Ted Traylor challenged Southern Baptists to move forward in cooperation and unity for the sake of the gospel – reflecting the preceding historic moment when Steve Gaines became Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president with gracious consent from fellow nominee J.D. Greear.
Traylor, in the annual convention sermon June 15 in St. Louis, drew from Psalm 133 to poignantly repeat the words of the psalmist David in the first verse of the passage: “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.”
Photo by Van Payne
Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., preaches the convention sermon at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention Wednesday, June 15 in St. Louis.
Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., said the appeal for unity was first sounded in the Southern Baptist Convention preamble written in 1845, which used three words to describe the organization of the denomination – eliciting, combining and directing, for one effort, the sake of the proclamation of the gospel.
“The reason we exist – one reason – to take the gospel to the world,” Traylor said.
The convention’s own statement of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message, also urges cooperation as a cornerstone of Southern Baptist beliefs, he noted.
But Traylor admitted “we have issues.”
Referencing comments from outgoing SBC President Ronnie Floyd, Traylor said, “What once was the battle for the Bible has become a battle with one another. The very soul of the convention is at stake.”
He quoted Southern Baptist David Dockery, president of Trinity International University: “Southern Baptists need a new spirit of mutual respect. We need to move from controversy and confusion to a new consensus and renewed commitment to cooperation.”
“Dr. Dockery has got it right,” Traylor said. “We need to move to Psalm 133 – ‘How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.’“
There is room in the tent for all Baptists, Traylor said, as long as doctrine is uncompromised. “There is no real unity existing where disagreement is not allowed,” he said. “There’s life in this tent.”
Traylor said he is not looking for uniformity. “Dead conventions are peaceful enough. No one is moving. No one is doing anything. Thank God for life in the Baptist tent.”
Some have asked for “a seat at the table,” Traylor said. “I keep hunting for the table. I can’t find the table.
“When you come into the Baptist tent, there is only one table and it’s got the cup and bread on it. When we come in this tent, we need to examine ourselves [to determine] if we are in the faith or not.”
Traylor identified three truths found in Psalm 133:
Unity is released, much like oil poured upon the head, or the Mississippi River and its tributaries. “We have to release our resources, going to the oceans of the world.”
Unity is refreshing, like the dew of God falling on His people, or as seen in one brother in prayer for another.
Unity is rewarded. “God commands the blessings of life when we are one.”
While he, too, is concerned about the decline in SBC baptisms, Traylor “wondered” if statistics are down “from a spirit of independence rather of cooperation … that says ‘do not trust your leaders, and do not trust your brothers. Trust only yourself.’”
Applauding the example set by SBC presidential candidates Gaines and Greear, who both offered to withdraw from the election for the sake of unity, Traylor asked, “Could it have sparked something today – that picture of unity, a picture of what we ought to be?”
No one can compel, command or force cooperation. “I’m asking you for cooperation. I’m asking you in Jesus’ name for God to turn our hearts, I’m asking you to love one another. We can do better. Refuse disunity, refuse to be critical, refuse to be stingy.
“We need our Cooperative Program giving to spiral,” Traylor said, referencing Southern Baptists’ channel of missions support. “We do it for the sake of the gospel.”