If I asked you to go with me to a two-day Baptist business meeting what would you expect? Something resembling a food fight perhaps? Last week I went to the SBC annual meeting in New Orleans, but I didn’t see any beignets or po-boys being tossed around. What we did see was a hope-filled unity returning to our beloved SBC. I want to take a few minutes to tell you what happened, how you participate, and why it matters.
Maybe I should begin with why it matters. Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board (IMB), has often stated that the world’s greatest problem “can be communicated in one word — lostness.” This is why the work of local churches like Eastmont and our collective efforts in associations, networks, and conventions matter – lostness. If our churches and our entities are not focused on impacting lostness, then we are off course and are denying the worth and purpose of the work of Jesus. To quote Chitwood on the problem of lostness again, “It’s an eternal problem. Every other problem will end the day you die. There is no addiction in the grave, no family conflict in the grave, all your problems end but one. The magnitude of that problem sets in the minute you die.”
So, what happened? For the past few years, we have been seeing a divide and what some were concerned was a growing presence of an invasive progressivist agenda. You may have heard we were divided. To be sure there were times of lively debate and some serious questions posed. But generally speaking, what I sensed was a growing unity and a return to our confidence in the Scriptures as our final authority in all matters. On the docket were a few potentially controversial items.
First up, how we treat churches that have identified women as pastors. This matter of accountability is simply in keeping with the clear teaching of the New Testament and the Baptist Faith and Message (our doctrinal statement). The messengers overwhelmingly voted to find two churches to “not be in friendly cooperation” with the convention. This was not an indictment of their faith, but a statement of what we understand to be clear instruction from the New Testament. Also of note on this issue was the passing of a constitutional amendment (no not the US Constitution) proposed by Mike Law that would incorporate language to reflect this conviction more clearly.
Next was the work of the Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (ARITF). We have seen a rise in the number of cases of abuse being reported and our convention has spoken clearly that we will not cover up for nor tolerate those who would prey upon the vulnerable or violate our sacred trust as ambassadors of the Gospel by engaging in any form of sexual abuse. The controversy has only been over how to achieve this goal. In the end, we are moving forward and working to ensure that we do not bring reproach to the name of Christ by neglecting justice and creating an environment where predators thrive.
The highlight of the entire convention for me each year is the commissioning of those going to the “uttermost parts of the earth” with the IMB. Gina and I sat there with hearts full of joy and hope for the nations and at times with tears streaming down our faces as we were witnesses to 76 missionaries going to take the light of Jesus to the world. Eastmont, I believe one of our greatest calls is to raise up generations for the sake of Gospel proclamation across the world. May God grant us the honor of seeing many called from our faith family to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth!
This leaves us with one final item, how do we participate? As members of theEastmont family and as Southern Baptists we have been called to:
Pray – we have been called to pray for those who lead in and serve through our entities, especially for those on the front lines of mission work.
Give – as you tithe, a portion of undesignated giving goes to support the work of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program. We also give to special offerings throughout the year.
Go – as I write, we have two college students serving in summer mission projects, our student ministry is in Indiana on a mission trip, and next week we have several going to Utah, all going to bear witness to the glory of Jesus and His power to save.
Now let’s go tell the world about our Savior!