While reflecting on his past two years as Southern Baptist Convention president, Bart Barber urged messengers to look past disagreements and struggles in their churches and to “bear one another’s weakness.” He delivered his final president’s address on Tuesday, June 11, during the SBC Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.

While praising the successes of Southern Baptists — among them includes a 26% increase in baptisms over the last year — Barber emphasized that despite the SBC’s good moments, their efforts do not help the Lord’s reputation “one bit.” God, he noted, doesn’t need our help.

But Southern Baptists still must continue in obedience to serve the Lord, noted Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas.

“I believe that when people get far away from God, they discover there is an emptiness in their heart, and we are the ones who can point them to the truth,” he said. “It’s a huge task to embrace, but the more God blesses us, the more work we have to do.”

And division and past mistakes easily get in the way of being the light that those seeking Christ need. One example of the challenges, he noted, is Southern Baptists’ ongoing battle against sexual abuse.

“We want (people who attend our churches) to enjoy the assurance that their children are safe from abusers there, and they will be if we do not quit,” he said. “Abuse prevention is an ongoing war with predators who are studying and seeking to circumvent everything that we put in place. … We must remain vigilant.”

He added, “It’s important for us to know that even the solutions we already have in place are solutions that are going to have to adapt.”

While these challenges exist, Barber also pointed to how every year, Southern Baptists are packing up and going to the missions field. Barber noted support from Baptists through the Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering are making it possible for a couple from his church to go overseas.

“If our little church had to figure out everything about getting them on the missions field — if we had to reinvent the wheel all over again — do you realize how hard that would be? But because of you, I can look (them) in the eyes and say we’re already ready for you to go.”

Bearing one another’s weaknesses

To accomplish this and other goals, unity is critical, he said.

Pulling from Romans 15:1–6, Barber emphasized the importance of how Christians should “bear the weaknesses of those without strength.”

“God has obligated you and me to accept and bear the weaknesses of people who disagree with the truth,” he said. “It’s a debt we owe our Creator.”

While everyone at times may enjoy winning a debate and delivering a good argument, Barber urged Christians to resist that temptation and instead seek to serve others.

“Some people really enjoy (debate),” he said. “But the question I have to ask myself in the middle of disputes with brothers and sisters in Christ is not what I enjoy doing, but rather, what does God require of me?”

He added, “The Scriptures say here that I’m obligated to accept and bear the weaknesses of those who have failed to understand God’s truth.”

This does not mean giving in on everything someone asks or compromising truth, he noted.

“But even when we need to deliver news to people that they don’t like,” he began, “we can deliver it to them in a way where they unmistakably know that we love them.”

‘Supernatural strength’

Barber noted, “Certainly what we’re supposed to do in Romans 15 is not build our brother up by tearing them down, but instead the godly aim that we have is to edify brothers in Christ and call them to greater service.”

While pastors are often tired and discouraged, they must not “grow weary in doing good,” he noted.

“A supernatural God can give you supernatural endurance, supernatural strength, supernatural hope, supernatural comfort,” he said.

God can provide miracles, he said. “When we obey God and accept our mistaken brother or sister and bear their weaknesses, some marvelous things happen.”

This article was originally published to the Baptist Paper. Feature photo courtesy of Van Payne.