On the heels of what promised to be a challenging and pivotal gathering for Southern Baptists at the Annual Meeting in California, I am walking away from this convention meeting both encouraged and hopeful.

During the opening session, Southern Baptists participated in the sending of 52 International Mission Board (IMB) missionaries. These wonderful people have answered God’s call to go, taking the Gospel to all nations. In the powerful sending service, we sent your missionaries to places including North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, South America, the Pacific Rim and beyond, all with the Good News of Jesus.

My friend Paul Chitwood, who serves as IMB president, said, “Southern Baptists, this is why we came together and this is why we must stay together.” I wholeheartedly agree.

Thankfully, God has made Oklahoma a great place for missionary sending. Through the local churches in our state, and of course vital ministries including Falls Creek, Oklahoma Baptist University and Baptist Collegiate Ministries, we have seen countless missionaries answer God’s call, and that will continue to be our prayer and emphasis.

Next, I was encouraged that Southern Baptists took bold and needed action regarding the Sexual Abuse Task Force recommendations. These first steps will make a huge difference in preventing abuse and toward caring better for abuse survivors. Thankfully, Oklahoma Baptists have already been working diligently in this area.

My heart also was encouraged by the preaching of God’s Word, the times of prayer and worship, as well as fellowship with other believers, especially with other Oklahomans representing their churches. Oklahoma Baptists enjoy a special and unique unity centered on our love for Jesus and each other, our commitment to the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and our passion to cooperatively carry out the Great Commission.

I am thankful for the ways many Oklahoma Baptist pastors led during this pivotal Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Annual Meeting. Leaders like Mike Keahbone, Jeremy Freeman and others played key roles in this meeting, volunteering their time and pouring their hearts and souls into making the SBC strong and wise.

For these reasons and more, my heart is encouraged today. One of my favorite stories from the history of the founding of our nation involves Benjamin Franklin at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. Franklin made a remark about the symbol of the sun that he saw on George Washington’s chair during the proceedings. Franklin wondered if it was a rising or setting sun displayed on the chair. In a note of optimism about America, the founding father remarked that what he was looking at was a rising sun.

On the heels of a challenging and pivotal SBC Annual Meeting, some wonder if our convention is a rising or setting sun. Certainly, Southern Baptists have strong days behind us, with a legacy of missions and evangelism. We indeed stand on the shoulders of giants. And certainly today we are facing cultural headwinds and issues of our own.

At the same time, I think we could and should see the SBC as a rising sun, by God’s grace. Please join me in prayer that the Lord would continue to bless and use this great convention of churches for the advancement of the Gospel and for His glory (Psalm 115:1).