Dr. Frank Page (and Executive Committee of the SBC),
I want to thank you for the excellent leadership you have demonstrated in representing Southern Baptists. Through your intentional efforts and direction, I believe a new tone has been set for meaningful cooperation among all Southern Baptists that speaks well of the love of Christ and for one another. You have modeled this as SBC President and continue to as President/CEO of the Executive Committee.
There were times in the past where I had little desire to hear the reports from the Executive Committee, but I can gladly say that is no longer the case. The work you have done has given me reason to be proud as a Southern Baptist and hopeful for the future (being 34, I hope to be around for a long time!). You said something in your report that I’d heard before but never really considered very deeply. You said, “The headquarters of the SBC is not Nashville but every local church of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
As I thought about that and the current annual meeting schedule, I noticed that there was little if any opportunity for Southern Baptist to hear reports from SBC headquarters (local churches). I’m very glad to hear of what God is doing in our various entities and organizations, but as a convention of cooperating churches, I did not hear of what God was doing through our local churches (headquarters).
A Proposal for Your Consideration
I would humbly like to make a proposal for your consideration. As President and CEO, I appeal that you help us hear from local churches what God is doing in the SBC. If SBC headquarters (local churches) do not have a platform, microphone, or time slot in the annual meeting, can you create such a platform and microphone throughout the course of the year?
Here’s what I’m asking specifically. Far too often the only thing we hear regarding local churches is how they have not baptized anyone, how one church experienced a split over philosophical or doctrinal differences, how its leadership failed morally, or how a church closed its doors due to debt or death of mission. A lot of attention is given to what’s wrong but I fear that far too little time and attention is give to what’s right.
Where is God at work in SBC headquarters? Where are pastors leading their churches with an aggressive disciple-making vision and bearing fruit? Where are declining churches being revitalized with renewed commitment to the gospel and Great Commission? How are churches adopting unreached people groups and engaging them beyond dollars but with their lives? Where are the churches that have sent their people on mission and planted daughter churches? These are the kinds of reports I fear we never get to hear.
They are more than reports. They are stories, and stories are powerful. I remember distinctly the story of the barber led to Christ by a NAMB church planter who is evangelizing clients and hosting a Bible study in the barber shop (NAMB report several years ago). The story this year of the Quichua man won to Christ by IMB missionary now going with him to South Asia to make the Gospel known was powerful and inspiring. Those stories grab the affections and lodge deep in the memory and serve to shape the large narrative of what it means to belong to the SBC.
Yet, as I talked to fellow Southern Baptists, I fear that we have not been great storytellers, especially when it comes to communicating and celebrating what God is doing through local churches. My recommendation is that the EC of the SBC make it a priority to become the best storytellers of what God is doing through SBC headquarters. Utilize all resources available, including LifeWay films, writers, etc. to capture and communicate how Christ is building His church so that we can enter in and celebrate together. Highlight these stories on Baptist Press, perhaps making a special column or page to archive them with easy retrieval. Create social media accounts (Twitter/Facebook) to spread the word far and wide online so that others can be encouraged as well. And as Baltimore approaches, perhaps you could select some of your favorite stories of God’s work at SBC headquarters of what God has done this year as part of your report to the messengers of the SBC.
Why is this important? Why should it be a priority? I believe the focus on local churches throughout the year will be a reminder and a source of encouragement to know that Jesus is more committed to the Great Commission than we are. He is the one who is with us always in this world, even to the end of the age. He is the one with all power and authority in heaven and on earth, and as He exercise that authority through His church, we will have more occasion to glory in our great King!
Not only that, but I believe these stories strung together will provide a new narrative and in significant ways “rebrand” the SBC to my generation who right not are not compelled to participant outside their local church in SBC life. The debates online are not helping, but instead of trying to stop the debating, why don’t we just change the channel to SBC headquarters?
I know there is a great concern about the low percentage of churches reporting through the ACP (Annual Church Profile). For some, it is frustrating because we are measuring nickels and noses, not disciples, life-change, and other forms of church health and growth. But what if we replaced statistics with stories? What if the stories communicated we measured more than nickels and noses but lives, churches, and communities changed by the power of the gospel? Such stories might even encourage church leaders to reconsider participating in the ACP.
When I started participating in SBC life, I heard of “flagship churches.” They are the megachurches across the SBC landscape that tower with significance and rich history. They were pastored by former SBC presidents and developed a reputation that caused others to refer to them as “flagship” churches. But you know and I know these flagship churches do not reflect the heart of the SBC. There are tens of thousands of “ordinary” churches pastored by Brother John in Smallville, USA who are getting it done without the platform, limelight, or recognition. They are happy to live in obscurity to make Jesus famous. And because of that, we should share their stories with others like them who comprise the majority of the SBC.
The SBC is comprised of a variety of churches in all kinds of geographic contexts. But they all have the same goal–to follow the command of Christ to make disciples and help them become like Jesus. If there is an easy path for SBC headquarters to report what God is doing to you at the Executive Committee, I believe the impact could be substantial. Whether it is a simple form or next steps or direct connect with contact information, hearing from SBC headquarters could serve us all in the trenches looking to share Jesus with the world.
Thank you for considering this request. We have a new tone in the SBC. Now let’s build some momentum moving forward, beginning with acknowledging the work of Jesus in keeping His promise to build His church. May future generations hear of His might hand renewing and reviving churches and believe that our God reigns!