Some concluding observations from the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Louisville, KY this week:
+ The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) proposal was overwhelmingly affirmed — and that may be the most important action we have taken in years. Many speakers at the Pastor’s Conference on Monday referenced the need for significant rethinking and restructuring in the SBC approach to mission. Danny Akin did a masterful job of making the case. The debate in the hallways and on the floor fell on expected lines: SBC traditionalists , denominational defenders and Builder /upper Boomer generations vs SBC creatives, who lean towards Kingdom coalitions and generations from younger Boomer through milennials. Oh– and there was also the guy who wanted to make this about slapping the hands of ” Calvinists and Calvinist sympathizers.” Please. The final vote wasn’t even close. This had the sense of a wave of the Spirit that could not be stopped. (You can read Akin’s original GCR address here.)
Though the GCR was debated as a restructuring issue, it is not about such pragmatism; it is about restoring the gospel to the center of our life and mission. We have for so long worshipped at the altar of programming and arrogantly assumed our success just because we’re the big bad SBC. If we can humble ourselves before King Jesus, return to the main principles of Biblical truth, rely on gospel proclamation and keep the gospel need of all people in focus, — and restrategize at the same time–this could be the beginning of a genuine revival. That is what is so exciting.
+ The only slight negative of the GCR discussion was the make-up of the study group named by SBC president Johnny Hunt. He made an attempt to bring balance, ie large church / smaller church, pastors / laymen, etc. with at least a nod to the growth of ethnic churches. But still way too many white males and only one female.
+ One noticeable and exciting aspect of this convention was that young pastors were there in force. This is a good sign for us. We can’t pass the baton if there is no one to pass it to. The younger leaders (35 and under) who have avoided the SBC like the plague in recent years, came in force, with energy, and a hopeful heart that there was still a place for them in the work of the SBC. The standing room only gatherings for 9 Marks and Baptist21 showed that the call for global missions and theologically-driven, gospel-centered pastoral work is finding a hearing.
+ One of the young pastors, David Platt, again left the messengers either weeping, silent or cheering at a portrait of the glory of Christ and the power of the name that is above every name.
+ The International Mission Board report was both exciting and sobering. The unreached peoples who have not yet encountered the gospel of Jesus number in the billions. Daily, we fall further behind as the world’s population grows. But the Lord is calling out Southern Baptists to go to the nations. Nearly 2000 are ready to go, but a loss of funding and a $29 million shortfall in the Lottie Moon Christmas offering means they cannot go. This is one reason for the GCR. there was also a call for a Christmas in August offering to make up the difference.
+ Weirdest Kingdom-clueless moments:
— The multiple motions and resolutions condemning Mark Driscoll. OK, so we all know who listens to John Macarthur now. So much of this from people who a) I suspect haven’t read or listened to anything Driscoll has put out in recent years, which is full of the gospel and rich with orthodox theology; b) have refused to accept his humble and evident repentance for intemperate language and comments in his younger years; c) refuse to grant a Christian brother the space for grace to grow more Christ-like in his speech (or drinking habits or really bad exegesis on the Song of Solomon or too-frank sexual talk in a broad context) or the freedom of soul conscience that we claim all Christians have as a kingdom of priests and; d) have not rejoiced over the thousands of secular, far-from-God, people coming to faith in Christ through his ministry and through Acts 29 churches
— the dude who wanted to make the American Christian flag (whatever that is) the official banner of the SBC to be flown at all meetings and gatherings because “we’re in a war and no army goes to war without a banner over them.” Huh? Thought that was the cross…
— most everything under the blue-light specials at the Lifeway store. Leather-bound Fireproof Journals, 90 Minutes in Heaven in bulk, a child’s spiritual armor suit, etc., etc.
+ I loved my last memory: Pastor John Marshall from Springfield, Mo preached about the need for what he called “grey heads’ to pass the baton of SBC leadership and impetus to the younger pastors of emerging generations. He made a great observation. ‘many of us spent time at these conventions in the 70’s and 80’s praying with God, pleading for revival. What if this is the answer? What if this young group of pastors and their ideas and approaches are God’s answer? We don’t want to miss it, so let’s give it to them and let them try.” What a great word.
All in all, as a lifelong Southern Baptist, I was encouraged and even enthused by the possibilities for mission advance through the SBC — more so than I have been in years. Now, we have to pray, folow the Father’s promptings and be willing to risk for the sake of His glory–together…