On Being a Southern Baptist
As I write this post, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention is holding one its regular meetings. Men and women from across all of our state conventions make up the EC. Ordained ministers and church members serve in these voluntary but important capacity to help guide our convention of churches. Periodically, they meet in Nashville, Tennessee to hear from the executive leaders of our agencies and discuss the work of our convention.
As they meet, the vacancies in executive leadership positions loom large upon us. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Executive Committee CEO
- IMB president
- LifeWay president and Resource Division vice-president
- Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president
- Potentially a few other entities (national, state, and university level) may be looking for leaders before our next Annual Meeting
- Plus, a good number of influential churches are or will be searching for a senior pastor within the next 12 months
As I’ve posted before, we are in a time of transition but not in a time of despair. The moment is bursting with opportunity for us to seize. I refuse to be dour. You see… I’m a sucker for my the convention of churches that I call family. I enjoy being a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.
My dad is an ordained deacon in an SBC church and has served in various ways at our home church in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s been a member there since 1979. During her lifetime, my mom was also an active volunteer in many ways in our home church. I was saved, baptized, & discipled in an SBC church. So was my sister, who married one of the guys we grew up with and he is a minster in an SBC church. In my first two years of college, I attended a community college and the BCM had a powerful impact on my life. Then, I attended Samford University for my undergraduate degree. I earned my Master of Divinity at Beeson Divinity School under Dean Timothy George, the greatest living Baptist historian (in my humble opinion). My initial doctoral studies were done at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and I earned a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
I’ve done adjunct teaching for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Union University. In my thirties, I was a Nehemiah Project church planting missionary with NAMB. I have visited & ministered to IMB missionaries out on the field. I worked at LifeWay as an editor, in LifeWay Research to develop ministries, as Director of Adult Ministry Publishing, and Director of Content Development. The WMU published my first book. I’ve published several books and Bible studies through LifeWay; including serving as the General Editor for The Mission of God Study Bible (HCSB). Over the years, I served in volunteer positions with four local Baptist associations; helping with the formation of the Lanier Baptist Association (Georgia). In all, I have served in nine SBC churches including the one I now pastor – First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida. Additionally, I serve as the Assistant Professor of Leadership and Biblical Studies for Houston Baptist University.
To state it clearly… I love being Southern Baptist. We are not perfect. In fact, we are deeply flawed in many ways… because we are human. Sometimes we do not seem great to those looking in from the outside. But the Lord blesses us and uses our combined efforts in powerful ways.
We have one of the most brilliantly written confessions of faith in The Baptist Faith and Message. The Cooperative Program is a powerful financing engine for missionary causes. We support thousands of domestic and international missionaries through the Cooperative Program, state conventions, and local churches. Our Disaster Relief work led by NAMB is one of the top organizations of its kind in the world. The IMB and NAMB have created effective recruiting, assessment, training, and missionary care systems that help people navigate from calling to ministry in ways that engender health in missionary families. Our Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has been a thought leader for decades about the moral issues of our day and the cause of religious freedom. LifeWay is the largest Christian resources provider in the world. Our seminaries are world-class and have nothing but opportunity to be in the top echelon of practical theological training. I could go on and on about the great work of all of our agencies.
But we need the reality check. And it is a good one. The SBC stares into the face of great opportunity. Not because there are vacancies to fill but because there are leaders ready to forge ahead. Not because the missionary task is difficult but because of our vast membership holds a desire to see the world light up with the Gospel. Yes, we have some strife. The old joke is true: If you have two Baptists then you have at least three opinions. But we have churches ready to mobilize, leaders ready to point the way, and a Gospel that is for the salvation of the nations. The moment is alive with possibilities.
I love being part of the Southern Baptist Convention. We are a people of the Word, holding the weight of world evangelism in our hands with a sense of joy, and love the work of the Gospel. I feel at home with our confession, aligned with our mission, and emboldened by our cooperation. May we focus on the mission of making disciples, hold high the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and give our lives for the glory of our Lord.