This week several thousand Southern Baptists will gather in Phoenix, Arizona for the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. The gather is both a business meeting as well as a showcase for SBC ministries.
Baptist historian, Leon McBeth wrote:
The “delegates” who met in Augusta, Georgia, in May 1845 to form the Southern Baptist Convention would hardly recognize their creation today. The Convention of 1845 had only two general boards, no commissions, seminaries, institutions, or standing committees. They had no headquarters, no budget, and no continuing officers between sessions . . . The name remains, but almost everything else has changed.
As we consider the development of the SBC, it is quite easy to become proud. We have indeed accomplished a lot since 1845. We have become the largest Protestant denomination in the world. Our mission organizations are large and making a significant impact around the world. We influence local and national government. Southern Baptist churches are scattered across this country — large cities, suburbs, and small towns.
In Phoenix, we will be able to see, touch, feel, even profit from, our multi-faceted ministry platform. Not only are we tempted to be proud, but we are also tempted to neglect the foundation and purpose for our convention. We do not exist to make ourselves more comfortable or to put on a good show. The founders at the 1845 meeting provided a clear statement of purpose, and this has not changed.
Our convention exists for “eliciting, combining, and directing the energies of the Baptist denomination of Christians for the propagation of the gospel.”
This simple statement gives meaning to our gathering, and it also supplies direction for our future.
Eliciting – We come together as a means of reminding ourselves of the needs of the world. We challenge each other to step up to the task and get involved.
Combining – We work together. We are not independent. We are not isolationists. Southern Baptists know the benefit and value of combining our energies — material, spiritual, personal, etc.
Directing – We harness our resources for a purpose. The SBC is a robust denomination. We engage in many different types of ministries. Each of these is directed toward a common goal.
For the propagation of the gospel – Our mission is the Great Commission. Our call is to proclaim the gospel to those across our nation and around the world. The gospel is the hope of the hopeless world, and it is the light for those in darkness.
We are debtors to those who are lost. (see Romans 1) Our repayment of this debt takes place, in part, as we work with other Southern Baptists for the sake of the lost. This, our predecessors said, is One Sacred Effort.
Hope to see you this week in Phoenix. If you get a chance, stop by the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary booth. I would love to meet you.
I have three challenges for you this week, as you sit in the business sessions and as you wander the exhibit halls.
- Thank God for what he has done
- Encourage someone for their partnership in the gospel
- Re-double your commitment to the mission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Scott Hildreth is the director of the Lewis A. Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies. He frequently speaks on issues of missions, spiritual formation, missiology, and theology. Scott also contributes to SEBTS faculty blog www.betweenthetimes.com