More than 8,000 Southern Baptist messengers met in Birmingham a few weeks ago for our annual meeting, and I had the privilege to be there. It is a privilege to be a Southern Baptist, but with that privilege comes the responsibility to participate. The SBC is only as strong as its cooperating churches. So, I went. In fact, this was my fifth convention. I’ve been to Baltimore (2014), St. Louis (2016), Phoenix (2017), Dallas (2018), and now in 2019, Birmingham.
Why do I go? I realize that many pastors are not able to attend. I think about all of my bi-vocational brothers that are not able to take time off from their secular vocation. I think about all of my church planting brothers that are struggling to make ends meet, and don’t want to spend their support money traveling across the country to a big business meeting. I don’t blame those brothers one bit. They trust those of us who are able to go though, those of us whose churches fund our travel. They trust we will take seriously our responsibility to not only attend, but to participate, to pay attention, to be in the room when votes take place, to stay for the duration of all the reports and the votes. And yet, of the 8,183 registered messengers the hall looked nearly empty when the resolutions were presented, debated, and voted on. I know, it was the end of the convention, we were tired and hungry, ready to get on the road headed back home, but it’s why we traveled all the way to Birmingham. I have a responsibility to participate as I am able to, and when my congregation sends me as a messenger, I have an obligation to take it seriously and engage in the business. If I don’t participate, I am hardly better than the church member that doesn’t engage in the business of his church.
What makes me proud? There were a few moments that were emotionally overwhelming for me this year. The best moment every year is always the IMB commissioning service. We commissioned 26 missionaries to nations all across planet earth. We see our Cooperative Program dollars at work. We see our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering taking feet and carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth. I stand there for nearly 45 minutes watching, listening, praying, singing, and crying. My heart wells up and feels as though it is going to explode with in my chest. I am so incredibly proud to be associated with a group of Christians that will pull our money together to send the gospel around the world.
The second moment that got me choked up this year was unexpected. The NAMB Send Lunch is always a highlight. After all of the fun and games, Kevin Ezell, the NAMB president, introduced the packed room to a bi-vocational pastor in Birmingham, and his wife. A short documentary style video introduced us to their two adult, special-needs children. The video did a great job proving just how difficult this couple’s life is, but also how faithful they are to serve the Lord and his church. Ezell then played a silly game with this pastor and his wife, and then.... Well, you should just watch it here...
It is moments like these: sending the gospel to the nations with 26 missionaries and loving a faithful, struggling bi-vocational pastor family - this is why I’m so proud to be a Southern Baptist. Sure, the votes don’t always turn out the way I want them to, but at least I voted, and we are still keeping the main thing the main thing.
Finally, I would encourage you to watch the ERLC panel dealing with the evils of sex abuse. With the recent reports from the Houston Chronicle, this was a big topic of discussion this year, and important decisions were made so that the we can collectively confront this issue. The ERLC did a great job shining light on such atrocious sin. Hearing from survivors of sex abuse was both informative and inspiring. It is well worth watching.
If you are a Southern Baptist and have never attended one of our annual business meetings, let me encourage you to make the effort to go, especially if you are pastoring a an SBC church. Plan your VBS for a different week and go. Be involved. Engage. Give. Go. Pray. Send. Vote. Teach your church what the CP is and the great things we can accomplish through CP giving.
Listen to SBC This Week for a good recap of most of the convention.
Next year we are going to Orlando; and for locals here in NC, we will be meeting in Charlotte in 2023. Plan to attend these meetings with me!