Having just returned from the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting in Columbus, Ohio, I would like to use this article to reflect on my experience.
The annual meeting of the SBC has multiple roles. They are times to do business, be inspired, and reconnect with the larger family of Baptists.
A year ago, Ronnie Floyd of CrossChurch in Northwest Arkansas was elected our president. Every president brings unique skills and passion to the position. Floyd has not disappointed us. He is an indefatigable leader whose passion is spiritual awakening brought through clear agreement, visible union and extraordinary prayer.
The night of prayer was extraordinary. One of his first acts of president was to call a group of leaders from across the convention to a day of prayer. It was powerful. He carried this theme forward by giving one session in the annual meeting devoted to prayer and worship. As we prayed in small groups, I had the privilege of praying with a man from Alabama and two Asian young men. One moment deserving special comment was our time of confession and petition in regard to racial reconciliation. For me, this night was the most significant event of the convention.
When David Platt was elected president of the International Mission Board (IMB), I made the suggestion that he, like no other mission leader since Baker James Cauthen, had the potential to give voice to missions in remarkable ways. He did not disappoint. His message closed the combined report and commissioning service of IMB and North American Mission Board (NAMB).
Platt laid a clear and compelling challenge and path to carry the Gospel to our nation and world. He reminded us that 2 billion people have not heard the Gospel. In America, we have many cities that are 80-90 percent lost. Too often, we hear these statistics and fail to understand we are talking about people who will spend an eternity in hell separated from God.
His plea for engagement was biblical and passionate.
Two emphases caught my ear. First, the challenge for 100,000 unpaid missionaries to go to the nations. He is talking of the thousands of businessmen who travel and do business around the world. These “tent makers” have access to nations where missionaries cannot go. They touch lost people every day in the normal traffic patterns of business and life. Another group is college students who study aboard.
I also found his challenge to churches to focus on calling out members to give their lives to engage the world with the Gospel. Every church should hold times of prayer, asking for God to call out members to take the Gospel to the lost cities and nations of our world.
There were less than 6,000 messengers and only 113 from Oklahoma at the SCB annual meeting. Yet, it was good to attend a convention where there seemed to be clear agreement, visible union and extraordinary prayer. We will be better because of it.