FIRST-PERSON: To this vision, I give my life. Will you join me? - Baptist Messenger of OklahomaNASHVILLE, Tenn.—The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a convention of churches. Churches plant churches, and churches send missionaries.

Associations, state conventions and national entities do not plant churches or send missionaries. These regional, statewide and national Baptist bodies have the role of assisting churches in their Great Commission work.

The local church is the headquarters of our Southern Baptist Convention. Therefore, our Convention headquarters is not located in one of our 1,200 associations, one of our 41 state conventions or one of our 12 national entities.

If the Lord tarries, I cannot guarantee the organization of the SBC will exist when Jesus comes again. However, I am more than confident the Church will still exist when Jesus comes again.

Baptist bodies are not superior to local churches. Local churches are assisted and served by each of these Baptist bodies. Therefore, the last thing our Convention needs is for churches to be minimized and pastors demonized. We believe in the primacy of local churches and the high calling of pastors.

As the Scripture refers to the Church as the Body of Christ, we realize this forever family of God is comprised of persons from every tribe, tongue, people and nation. Therefore, we give ourselves to the vision of reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town, every city, every state and every nation.

While our Baptist bodies may record the work of our churches and report their work together to the people called Southern Baptists, these bodies are not the Church. There is nothing like the Church.

Where would America be without the Church? The SBC would have no reason to exist if not for the Church and Jesus’ calling upon it to make disciples of all the nations. Why is this so?

Churches plant churches, and churches send missionaries. Churches go and make disciples of all the nations. Churches baptize new believers, and churches teach all things Jesus commands us to do. Jesus will be with His Church always, even to the end of the age.

Why is this so important?

If we ever invert this order in our mindset and practice, then we will begin a downhill slide that may become irreversible. Churches operate under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, not under Baptist bodies who exist to assist these churches in their work of the Great Commission.

I served as a local church pastor for more than four decades. God placed me in one of our Southern Baptist churches as senior pastor for more than 32 years. Upon my calling to the SBC Executive Committee in May 2019, that church sent me and placed upon me the humble privilege of being their pastor emeritus.

It was from that church I was called to my present role in order to assist churches in their Great Commission work and to encourage churches to work together in finishing the task of fulfilling the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Let me be more than clear: I deeply believe the Church is God’s anointed people to take the Gospel to the world.

Furthermore, as a Baptist, I also believe when our churches voluntarily choose to cooperate in this grand task, we will do much more together than we will ever do alone.

There is nothing more dynamic and representative of our Lord than when we love Jesus with all of our hearts, love one another as He loves us and combine all of our energies to cooperate together to give the Good News of Jesus Christ to the whole world.

Now is the time to lead.