As usual, I’m one of the last people to get around to writing a summary of their experience at the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Louisville, KY. I mentioned in my previous post that this was my first time ever attending one of these, so I was eager to make the most of it. Each day began around 4:45am and did not end until midnight, and due to the high volume of tweeting, texting, and emailing, I was recharging the iPhone 2-3 times a day.
Generally speaking, this was an off-year and expected to be a down year in attendance as a result. However, the news of the Great Commission Resurgence task force coupled with the strategic location where there is a higher concentration of informed and interested younger Southern Baptists, the economic recession and off-year scheduling could not keep back the 8,500+ messengers, many of whom were in my generation. This is significant because it is over a thousand more than last year when a key Presidential election was taking place.
During the flight back, I took some time to bullet point some of the highlights and lowlights of my first SBC experience. In this post, I want to mention some highlights to be followed by some lowlights in a follow-up post. Now for some highlights.
1. The Pastor’s Conference was really encouraging. A lot of talk about gospel unity, humility, repentance, and mission and no drive-by slams about Calvinism, personalities, or political agendas. Instead, it was a lot of Jesus and therefore a lot of gospel unity. I didn’t listen to all of them, but I particularly enjoyed Platt, Greear, Stetzer, Reid, Chan, and Hunt. From what I from many elder Southern Baptists, this was the best Pastor’s Conference to date.
2. A couple of weeks ago, I talked with Ben Dockery about getting together on Sunday night. After talking with his Father, Dr. David Dockery (president of Union University), we invited 13 other brothers to join us for dinner at the Cardinal Cafe Hall of Fame. It was a fantastic time of discussion about all things positive and hopeful about the future of the SBC. Here’s a photo I took of the brother’s from that evening (seated from left to right: Phillip Bethancourt, Brad Hughes, Josh Craven, Micah Fries, James Risner, Dewayne Ewers, Shawn Bergen, Bart Box, Ben Dockery, Nathan Akin, Trevin Wax, Owen Strachan, Jedidiah Coppenger, and Dr. David Dockery). Meetings like this are what these trips are all about.
3. The discussion and vote for the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force was historic and hopefully paradigm shifting. Dr. Mohler was sharp and persuasive; Dr. Frank Page was irenic (as usual) and clear that this transcends theological differences; Tom Ascol was direct in returning us to issue at hand by avoiding the subtle attempts to overthrow the motion; and the young brother from TX has bold and convincing as a spokesman for the younger folk and why they are here in support for the GCR and future of the SBC. The overwhelming vote of 95% to 5% in the affirmative revealed that we as Southern Baptists are ready for change in spite of the failed attempts of Morris Chapman and the majority of the Executive Committee to stop it.
4. In years past, I have mentioned that my generation of Southern Baptists does not have many heroes in the SBC. This past week, I was able to spend time with three who have made a big impression on my life (outside of Tom Ascol whom I consider a father). For the past three years, David Dockery has been a constant encouragement and confidant who has helped me in numerous ways to see all that is good and profitable about the SBC and more importantly gospel-centered cooperation. Buddy Gray is a pastor from my home state who has wept with me, embraced me, and cheered me on since we first met. Al Jackson has more passion in his thumbnail than most pastors his age, and his commitment to raising up young men to be pastors, planters, and missionaries is inspiring. If a church should be known more for their sending capacity than their seating capacity, Lakeview Baptist would be topping the charts. Those looking for what a GCR looks like, consider the leadership of Al Jackson and their passion for missions. These men are heroes to me, and I’m grateful to have been able to spend time with them this week.
5. The influence and presence of the younger generation was noticeable not only on the convention floor but more conspicuously at the Founders Breakfast, Baptist 21 luncheon, and IX Marks events–all of which were packed out with standing room only. Interestingly enough, participants at all three of these events were given multiple books, indicative of the kind of passion for theology wedded to commitment to mission that is present in my generation. Furthermore, these meetings where not without the influence of the elder generation, including Mark Dever, Tom Ascol, and Danny Akin–all of whom have been intentional in the investment of a younger generation passionate about the church, the gospel, and preaching Christ supremely from an inerrant and sufficient Word.
6. I have been really impressed with Johnny Hunt’s leadership. I have known Hunt (though not necessarily personally) for almost ten years, and what I’ve seen and heard God do in his life of the past 2-3 years have served to unite (rather than divide) brothers and churches for the sake of the kingdom. This past year has been evidence of that, and I look forward to see how God is going to use hm to lead our convention to greater days in the future.
7. With every significant movement in history, there has been a man God has raised up to play a leading role in its development. In the Conservative Resurgence years, it was largely Adrian Rogers. In the Great Commission Resurgence, it has shown to be Dr. Danny Akin. His vision, leadership, passion, and resolve (in spite of controversy) to keep the gospel central and the mission of God at the heart of our existence is exactly what we need today as Southern Baptists. He has regularly taken hits, lost treasured friendships, and graciously dealt with the skeptics and critics in a winsome and praiseworthy manner. I’m grateful for Dr. Akin and what God has done in and through him to redirect our efforts on things that matter the most.
8. In the 2006 Greensboro Convention, the news picked up on the influence of the SBC blogosphere (and rightfully so). At the time, SBC bloggers were leading the discussion and shaping the issues while ultimately usurping the powers of the “king makers” of the SBC with the election of Dr. Frank Page. In 2009 here in Louisville, I have to wonder what the influence of Twitter was, not so much in making direct impact on the convention but informing the larger public on everything that was taking place. The #SBC2009 hashtag search, I have been told, was read by people all across the nation in the evangelical world. Even Johnny Hunt recently joined Twitter. 🙂 The story of technology and the SBC is one that should not go overlooked in the continued democratization of the SBC voice away from denominational filters. For example, I did not blog once during the convention but had 10x the normal Google searches for my name presumably in order to find my Twitter feed.
9. The unanimous vote on Dr. Moore’s resolution regarding adoption and orphan care was really important. It is my prayer that Southern Baptist churches and pastors will work to create a culture where adoption is not an afterthought or perhaps considered by a minor few but rather a cause that an entire community of believers take up as a commission from our heavenly Father who has adopted us.
10. Although I have blogged less than ever in my five years of doing this, I was blessed by so many people who approached me to express appreciation for what I have attempted to do here. With each encouragement and kind word, I have been motivated to reconsider how I can best use this medium for the glory of God and good of His people. To all of you who I met this past week and voiced your appreciation, thank you. It really does mean a lot.