When I became pastor of a church in Oklahoma, there was a chairman of deacons by the name of R. C. Hall. I was 27, and he was 72. He helped me in more ways than you can imagine. He loved me, encouraged me, protected and advised me. He was also a master of one liners. He could plant a nugget of truth in your heart through a short memorable saying.

For example, the church had been through a season of division just before I arrived. Brother Hall counseled, “The sheep are restless because they haven’t been fed. If you feed them, they will settle down.” Some of the best pastoral advice I ever received came from this retired farmer and cotton gin operator. I learned a lot in seminary, but R. C. Hall taught me some lessons that I did not find in the books.

I have been thinking about this good deacon as the Southern Baptist Convention approaches. Messengers will gather in Dallas this week from all across the land—young and old, urban and rural, with all levels of education and experience. Many of the people who come to the Southern Baptist Convention will be preachers. This reminds me of my favorite R. C. Hall proverb.

It was a Sunday evening after church, Julie and I were leaving for the convention the next morning. Brother Hall warned me to be careful and then explained his caution. “Preachers are like manure. If you spread them around they can do some good, but if you let them pile up they start to stink!” Oh brother, he was speaking truth. Sometimes it is not productive when we get together.

This is an especially dangerous year for us to gather. There is a lot at stake.

Pray for the Southern Baptist Convention as we meet June 12-13.

Pray that we would humble ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Ask our Father to send a fresh wind of His Spirit to rebuke, restore and renew us. Pride is divisive. Pride provokes a man to see the speck in a brother’s eye while ignoring the plank in his own. Humility finds favor with God and man. “… and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5).

Ask the Father to make us careful with our words. The words we speak from platforms and in hallways, and the words that come from our lips and our fingers, ought always be seasoned with kindness and grace. “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly” (Prov. 15:2). Oh Lord, guard our lips and our tweets.

Pray that we would find our true focus. The global Gospel advance is the primary reason the Southern Baptist Convention exists. We work together; we pray together, and we put our money together in order to get the Good News of Jesus to the nations. On Tuesday evening, June 12, the International Mission Board will appoint 79 new missionaries. Some are from Oklahoma! You can watch the Sending Celebration online at www.sbcannualmeeting.net.

I am asking our Lord to bring us back again to this source of our unity, this central reason for our cooperative effort—sharing Jesus Christ with the world. Oh Lord, send us back home from Dallas with a renewed passion to go to the nations, so that people from every tribe and tongue would know you and join us in praising Your great name.