the convention hall to the exhibits when I noticed some friends and stopped to converse for a moment. There, wandering around the halls, without an entourage or any “handlers” was Dr. Hunt, all by himself. He drifted right up to our group of young seminarians/ green-pastors and warmly introduced himself to each one of us and joined in the conversation. Prior to this encounter, I had made a cynical comment to a friend about the presidential election being a “popularity contest.” After meeting Dr. Hunt, the Lord convicted me about this comment, and I later confessed it and repented of such a hard heart and quick-tongue. I had no reason for offering such a foolish comment except that I didn’t get my way, but Dr. Hunt’s kindness and presence totally disarmed me and forced me to re-evaluate God’s choice of leadership. Dr. Hunt, if you ever read this (which I seriously doubt), I want you to know that I apologize for saying such stupid things and will pray for you regularly as our leader. I have hope that you will continue to advance our convention toward unity and a true “great-commission resurgence.”
Speaking of which, I totally agree with the language of Drs. Lawless, Dockery, Akin and others concerning a “great-commission resurgence.” It is the only hope for our future as a convention and pray that others will get a hold of this idea and make it their driving ambition for the future of SBC life. It’s time for the petty politics and division to end and for us to instead focus on doing the work of the Kingdom. We agree on enough to separate us from the vast majority of the world today, now let us take what we agree upon and get busy making disciples.
I was very encouraged by the membership resolution, and pray that we will genuinely seek to regain this very important principal in our churches. Thanks Tom Ascol, for your work and persistence in urging us to “repentance.”
Also, there was some very good preaching this year that was void of the pride and arrogance of our past. It is high-time that we as SBs stop telling the world what we are against, and start telling them what we are FOR. Also, it was nice to feel that we were being called, convention-wide to repentance and brokenness. Maybe this should be next year’s theme again. I still say that MacDonald brought an amazing sermon and I loved his urging us to repent right there in the convention hall. Not being a good Southern Baptist, I guess that James didn’t know that he wasn’t supposed to do that during a pastor’s conference! But he just gave an invitation to repentance right there. I pray that there were many besides myself who were literally on their faces before God doing business about their own lives and ministries.
I’m excited about NAMB’s “GPS” initiative. Anything to stimulate personal evangelism is needed in our convention.
The IMB is absolutely the most amazing missionary organization in the world. I literally wept through almost the entire presentation Wednesday evening. I love Jerry Rankin. And I love our missionaries. They are truly great men and women of God.
I appreciated the Executive-committee’s much deserved attention to the problem of sexual-predators. I applaud them for their efforts thus far and pray that we will continue to work together to develop databases and networks (top-down) for dealing with this evil. For once, the world will sit-up and applaud our efforts instead of dogging on us for avoiding this defining issue.
In my estimation, there is still far too much “politicking” that goes on at these events. Most messengers spend the majority of their time going in and out for the “important” votes. Literally thousands of msgrs left almost immediately after the presidential vote, and I am told that MANY simply left and went home after the vote. Sad indeed. We need the worship and sermons to bring us together spiritually, but still, many simply ignore this aspect of the meeting.
Attendance was embarrassingly low. I know…I’ve heard all the arguments about gas-prices, location, flooding, etc… but if we keep on at this rate, there will be almost no representation from our 42,000+ churches at future conventions. As an example of how paltry attendance was, in the 2nd VP run-off election on Wednesday morning, only 807 votes were cast! That’s right…807 votes to elect an officer of the “largest Protestant denomination in North America.” 807 votes out of 7,300 (approx) messengers. Last year, there were only 8,600 in San Antonio (for the guy who kept insisting to me that there were “over 10,000, I’m sure,” in SA, all I can say is… I told you there weren’t!). I pray that this trend would reverse. I also hope and pray that there will be increased initiative to allow online voting and participation in the convention. I’ll venture to guess that that would increase our messengers by at least 500-1000 messengers per year.
The Gaither Vocal Band is great…but what the heck was with that first song, “Somewhere between Jesus and John Wayne”? I could literally hear the laughter and groans from many theologically-minded pastors ready for serious repentance and brokenness as they listened to this song. Didn’t match the tone of the conference and though I love GVB, whoever selected that song should be whipped with a wet noodle.
1. Motion presented to prevent entity-heads from serving as president of SBC. I don’t know about how I feel about this one. I need some time to think about it. But I do predict it will be discarded. I believe it has been offered before and failed.
2. Motion to unseat any messengers from female-led churches. Are there seriously any left? Why not leave the 2 of them alone, they’ll quit attending soon enough. This is just the kind of fodder that the secular press loves. They’ll print a headline “SBC Rejects Churches Led by Females,” as if no-one knew where we stood on this one. But it just seems unnecessary to me.
3. Motion to reconsider the SBC’s relationship to the BWA. I hope this one gets attention. While we need to consider how strongly we support the BWA and any organization, I think it was a mistake to cut off all ties to the BWA, which, to the world, just makes us look like we are further attempting to isolate ourselves from the world. At least remaining in fellowship gave us a voice to cry out for change in the BWA.
4. The motion to ban the HCSB was just hysterical.
5. Ben Cole’s motion for standardized reporting from the seminaries. I hope this one gets attention too. It is literally too difficult to decipher these reports from the seminaries. Although I suspect that Ben’s interest is in just what the real numbers for SWBTS really are and why that seminary seems to get the fattest allotment of CP dollars each year (from what I read), I would still like to see reports that I can understand.
6. Barrett Lampp’s motion limiting entity-trustees to seven years of service. Another motion that I would like to see implemented or at least brought to the convention floor. We need wider representation and a stop to the practice of appointing the same people over and over again to trustee posts. Those days need to pass and we need wider representation. Frank Page began the process with this year’s appointments and I hope the trend continues, resulting eventually in such a guideline limiting nepotism in the appointing process.
7. Finally, I loved the two motions to attempted to save us poor-students and pastors money, but knew they would both end up on the scrap-heap. One motion asked for seminaries to charge the same for online classes as on-campus sections, something I would have loved when still an MDiv student. The other called on the Pastor’s Conference to provide sermons at a reduced cost. But alas, both were pitched, and they should have been under parliamentary procedures, but it didn’t hurt to dream for a while!
That’s about all I want to say about this year’s SBC. Overall, I think it was a great convention that will lead to greater days for the SBC. I went with a positive spirit and left with one. I saw lots of friends and met many new ones. I met some “bloggers” and conversed with some folks I previously knew by reputation only. One of the greatest things for me personally though, was the fact that I actually attempted to have a better spirit towards others this year. I admit that I haven’t always been very positive at these meetings and often my snipping and cynicism have made me less than positive to be around. As stated in an earlier post, I am working hard to repent of such attitudes. This year, I actually smiled and talked to people I might have previously avoided. I conversed with many people that I might have normally criticized. And I actually attempted to build bridges with many whom I knew I had differences with.
And you know what? …It didn’t hurt at all. In fact, I think it made me a better man in the end. I might just try to stick with this new attitude. I am learning that building bridges is far more productive than burning them, or blowing them up.