As I traveled to the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in New Orleans, I was focused on the wrong thing! I was thinking about controversial issues, groups who were drawing a line in the sand on specific doctrines, and the debate related to these issues had been weighing on my mind and heart for a while. Although there is a time and place for debate on doctrinal issues, and the SBC is a fine platform for it, I had failed to have true joy in the process as I was leading up to the annual meeting. I had allowed my own personal heart to be plagued with these issues and it distracted me from the real purpose, aim, and goal of the SBC which is missions!
Although some good spirited discussion took place on some necessary items, as a whole, the leaders of the SBC did a great job of keeping a spirit of unity (even among people who don’t agree on every issue). As I was singing, worshipping, listening to the preaching, fellowshipping with friends, and voting – the Lord helped me realize that we gather together as the SBC for the purpose of missions. That borad category includes education, local, national, and international advancement of the gospel of Christ – and for that purpose we pool our money together and give of our time to accomplish these major goals.
As I listened to the heart of gifted leaders, I was reminded of the need to pursue unity and seek to work together in order to send the gospel to a dying world who needs to hear of the saving message of King Jesus. Below are some of the things that I take away from the SBC in 2012 with great encouragement:
1. The election of Pastor Fred Luter as the 1st black man in the history of the SBC to serve as President of the SBC.
2. The commitment of many SBC pastors and churches to plant churches and engage unreached people groups.
3. Pursuit of unity on the gospel (even among those who don’t always agree on everything).
4. Fresh reminder of God’s supernatural miracle of the Conservative Resurgence of the SBC that started in New Orleans at Cafe’ Du Monde 45 years ago.
5. The adoption of the name descriptor of the SBC as “Great Commission Baptists.”
As I sat in the convention hall and listened to Tom Elliff give the report of the International Mission Board, I continued to hear statistics of the massive numbers that have yet to hear the gospel. As I sat there listening to him speak, I thought about the schemes of the Devil. If the Devil can get the SBC to fight one another rather than working together to reach the nations with the gospel, we will eventually split, splinter, and become weak and powerless in the fight of faith. However, if we focus on the Lord and partner together for the sake of the gospel – we can impact the world and reach the unreached people groups with the life changing message of King Jesus.
I thought about that even further as I rode home in our church van filled with messengers from our church. That same concept is true on a local church level. If the Devil can cause us to become distracted and our vision out of focus because of non-essential issues – it will cause our local church to become weak and powerless against his schemes. I want to see God’s hand of blessing on the SBC in the days to come and our local churches as a whole in order for us to take the gospel of Christ to our neighborhoods and to the nations – all for the glory of God.
May God spare us from fights that divide! May God cause our arguments and debates to be handled with a spirit of love and end with greater unity rather than disunity. May we realize that there will always be family debates, but those debates should not divide unless they cross the line into an area of essential belief for the Christian faith.
May God smile upon the Southern Baptist Convention (aka – Great Commission Baptists) and use us to impact the world! I’m thankful that the Lord rekindled a heart of cooperation and refocused my mind on the big picture of missions rather than the distractions that often take our focus off of the main objective and goal of the SBC.
Pastor Josh Buice