Continued Cooperation


I am in Orlando early. I decided I needed to get here early in case anyone called for another Disney boycott.

This is an important week in SBC life. We have some issues to face and some things to consider. And, by the time we are done next week, I hope we will unite and move forward together. Let me share a few hopes I have for Orlando.

First, I hope we will see younger pastors engaged at a higher level. Many also are aware of younger pastors outwardly wondering what is so great about the SBC. I hope that more will see the value of our convention partnership. Though the convention has struggled mightily in past years in knowing how to keep younger pastors and leaders involved, there has been an intentional effort recently. It is my hope that the younger generation will allow the convention to prove itself a worthwhile endeavor.

Second, I hope we will value our confessional identity. That’s one of the reasons that we have a convention–to cooperate around a set of shared beliefs. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is a sufficient doctrinal guide as our confessional statement. With a confessional statement in order, we no longer need to argue and harangue over the important issues of the faith; those are settled for us as a family of churches. I am hoping we will model that this convention.

Third, I hope we leave more focused on God’s global mission. The SBC is not simply about good theology. Part of what I love about being a Southern Baptist is that we cooperate for God’s global mission. I just returned from London and Paris with 24 pastors to help them connect with IMB and other leaders for church planting and evangelism. I’m excited about us joining God’s plan for the nations. If every church tried to do this on its own, each would have to reinvent an already-existing, effective method. We are involved in sharing the Gospel around the world, and arguably we do this better than anyone else.

I’ve had the privilege of consulting with members of other denominations regarding global missions strategy, and they often say they wish they had the system Southern Baptists have, that being the Cooperative Program. Five thousand members of our denomination are proclaiming the Gospel around the world, planting churches through the International Mission Board. Another few thousand, both full and part-time, are engaging people across North America with the gospel. That’s the SBC that gets me excited. We help gather God’s people around the globe for the proclamation of his name in every tongue, tribe and language.

Fourth, I hope that whatever happens in Orlando we will leave more committed to the Cooperative Program. Many of our leaders have indicated a recommitment, and I think that is a good thing. I have always thought I was a strong believer in the Cooperative Program. I’ve even said that at times. But, I recently looked back over some records and found out that I was not as big a supporter as I thought I was. I can now see that the commitment grew as I saw how much we actually did together. We can do more together than we can do apart–and whatever happens in Orlando the Cooperative Program should be a higher priority.

Fifth, I hope we will leave Orlando united. Over time I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in the SBC. And, I think we have seen good, bad, and ugly coming up to this meeting. It is a shame that so many demonize those who disagree.

Too often, the SBC annual meeting is like a catfight, a dogfight or a gang fight. At other times it is reminiscent of a loving family reunion. A family of churches is much like a regular family: there are ins and outs, times you love the family and times you wish you could trade up for a better grade. In the end result, however, family stays family. Regardless of the votes, we need to leave united as brothers and sisters in Christ on a common mission.

So, I am in Orlando trusting God to do some good things next week. The problems we do have, whether related to structure, finances or personalities, can be overcome if we will seek God, listen to one another, and then choose to move forward together into the future. When I head home after what promises to be the biggest meeting in many years, I hope people are talking about God’s global mission and how we might engage it together.

Looking Back to Louisville, Part 2

Looking Back to Louisville, Part 2

What needs to happen next?

Let me share some thoughts about the future. I think there are some things we should consider as we look toward the future.

1. We need to pray for the Great Commission Task Force. This is a big deal. Their findings and recommendations to the SBC potentially will have a great impact on our future.

2. We need to pray for the 2010 convention in Orlando. It will be a key moment. Will we elect a president who wants to unite us around the common confession and mission? Or will other agendas emerge?

3. We need to affirm and welcome more than just young missional Calvinists who preach verse-by-verse. I am glad that you guys are acceptable now, but I still think we need those contemporary church pastors and emerging church leaders who affirm our confession to be a part of the cooperation. I hope you reformed types will help us out and welcome them.

4. We need to get more colorful. We have made great strides in the SBC, but our leadership is still WAY too pale. If almost 20 percent of our churches are non-Anglo, it’s time for that to be reflected in our annual meeting and at our entities.

5. We need to engage more small church pastors. The average SBC church is small (less than 100 members). We need their voice because, well, they are “us.” The SBC is a convention made up primarily of small rural churches in the South and we would do well not to forget that.

6. We need to reach out to people who are outside of the South. The rest of North America is becoming more secularized with each passing year. Our disciple-making passion for the metropolitan areas in the rest of the country must increase.

7. We need church planting to become more than a current fad. If we truly want to reach North American and the world for Christ, church planting must become a stated element of our strategy and not just the first in a series of new millennium trends.

8. We need to seek a revived church that can be used by God for the next great awakening in our culture. Nothing short of a collective return by His people is worth our time and worthy of His gospel mission.

Just a few thoughts– see you next year in Orlando.

Looking Back to Louisville, Part 1

As I’ve indicated over at my blog, I am moving my SBC-related blogging here to Between the Times. For better or worse, it will be all Baptist, all the time, when I am at Between the Times.

Though it’s hardly any secret that I’m a Southern Baptist, my blog has become a place where people discuss research, mission, and culture. It seems some Southern Baptists just love a good blog fight, but it seems strange to my non-SBC friends when the debate goes something like: “The IMB and NAMB need to consider the BI agenda while listening to the GCR people, not to mention the ERLC and the WMU.”

That’s not easy to translate for our Presbyterian and Wesleyan friends. Even if you know what it all means-we could all use fewer acronyms in our lives. ;-) So, you’ll be hard-pressed to find me talking SBC on my other blog. Like Al Mohler’s “Conventional Speaking” blog, this is now your one-stop-shop for “Ed on the SBC” (in addition to much better information from the other contributors).

I wanted to write about the Louisville convention, but I decided to wait until the Between the Times guys would actually let me blog. It took a lot of negotiating with our lawyers, but we nailed down a signing bonus and a five-year contract.

So, here are my belated reactions to the SBC meeting. They are not in any particular order, but here are my observations.

1. There was a definite consistent theme at the convention.

That theme was stated in the pastors conference and continued to the last session. With exceedingly few exceptions, the theme was “gospel unity expressed in mission.” You wouldn’t know that listening to some reports. According to some, we focused more on someone who was not even there than on Jesus and His mission. Those conversations were just a blip on the radar screen. An overwhelming majority of those in attendance would tell you that Southern Baptists want to unite and see a Great Commission Resurgence.

2. The convention is changing.

It appears to me that Southern Baptists are not just talking about methodological diversity, but are actually practicing what they preach. The pastors conference evidenced such as did the convention messages. (I am glad to call both David Platt and John Marshall friends, but they pastor very different churches.)

With the election of Kevin Ezell as pastors conference president, we will see more of that next year. (Having just talked to Kevin about upcoming speakers, I can say that next year will be exciting and interesting at the same time.)

3. There are still some people who want to create division.

As I said at the Baptist 21 panel, the voices of division get louder before unity appears. But we saw that those creating division are becoming increasingly seen as what they are. It was as if they were shouting, “pay attention to us!” However, the convention seemed to want to pay attention to the future-engaging in God’s global mission while uniting around that effort.

Let me encourage you that the tide is turning. And, that means we need to unite and not exclude those who would have preferred a different future. There are people to the “right” of the BFM2000, and I am glad they are a part of the family–I just want them to stop pulling to the right and instead push toward the mission. But, for those of us interested in unity under our common confession, let’s remember that they still need a place at the table.

4. Anyone can make a motion.

As you could see, anyone can make a motion. For some people, this is a bad thing. For me, it is not. I want a convention where people can speak truth in power.

Now, I do think it’s unfortunate that 10 people with an agenda can make some people think there’s a groundswell of support. In reality though, to quote Johnny Hunt, those motions get “thrown under the Southern Baptist bus.” Indeed.

However, it is this system that makes us Baptist. There would have been no Conservative Resurgence if the mics were closed. Having those mics open keeps the system accountable to the churches. And it keeps all of us honest.

Al Mohler cautioned that people should not overreact to “these motions.” I couldn’t agree more. Remember, motions are not actions. I imagine there will be more people making more motions of all kinds next year.

5. Social Networking is changing all the rules.

Blogging changed everything–until this year. From day one, all eyes were on Twitter.

When some leaders tweeted about motions, it was national news. People were even directed to the floor for the times votes would take place, again using Twitter. If you weren’t at the convention, the Twitterverse provided a front row seat.

Twitter also provided an instant barometer of how people felt about what was happening. If Tweeters didn’t like a motion from the floor, it was heard loud and clear online. And when they liked something, they raised their “voices.”

It was not too long ago when one state convention passed a motion critical of blogging and some referred to it as “Internet Pornography.” Today, the social networking revolution is gaining momentum instead of going away. The convention is “flat,” and those who are unaware or are simply kicking against the cyber-goads will soon lose their influence.

6. Extra meetings are helpful.

Over the last few years, additional meetings have been added to the “convention schedule.” From the Young Leader Initiative of 2005 to the Baptist 21 Panel this year, more meetings are being held around the convention. And though none of us want to have an extra meeting, more conversation about critical issues are good for all of us.

Each year, meetings are held at the SBC Annual Meeting by groups like the WMU and Crossover to encourage our participation. I’m glad for these meetings, because they serve as a reminder of why we meet–God’s big mission for the world.

7. We still don’t trust each other.

I have been surprised at how quickly people saw a Machiavellian plot to take over the SBC. Perhaps some are too accustomed to taking a defensive stance against all perceived change or loss to their preferred direction. I consider Danny Akin, Johnny Hunt, and Ronnie Floyd all friends. I talk with them regularly about the SBC and the future. And, I’m telling you: they are just not that devious. They are good men, but terrible connivers. But, it is interesting to hear all the conspiracy theories out there. I can tell you that they are not true-but of course, I might be part of the New World Order as well. ;-)

The men who have been elected and appointed to lead our convention are asking the right question: what are we doing and how can we do it better?

I wonder when we will trust more and gossip less.

8. Everyone wants to talk about young leaders now.

Well, I say, “Welcome to the party, but where were you five years ago?”

It is interesting to me that when Jimmy Draper started this young leader initiative a few years back, he was actually opposed by some of those same people now alarmed about the lack of young leaders. Back then, there was a “debate” if we were really losing young leaders. But then there was the next convention. And the next. And the truth became harder to deny. Now, when young leaders show up, it’s big news.

There were two main criticisms of Jimmy Draper. The first was that he was the wrong person to do this; the seminaries should. But, Jimmy pressed on and pointed out that most young SBC pastors were not in seminary. But, still some complained that LifeWay was the wrong agency doing it the wrong way.

Second, it was that Jimmy connected with some of the wrong young leaders. I’ll leave it to your collective wisdom exactly who are the special, perfect, right young leaders. Chances are that we will all come up with different lists. Jimmy took some risks, involving some people I would not, but he is a good man and it was still a worthwhile agenda. As one of our statesmen, he said what only he could: we are losing the next generation. He was right then. And, now it appears that everyone agrees. Thanks, Jimmy, for telling us when it was not popular. I believe that will be a key part of your legacy.

9. The word “missional” sure gets used a lot.

I still remember when I used “missional” in a sermon at Southern Seminary. Someone asked me if I was mispronouncing the work “missions.” People just did not use the word. Although Baptist Press quotes me as the first SBC user of the term, it was actually Francis Dubose, but he did so before the days of searchable hypertext.

Now, people throw around the word “missional” like opinions at a Baptist business meeting. Sometimes I wish they would not use it, but mainly I am just glad we are thinking more about joining God on His mission and living on mission in our settings.

10. I am hopeful about the future.

People ask me, “Does it bother you that they criticize research/missiological thinking/church planting/etc. regularly in certain publications?” And, the answer is, “No.” I say this, because things are changing.

I have attended the SBC every year since 1998. (I should get an attendance pin or something.) I was encouraged by the election of Frank Page and honored that he would ask me to speak at his first convention, but still unsure where things were headed.

This year, I was more hopeful than ever. The convention is turning. In tomorrow’s post I will share what I think needs to happen next.racer mobile game