Just one thing: As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, in one accord, contending together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27, CSB)
The Southern Baptist Convention is a family of 47,000+ churches. The SCBI is a family of 420+ churches. All of us should be contending together for the faith of the gospel, and I believe we saw evidence of this at the SBC Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
- The general attitude displayed during the meeting. The fruit of the Spirit seemed to be on display from most, and that’s not something we can always say about every meeting, whether an annual meeting or your church’s meeting. One pastor who wasn’t able to attend called me to see how the meeting went. My first question to him was if he had attended any annual meetings in the past. When he replied that Nashville in 2021 was his only one, I quickly said that New Orleans wasn’t nearly as on-edge as that meeting! One of the measurements of a gathering of Christians should be how we exhibited the fruit of the Spirit even through difficult topics, conversations, and disagreements. I’m thankful for most of what I saw, and I’m also thankful for the way President Bart Barber presided over the meeting. His demeanor and ability to explain the decisions being made was so beneficial.
- We commissioned 79 missionaries through the International Mission Board and celebrated 10,000 churches planted since 2010 with North American Mission Board support. This is why we cooperate—greater missional impact! These celebrations are evidence of contending for the faith together because church planters and missionaries come from churches. Those churches have faithful pastors who preach the Word, giving planters and missionaries a firm foundation and a Great Commission conviction. Those churches have members who lovingly support them through the application and going process. Those churches put together mission boards (IMB & NAMB) who can help assess, train, and send them.
- Hallway and meal event conversations. I always enjoy seeing people hugging, talking, and spending time together while at the annual meeting. It’s like a family reunion for many, and when you’re face-to-face with someone and having a real conversation, you remember that we are normal people in this together. Social media removes that personal connection and often amplifies an individual’s boldness, which can easily lead to mischaracterizing someone or saying things in ways that that person would never say face-to-face. Being together reminds us that we are on the same team, and you can find a strength in every player.
- Doctrinal clarity prevailed. Questions about complementarianism were swirling before and during the meeting (and still afterward too!). Some people believed a narrative that the SBC is “going liberal” or experiencing a “leftward drift.” While questions about the application of a complementarian theology in local churches will still be debated, the convention overwhelmingly took actions to cement our conservative, basic theological belief on that topic. I hope it pacifies anxious church leaders and removes doubt for many. The SBC is a conservative convention of churches who are committed to the Bible. There will be a number of different viewpoints and important conversations that still need to be held, but I believe we are moving in the right direction. I also believe that patience and humble, charitable conversations will keep us moving in the right direction.
I’m thankful to be part of the largest protestant convention of churches in the world. I’m proud of our work together. And while we have our flaws and will not be the only people in heaven one day, I’m thankful that we can contend for the faith together!