Tomorrow evening I will fly out of Greenville to attend the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Phoenix. I’m not really sure how many of these meetings I’ve attended in my lifetime, but it’s probably safe to say that it’s been more than a few. As I have thought about this year’s convention, I have been overwhelmed with mixed emotions. While I deeply love and am committed to being a Southern Baptist, I am increasingly concerned about many of the things that I see transpiring in our denomination.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m proud to be a Southern Baptist. Some of my earliest memories are of those spent at the convention during the height of the “Bible Battle.” I remember the long, hot trips in the family station wagon, stopping by the side of the road to eat lunch. I remember staying up late talking with people you ran into in the hall. I remember the great fellowship over lunch or dinner with friends you hadn’t seen in a year. I remember the excitement and energy – the anticipation that was in the air. I remember the powerful, anointed preaching of men like Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines and other leaders of the Conservative Resurgence. I remember getting into an elevator with my heroes – those great, godly men – and thinking, “They really are real.” I remember my family leaving the hotel early in the morning – with lunch in hand – just to get a seat in those hot, crowded convention centers. The reason why you left so early and took your lunch was to make sure you got a seat and kept your seat. You see, in those days, if you left the room to get something to eat you wouldn’t have a seat when you returned and if you weren’t in the room you couldn’t vote. Voting was important then. (From what I understand, I probably won’t have to worry about hunting for a seat at this year’s meeting.)
A lot has changed in my 37 years as a Southern Baptist. While I still love my “denomination,” I am increasingly concerned about the future of our fellowship. Will the SBC remotely resemble the vision that so many sacrificed so much for – their churches, ministries and health – in the coming years? Will the annual meeting be something that I will have any desire to attend or take my children to? Will there still be the friendships and relationships like we’ve known in the past? Will there be a sense of spiritual satisfaction that comes from knowing that we are a part of the largest mission-sending body in the history of the world – one that is still reaching its own nation as well as the nations for Jesus? Will the preaching encourage us, challenge us, confront us, convict us? Will we be called to live holy lives that reflect the Jesus that we freely offer to a lost and dying world? Will the vision of our mission that is presented in June be powerful enough to cause us to return to our churches and encourage them to continue sacrificing for and supporting the convention’s cooperative work in the coming year?
* Will there be a common theology that unites us?
* Will there be a committed ecclesiology that defines us?
* Will there be a cooperative missiology that propels us?
These are just a few of the thoughts and questions that I will be prayerfully considering as I make my way one more time to Phoenix. Pray for me that I will show and share Christ. Pray that there will come a unity of purpose and vision that can only be explained by the presence of the Holy Spirit. Pray that our leaders will have the wisdom, heart and strength of Christ. The hour is too late, the need is too desperate for anything else.
While I’m in Phoenix I will forgo my weekly pattern of posting. However, I do plan on posting my thoughts, questions and stories from the convention as I’m able.