pecaspers: a Blog in transition

June 22, 2012

A Preemptive Word on the SBC Annual Meeting

What follows was originally composed as my contribution to the Tallassee Ministerial Alliance column in the Tallassee Tribune. This is the article before I or the paper’s editors cut it to fit the allowed space. I wrote it prior to the SBC Annual Meeting and it–as far as I know–appeared in the paper on Tuesday, June 19, the first day of the actual Convention.

I am a Southern Baptist. (Curious about what that means? Look at the Baptist Faith and Message tab on http://www.sbc.net.) This week, thousands of Southern Baptists are gathering in New Orleans, La. for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Because of this, you will likely hear many things in the news in the coming days about what Southern Baptists are saying and doing at the Convention. I beg you, please don’t judge us too harshly.

I’m always ashamed of some of the ridiculous things that come out of the Convention. I can tell you that someone will say something stupid about alcohol, race-relations, politics, environmentalism, homosexuality, the King James Version of the Bible, and many other issues of both major and minor significance to the general population. Media outlets will handle these things with differing degrees of malice or kindness depending on how they prefer to spin things. You need to understand that the Annual Meeting operates as an effectively open forum for anyone sent as a messenger from a Southern Baptist church. Just because someone says it at the Convention doesn’t mean much. Just because the SBC votes for or against some statement doesn’t mean that all Southern Baptists now agree on that issue–many Southern Baptists can’t even agree on what it means to be Southern Baptist. Most importantly, remember that every fifteen second sound bite you hear coming out of my SBC brethren has been ripped out of a greater context.

What you probably won’t hear much about is the real reason that Southern Baptists convene. The SBC exists so Southern Baptist churches can cooperate together in fulfilling the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says to His followers, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (HCSB). Though we do much else, the SBC ultimately exists for the primary purpose of sending missionaries to all nations (read “nations” as people groups with distinct culture and language, not politically recognized countries) for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus.

A disciple is nothing less than a person who has been baptized–identifying with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, resurrection–and is being taught to obey all that He commanded. The only reason one gets baptized and seeks to learn and obey is because he or she believes the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news that God exists and He is good, that all mankind has rebelled against Him in sin, that Jesus is God-become-man who suffered in our place the punishment for our sin so we could have a relationship with God, and finally that we are all accountable before God to turn from all our own attempts to please Him and rely solely on what He has already accomplished in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So remember, don’t accept the spin the talking heads on cable news and internet bloggers will put on the SBC Annual Meeting. Feel free to ask of what you hear, “How does this serve to advance the gospel?” But before you throw stones at me and my SBC friends, ask the same question of every aspect of your own life. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (1 Corinthians 10:31, HCSB). Oh that we would all be all about the gospel for the glory of God. You are welcome for all the opportunities to bring this gospel naturally into your conversations with your lost friends, relatives, co-workers, and complete strangers that our Annual Meeting will provide you.

Addendum: I am happy to report that I was largely wrong in my expectations for the Convention. I watched/listened to the vast majority of the meeting via live streaming and didn’t hear nearly as much nonsense as expected–hardly any at all, in fact. The importance of the gospel and our Great Commission was this year’s main focus, but Fred Luder’s election as our first Black president is what seems to be getting all the press. That’s pretty good, I’d say.

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