Another Southern Baptist Convention is behind us. Most of us have made our way back to our homes and are starting to engage in regular life. Hopefully, we are all returning encouraged and challenged to take greater steps forward for the sake of Christ’s kingdom. I pray that all of us have greater hearts for prayer and evangelism. And I bet most of us are still processing all that happened at the SBC.
As you reflect on your time at the convention, or you weren’t able to make it to the convention, I’d like to share a few reasons why I’m grateful to God after this year’s SBC.
1.I’m grateful the SBC condemned the racist Alt-Right movement – Although the resolution condemning the racist Alt-Right movement didn’t initially make it to the floor for a vote, I’m grateful that it passed unanimously when it did. Racism is evil and everyone should know that Southern Baptists believe that, regardless of where it appears.
2. I’m grateful for the humility I saw around the convention – President Steve Gaines interacted with folks at the convention microphones who were sometimes “less than kind” to him in ways that took great humility. I heard Pastor J.D. Greear and Dr. Al Mohler and the other B21 panelists talk about the great struggles they have had as they’ve pursued God’s call for unity and diversity in their contexts. And I think about the Resolution Committee’s leader, Barrett Duke’s apology to the convention. We’ve all messed up, but rarely do we own it like Duke did. We still have a long way to go as a convention, but God’s grace was evident in these ways.
3. I’m grateful for the candid conversation that happened at the B21 panel – One of the joys of the pastor led nature of B21 is that no topics are “off limits.” Whether it’s Calvinism, political engagement, race, SBC presidential politics, or something else, Southern Baptists have significant differences that we need to candidly and charitably talk about. That’s why we think it’s worth volunteering a great amount of time and energy to put on the B21 panel. That’s why we are grateful for the courage and candor offered by our diverse panel made up entity presidents, pastors, and, for the first time, a state exec!
4. I’m grateful for the commissioning of our IMB missionaries – There are a lot of great moments at the SBC, but none surpasses the commissioning of our IMB missionaries. I was moved to tears as I saw these families, some of which had to keep their identities hidden because it could compromise their future mission, committing to take the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world. There is no greater reason for all of our cooperation. I wish we could move this time to Tuesday afternoon. It should be the convention’s centerpiece.
5. I’m grateful for our gospel-centered, mission-focused entities – The SBC entities are so consistently faithful that it’s easy to take that faithfulness for granted. But if you look around “Christianity” you’ll learn quickly that faithfulness to the Scriptures is the exception, not the rule. Whether it is our six seminaries, the ERLC, NAMB, IMB, Lifeway, and Guidestone, God has blessed the SBC with incredible entities and incredible leaders. My heart overflows with gratitude for all that God has done, is doing, and will do through their efforts.
6. I’m grateful for all of the time with friends – One of the sweetest things about making the trip to the SBC each year has to be the time hanging out with friends. There’s nothing like face-to-face time with friends. You hear what they’re up to, where they’re headed, and all the rest. There’s a lot of laughter, some tears, and a lot to be thankful for. I never come away from the SBC without renewing old friendships and making some new ones.
7. I’m grateful for the diverse streams that make up the SBC – When you look around the SBC, you quickly learn that it has old people, young people, rich people, poor people, cool people, not so cool people, well dressed and barely dressed. By God’s grace, we are also seeing a bit more ethnic diversity, although we have a long way to go. Not only do we all look differently, we all think differently about “what’s best for the SBC,” how ministry should be done, and more. We won’t all agree on everything, ever. Sure, it brings some tensions. But by God’s grace we’ll be better for it.
8. I’m grateful that I didn’t hear many “straw men” misrepresentations this year – One of the hindrances to our cooperative mission is the tendency to misrepresent the positions of those with whom we disagree. The attractiveness of this temptation is easy enough to see. If you misrepresent the “other side” it helps strengthen your side. Thankfully, I didn’t hear the typical falsehoods, “Calvinists don’t believe in evangelism” or “Non-Calvinists don’t care about theology.” Whether more Calvinists and Non-Calvinists are evangelizing together, talking theology together, or just learning how to love one another like Jesus commanded, I’m grateful for greater fairness from all sides representing the “other” side.
There were more moments for which I’m grateful, but these stood out to me. What would you add?