As I have reflected upon this year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting since leaving Phoenix, I have been reminded that we have much to be thankful for and celebrate as Southern Baptists. I was encouraged by the various ministry reports, statements from our SBC entity leaders and resolutions adopted by our messengers demonstrating that we are united together around the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. As of June 19, 2017, the unofficial overall attendance for this annual meeting was 9,318 messengers, visitors and exhibitors.
Much attention has been given to the resolution that messengers overwhelmingly passed June 14, that denounced and decried “every form of racism, including alt-right supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Despite the well-documented factors surrounding how this resolution finally made its way before the messengers for a vote, I am extremely pleased that our convention came back with a very strong and decided statement that sent a message to the nation and the world of our belief that God loves all people and that we, as Southern Baptists, love all people.
Thankfully, we have sought to remove an ugly stain from our past when Southern Baptists condoned slavery. As a convention, we have gone on record in recent years through various resolutions indicating that we are opposed to racism and discrimination against any race of people. While making these statements is good, I pray that we as Southern Baptists will put these words into action on a daily basis as many people are immigrating to the United State from a large number of countries.
Another humbling, but also emotionally thrilling time for me during this year’s convention was a commissioning service for about 30 new missionaries going to serve around the world with the International Mission Board (IMB). Several of these missionaries were being sent out by N.C. Baptist churches.
I rejoiced to hear IMB President David Platt report that after several years of financial challenges, the IMB is on “stable ground,” and the stage is set for the IMB to begin increasing the number of international missionaries being sent to the field.
North American Mission Board (NAMB) President Kevin Ezell and SBC Executive Committee President Frank Page highlighted some of the convention’s church planting efforts, particularly on college campuses. Page recognized Resonate church in Washington State, which has planted other collegiate churches in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Collectively, this church planting network has reached more than 700 people with the gospel.
I am in agreement with Page’s statement that if we reach the campus, we can reach the world! Our state convention is helping support collegiate ministries through N.C. Baptist churches on 48 different university, college and community college campuses in North Carolina.
While in Phoenix, I also had the privilege of attending the Harvest Crusade conducted by pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie, which drew more than 38,000 to the University of Phoenix stadium. We saw more than 2,900 make professions of faith inside the stadium along with hundreds more watching online.
Leading up to this year’s meeting, I was grateful for our SBC president, Steve Gaines, emphasizing prayer, which he also emphasized during the president’s annual address to messengers. President Gaines also announced a plan that was approved by messengers to establish a task force to determine how Southern Baptists can be more effective in personal soul-winning and evangelistic preaching.
As a part of this task force, he appointed three N.C. Baptists, which included J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, along with professors Alvin Reid and Jim Shaddix of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. These three men will serve our convention well in this role. (See story.)
If we are to reach more people for Christ and reverse the trend of declining baptisms in our convention, we must be more intentional about evangelism and discipleship, which are the two essential components of disciple-making.
“… And he who wins souls is wise.” – Proverbs 11:30b (NKJV).