One of my favorite lines in scripture is when Paul tells believers, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Paul is talking about the gospel, of course, but I believe the heart of his statement is applicable for how the Executive Committee ought to function in its relationship to the messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Ultimately, the Executive Committee’s responsibility is to implement and execute the will of the messengers in between meetings. Therefore, the chairman shouldn’t have a vision for the Executive Committee beyond upholding the vision delivered to the Executive Committee by the messengers. Anything beyond that is not only unnecessary, but a usurpation of the role.
Since I am a Southern Baptist pastor, allow me to alliterate and then expound upon what this means.
First, the Executive Committee should be small—so small in fact that you can barely see it.
By small, I do not mean numerically, especially considering we have the largest trustee count of all 12 entities. I mean small in spectacle.
At its best, the Executive Committee should be like an offensive line in football, the job of which is to dutifully protect the quarterback. You only hear about or pay attention to the offensive line when they do something wrong, and that occurs when the quarterback gets sacked, or worse, injured. In this case, the Executive Committee should dutifully protect the will of the messengers, who should in turn faithfully follow the will of Christ so that His name is protected and His will preserved. As John says, “[Jesus] must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Second, the Executive Committee should operate by the Spirit, not by the sword.
In Matthew 26 when Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus, Jesus tells him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
It is not necessary to belabor this point more than to say that in recent years the Executive Committee has pursued actions outside the scope of the will of the messengers. At times our actions have even gone as far as to directly oppose the will of the messengers. Not only is this not delivering what was first received, it’s willfully refraining from it.
The Southern Baptist Convention deserves an Executive Committee that, yes, follows the letter of the (by)law, but also takes into consideration the Spirit. This is a principle Jesus articulates in the Sermon on the Mount and one I hope to see more of in the Executive Committee (Matthew 5-7).
The Executive Committee is not a sword for fighting, but a trowel for building. We are at our best when we live by the Spirit, not by the sword.
Finally, the Executive Committee should serve the will of the messengers.
The Executive Committee is to the convention not unlike what an executive pastor is in the local church. An executive pastor is not the senior pastor. His job is not to cast vision, but to help implement and execute the senior pastor’s vision. In fact, if an executive pastor were to cast a vision, even if it was a good vision, it would inherently conflict with the senior pastor’s leadership, causing chaos and confusion among the people.
If there is a senior pastor to the Southern Baptist Convention, it is the president. Part of his responsibilities include setting the theme for the convention’s annual meeting and encouraging the convention’s churches to focus on a certain set of biblical ideals, like prayer and discipleship. What’s more, this individual is elected and entrusted by the messengers to do this very thing. The Executive Committee is at its best when it supports the vision initiated by the messengers through the president, entities and individual motions.
It is the honor of a lifetime to get to serve Southern Baptists as the chairman of their Executive Committee. I am deeply humbled that my fellow Executive Committee members, who were elected themselves by the messengers, have entrusted me with this position. My hope is that we will “[render] service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man” (Ephesians 6:7).
(EDITOR’S NOTE – New Executive Committee Chairman Jared Wellman is lead pastor of Tate Springs Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. Wellman is in his second term on the Executive Committee, having served since 2015.)