Category Archives: Baptist/Denominations
Last Monday, November 15th, I made my way to Shawnee, Oklahoma and Oklahoma Baptist University to attend my first Oklahoma Baptist State Convention. I have been a Christ-follower since I was 12, a Southern Baptist since conception and in “leadership ministry” in a local church since I was 21. So the fact that this was my first time to a state convention says something in and of itself. Namely, I have intentionally avoided this meeting in the past. So why go? Why take a Monday and most of Tuesday to go to something that I have been reluctant to attend?
My motivations were primarily two. The first being that I was asked to attend since I was a part of a task force that was making a set of recommendations to be voted on for adoption by the 800-plus convention messengers. The second reason I went was because I knew that as a pastor of a cooperating Southern Baptist Church in the great state of Oklahoma I needed to educate myself about the inner workings of our state-wide partnership. In other words, if I am going to stand before the people of Jesus who make up the local body of Eagle Heights, then I need to be able to speak with first-hand knowledge about what is going on amongst our cooperation of nearly 1,800 churches.
So while I was very reluctant to go, I am glad that I did because I took away several helpful observations or thoughts about what happens at our State Baptist Convention Meeting and what is happening in our partnership of local churches. Here are a few thoughts from my time at the convention:
- It was good to see gospel friends. Much of what takes place at these meetings are reports and business, but they also serve the purpose of bringing fellow gospel laborers together. It was great to see Pastor Don Varble who took the risk of giving me my first church job as a youth minister when I was young, zealous and ignorant. Those three-and-a-half years with the people of Roland Hills Baptist Church in Roland, Oklahoma were years that God used to develop some of my leadership skills. Pastor Don Varble and the people were extremely patient with me and Don had an important impact on my staying in leadership ministry. With grace he allowed me to learn, succeed and fail. It was great to see him after almost ten years and God used that reunion to give me a profound sense of thankfulness for those who have invested in my life. Also I was able to drag my old college roommate and fellow pastor, Daniel Milligan, to the meeting. We were able to reflect on our days in college and seminary and talk about the future and what God is doing in the churches we pastor. It is always helpful to be able to share with a friend the struggles and triumphs that come with ministry. The convention was worth it for me just to see and visit with people who are friends because of the gospel and for the gospel.
- There was an obvious and identifiable minority. The Baptist Churches of Oklahoma were largely represented by, shall I say, more seasoned brothers and sisters in Christ. It was fairly easy to identify both the older crowd and the younger crowd. I’m generalizing of course, but the younger crowd dressed casually while the older crowd had on their Sunday’s best. The younger crowd of messengers could also be identified by the posture of their bending necks that revealed an attention to their hand-held devices. Perhaps many younger pastors and staff could not attend the meeting, but whatever the case it looked as though there was a significant discrepancy in generational representation. This is a cause for concern as it relates to the future of our partnership in Oklahoma and in every state.
- What will young leaders do? Here is the predominant reality among the younger pastors I know: There is a consistent restlessness about the way things are. And to be honest, “the way things are” means different things to different people, but restlessness is consistently there. I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing either. Some might see it as a bad thing because questions get asked and ideas and methods get challenged. But as a young guy (39 and under – See the Graph above) speaking to young guys, we must be careful with our restlessness. We must be bold but considerate of others and striving to preserve unity in the body of Christ. We must make sure we know what we think we know, and we must answer the question that I asked as I sat around five young pastors at the convention, “Are we going to engage the process to bring about the change that is desired, or are we going to abandon the cooperation as some have already done?” And by the way, I am not saying the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma or the Cooperative Program is broken, I’m just saying that there is a restlessness about it among young leaders – generally speaking. The question is, what will we do and how will we do it? What we can’t do is attack each other on Twitter and in blogs. We must constructively engage the process as we are able.
- Much ado about a car. There was some tweeting going on about a car that was wrapped to look like a race car to promote an evangelism initiative called “My316”. Some of the questions being asked were: How much did the car cost? Is that the best way to spend money? Will this initiative impact lostness? Whatever the concerns are, let’s hope that God uses every means to advance the whole gospel to whole people in the whole world.
- Worship Time? This bugged me. During the Tuesday session there were times of business that consisted of voting, reports and a sermon or two. But in the midst of business, votes and reports were these short times called “Worship”. At least that is what the screen said behind the platform. Now maybe I’m being overly critical but I have a couple of questions? First, do we really need to inject worship songs into the agenda? Can’t we just do what we are really there to do? Someone might be critical of me at this point and ask, “Don’t you want to worship?” To which I would ask my second question, “Can’t voting, reports, doing business sessions and so forth be worship?” Isn’t it true that if I can eat and drink to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31) then I can also vote to the glory of God just as easily as I can sing to the glory of God? What I am really suggesting here is that we must be careful not to unnecessarily compartmentalize worship or inadvertently mean that worship is only worship when we are singing. All of life, can and should be seen as an act of worship, even business meetings.
- All in all. To summarize I learned a lot and enjoyed (at least a lot of it) seeing what happens at a convention. I enjoyed the time with friends over meals talking about what God is doing in us and in local churches. I additionally appreciate our cooperation as Oklahoma Southern Baptists and Nationally. I hope that we will be able to work together to make hard decisions about being on mission for Jesus as witnesses to all the nations. I believe I now understand that my priority is to the local church that God has given me to shepherd, but I also have a responsibility to work with others to advance the gospel. These are my thoughts about the state convention.
Will I go to the convention next year? I’ve got a year to pray and decide, but my first convention probably won’t be my last.
(This blog was written earlier this summer for another blog.)
I’m not in Orlando but I am taking in what I can be way of streaming video.
I am encouraged already this morning (Monday, June 14th) by a couple of things I have observed.
First, I am encouraged by the young pastors who are speaking at the conference who are Southern Baptists. Matt Chandler who is in his mid-thirties is speaking boldly the gospel in Dallas, Texas as the pastor of The Village Church. David Platt is the pastor at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and is also a young pastor that God is greatly using to make disciples of all nations. He will be speaking later on in the evening.
I make mention of these men not so that they might be idolized, but as examples (there are many others) of why I am thankful that God is raising up young leaders from among the SBC. Last year at this time I was following the convention from home and I was reading about the concern over the lack of young pastors who were attending the convention. I have also read a lot in the last year about Southern Baptists losing many young leaders who for various reasons don’t want to be a part of the SBC. Around two years ago I read that approximately 19 percent of pastors, and I believe it was in the SBC, were younger than 39 years of age.
We need leaders of all ages and backgrounds, but as Bette Midler so obviously sang it, “I believe the children (young leaders) are the future.” I’m with Midler on this one, at least as it relates to Baptists cooperating for the Kingdom of the Great King. If we don’t have young leaders then there won’t be a SBC whose purpose has been, and continues to be making disciples of all nations.
Here is a tweet from the convention: “From what I’ve seen, crowd at #SBC2010 is younger and more diverse than previous years. glad to see. #GCR has def increased interest.” Again, this encourages me.
Second, I am highly encouraged that those who schedule the speakers decided to invite CJ Mahaney. Mahaney was the pastor of Covenant Life Church for 27 years and is now the president of Sovereign Grace Ministries in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Mahaney is not a Southern Baptist, but is a passionate and devoted follower of Christ. (By the way, he did say his favorite seminaries and seminary presidents are Southern Baptist.) I think this is a helpful reminder that Southern Baptists are not the only cooperation of people who are living and speaking passionately to see the kingdom come. I think it is good for the Kingdom and for us when we prayerfully and carefully partner with and support others outside of the SBC who are essentially like-minded then it comes to the gospel.
These are just a couple of things that have encouraged me so far. I am praying for and anticipating that a Christ-centered unity among everyone attending will give us many other reasons to be encouraged as the convention moves forward for God’s glory through Jesus.
(This blog was written this summer for another blog.)
I prayerfully watched with great anticipation and interest yesterday from my office as the GCR recommendations were discussed, debated and finally approved by a reported overwhelming majority. Since yesterday I have taken some time to reflect on what I was able to see on video, read about on Twitter, and discuss with a person I trust who was present at the meeting. From my limited view of the happenings on the ground and taking into consideration all that I have watched, read and discussed in the months leading up to the vote, here are a few of my thoughts from the day after the GCR vote.
- It was good to see spirited and lively debate about the Great Commission. I know I am not the first to say it, but while many partnerships/denominations bicker over the likes of whether homosexuals should hold biblical offices or whether homosexuality is even a sin, our cooperation of local churches is passionately debating how we can best obey our Lord and reach the nations with the gospel. I wish we would give this much attention to the advancement of the gospel every year. If we did I might go to my first convention.
- I am thankful that most of what I observed was cordial and Christ-like. Were there some missteps in procedure? Yes. Were there some people who did not articulate their views well? Yes. Were there some people who were misunderstood? Yes. Such is the nature of trying to communicate, especially about an emotional topic. But all-in-all I was pleased with what I saw from those who spoke from the platform and the floor.
- Some comments were unhelpful and even wrong. I was very disappointed with some of what was coming across on Twitter by way of the GCR hash tag feed. One of the reasons I cringe when I think about these conventions is that I know the world will be watching through various media and social media outlets. I believe there is much good that can come from healthy debate, but unfortunately what often gets reported and magnified is what makes the best news, and it seems to me that unless it is “Positive and Encouraging; K-Love”, bad (negative) news is the best news to report. It was brought to the attention of those who were following what was happening by way of Twitter that the USA Today was tweeting out the live feed. Unfortunately, some of the tweets that were going out were less than edifying. Here are two examples. Example one: “At biz @ SBC n Orlando. When the mics open, weirdos come out & the dumber the motion, the more Prez Hunt calls u “Dear brother.” #sbc2010″. Example two: “Morris Chapman just broke the 9th commandment when he said the #GCR doesn’t address spiritual issues. He lied. Publicly. Period. #sbc2010”. Again, I cringe at the thought of an unregenerate and unbelieving world taking this in. I think we should always be asking of our actions concerning debate, do they accomplish John 13:35? “By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is sadly ironic that those who were fighting for the Great Commission might have been simultaneously torpedoing it with words that seem atypical of Ephesians 4:29.
- Let’s be thankful for the past and learn from it, but we can’t live there. Every one has a story or memory that we can be thankful for, but that was then and this is now. As I listened to some of the argumentation concerning voting for and against the GCR recommendations, it seemed to me that people defended positions from their own personal experience. It reminds me of when a parent says, “This is the way I was raised and I turned out fine.” That may be true, but it still doesn’t make it the best way and besides, yesterday isn’t today.
- The age of those attending the annual meeting was more diverse. I love people older than me and I am eternally grateful for our seasoned and wise leaders who have gone before us carrying the banner of Jesus. But I was certainly glad to read several times that the convention was more diverse and that there appeared to be a lot of young leaders present.
- The GCR is hopefully a step in the right direction but it is no silver bullet. I don’t agree with the assumption, which I perceived to be prevalent among those tweeting, that because the GCR recommendations were passed it is a new day for Southern Baptists, as though the world will now somehow finally hear the gospel because we voted it so. Yes, we should be glad the GCR passed and give thanks to God. We needed some sort of catalyst for change and my feeling is that the best thing the GCR did was create a need for a renewed Great Commission mobilization, but we also need a sustained and supernatural move of God among leaders, pastors and local churches if we are going to make disciples of all nations. My opinion is that as a pastor, it has got to start with me and the GCR won’t help me pursue my own holiness and joy in Christ for the sake of the people I shepherd and lead. “What my people need most from me is my personal holiness.” Robert Murray M’Cheyne Holiness is something all people need from their leaders and a true GCR won’t happen without redeemed and holy leaders who leading a redeemed and holy people.
- Let’s get to work and let the hard work start with leaders. One of my favorite seminary professors would frequently exhort us about rightly understanding and obeying God’s word by saying, “Do we have a lot of work to do? Yes, we have a lot of work to do.” I hope that the Great Commission Resurgence has only just begun, because there are millions and millions of people without any viable gospel witness. There are six and maybe seven million active Southern Baptists. With the energy and strength that God supplies, we have a lot of work to do for the glory of the Great King and the joy of the nations.