There is an old expression that states that about 80 percent of life is just showing up. That may be true, but it begs the question: So what do you do once you get there? That’s easy. Participate.
That would be my advice to any minister or messenger wondering whether to attend the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting, and especially this meeting coming up in a few weeks in St. Louis. Show up and participate.
Personally, I believe every Southern Baptist Convention meeting is important. Look back through our history and the annual meetings are key markers on our journey as a denomination. Yes, we’ve tackled some tough issues along the way, but as the largest evangelical network of churches in the United States gathered via elected messengers, we have collectively committed through the years to embrace the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ communicated through an inerrant Scripture.
The St. Louis convention adds an extra layer of priority because of the momentum our denomination has gained under the two-year tenure of outgoing SBC President Ronnie Floyd. He’s been a bridge builder who has worked tirelessly at unifying Southern Baptists around a great awakening and the Great Commission.
Dr. Floyd made prayer a central part of last year’s convention and it was arguably the most important part of that convention. He spoke on behalf of Southern Baptists when he and past SBC presidents made a principled and public stand in support of biblical marriage in advance of the same-sex Supreme Court ruling. And Dr. Floyd has been a strong advocate for the Cooperative Program and Cooperative Program giving that supports our missions endeavors locally and to the ends of the earth. I’m thankful for his leadership and service, and believe he leaves his tenure having strengthened the Southern Baptist Convention.
By his example and by his admonition, Dr. Floyd reminded Southern Baptists how important it is to show up and participate. I want to follow that example and call on Tennessee Baptists to show up and participate.
The stakes are simply too high.
For instance, it is important for us to come together and be unified regarding the moral issues facing our country. We need to have a voice in the marketplace, but oh how we need to faithfully preach the gospel. Moral stands temporarily slow the decay; the gospel permanently changes hearts. Our nation needs both.
We need to show up and participate because this is the first opportunity International Mission Board President David Platt has had to personally address SBC messengers since the drastic changes were made at the IMB that resulted in the retirement or termination of at least 1,000 missionaries and staff members. We need to hear what he has to say, hear what the plan is moving forward, and offer support for those exercising a cross-cultural calling through the IMB.
We need to show up and participate because we are electing a new president to replace Dr. Floyd. By God’s grace we have three godly pastors vying for the position. One is David Crosby of Louisiana and a second is J.D. Greear of North Carolina. I do not know either of these men personally but know they are highly regarded.
The third nominee I do know personally. He is Tennessee’s own Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Cordova. I’ve come to appreciate Steve in so many ways both as a pastor and personally as a friend. As a pastor he practices what he preaches in prayer, personal evangelism, and stewardship. Bellevue has averaged 481 baptisms annually during his 11 years as pastor, and he has led the church to greater levels of generosity. In Cooperative Program giving alone, Bellevue has gone from $250,000 in 2010 to $850,000 last year and later this year will become the first church in the history of the Tennessee Baptist Convention to give $1 million through the Cooperative Program.
Personally, I know Steve to be a man of prayer who has cultivated one of the deepest walks with the Lord of any pastor I’ve ever been around. He loves our Tennessee pastors and I’ve watched him humbly encourage them — and me — to press on in ministry. There is no question he has a missionary heart with a desire to see Memphis transformed for the glory of Christ. Personally, I believe Steve would be a great successor to Dr. Floyd and I would encourage Tennessee messengers to join me in that support. However, to do that, two things are required: show up and participate.
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.