Lord willing, I will be in Baltimore, Md., June 10-11, for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Based on comments from a blogger I like, there is reason to believe I may be one of a small number under the age of 40 to attend.
“Younger Southern Baptists are focused more on local church ministry and less on Convention meetings,” said blogger Trevin Wax, pointing to the popularity of the SEND North America conference last summer, which was almost as largely attended as the entire meeting of the SBC in Houston.
He contrasts the two. “The Convention meeting was sparsely attended and largely filled with denominational protocol, entity reports, and voting sessions. SEND North America was overflowing with energy, excitement, and the schedule was filled with breakout sessions that ran the gamut from church revitalization to church planting to counseling, etc. ”
This is not, Wax says, because young Southern Baptists are averse to denominational life. They are just more reluctant to spend time and money on it, with other event options around like Together for the Gospel (T4G) or Catalyst.
With due respect to those who value these significant events, allow me this opportunity to explain why I believe that the emerging generations of Southern Baptists can and should take part in the annual meeting, on state and national levels.
///Business and a pleasure
In spite of preconceived notions of some, the SBC and state meetings offer a rich time of worship, fellowship and ministry. While not everyone has the time or resources to go, those who do may be surprised at how the time is refreshing and renewing.
Further, the time allows us to take care of some important duties. The word “duty” has fallen on hard times. Our American society likes to pick and choose what we do and where we will be. That is why so many churches conclude it is hard to find reliable volunteers and church members these days. We are reduced to “selling the sizzles” as to why church members should come on a Sunday night or to a business meeting. People are quick to complain if resources are misused or not allocated as they want. Yet those who criticize should have the heart to help.
///It’s our Convention
It is true that Jesus came to save the world and establish the Church (John 10:10, Matt. 16:18), not establish a particular denomination. It is also true that the New Testament prophet’s name wasn’t John “the Southern Baptist.” At the same time, denominations are how we organize ourselves for ministry and maintain doctrinal unity and distinction within the larger Body of Christ. The only alternative to organized religion, as one observer said, is disorganized religion. Since God has placed the Southern Baptist Convention within our care, it is our job to trust God for ministry and lives touched and to work our hardest toward these goals. A once-a-year meeting is not asking too much of our church leaders to make a commitment to attend.
///When it’s our turn
If the Lord tarries, those who are now in their 20s and 30s will, one day, be in their 50s and 60s, and the current leadership will be gone. When that time comes, we don’t want to have to scramble to know how to operate effectively our denominational structures, institutions of learning and missions-sending organizations. By staying connected to Convention work in our early years, we will learn wisdom from those whom God has now placed in leadership. C.S. Lewis once said the reward for a job well done is often being assigned a larger, more difficult task. Perhaps if we do well as a Convention, God will give us even more responsibility (Luke 12:48).
For these reasons and more, I would encourage young Baptists—really, all ages—to take an active, prayerful part in the SBC and State meetings. After all, God has blessed us with much and will hold us accountable. To whom much is given, much will be required—even attending business meetings.