This year’s Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting was historic in many respects. As I have taken time to reflect on the events that took place in St. Louis, I am thankful for the strong emphasis on spiritual renewal, spiritual awakening, racial reconciliation and unity that were on display at this year’s convention.
The emphasis on revival flowed from the heart of our outgoing convention president, Dr. Ronnie Floyd. I know that Dr. Floyd is a man who is deeply devoted to prayer, and it was evident that he had spent much time before the Lord fasting, praying and listening to what God wanted him to do and say at this year’s convention.
For the second consecutive year, Dr. Floyd devoted a significant portion of the meeting program to focused prayer for spiritual awakening for the church, for our nation and for our world.
I am grateful for the leadership he gave as our SBC president.
We also witnessed something unprecedented in this year’s election of a new SBC president. Following a closely-contested election that did not yield a winner after two rounds of balloting by messengers, both candidates – Pastor J.D. Greear of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham and Pastor Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn. – both expressed their willingness to concede to the other.
After these two men spent time praying individually, as well as together, and conversing with one another about the best decision, J.D. withdrew his candidacy and encouraged messengers to support and unite behind Steve Gaines.
On Wednesday morning when Pastor Greear said these words, the audience erupted with celebrative applause indicating their appreciation for his willingness to sacrifice his run for office in 2016 in favor of a wonderful spirit of unity among the messengers.
Pastor J.D.’s actions spoke volumes about the kind of person and leader that he is, and the entire SBC saw why so many North Carolina Baptists have great respect and much appreciation for him.
At 43-years-old, J.D. is a very effective and influential pastor. He is a strong pastor-leader, an effective communicator, and he consistently preaches the truth of God’s Word. I am thankful to have him as pastor of a North Carolina Baptist church. In addition to their commitment to evangelism, disciple-making, church planting and missions, The Summit Church has also made significant strides, in recent years, in its support of missions through the Cooperative Program. In fulfillment of a missions financial growth plan adopted three years ago, The Summit is now one of the top Cooperative Program giving churches in our state convention. This congregation also invests large numbers of dollars in Southern Baptist missions through Great Commission Giving.
This year’s annual convention meeting included a panel discussion on racial unity in America, and messengers overwhelmingly adopted a resolution condemning the display of the Confederate battle flag.
While we recognize that this flag serves as a memorial to many Southerners who bravely fought and died in the Confederate military during the Civil War, there are many other citizens in our nation who do not have that same memory or understanding. For them, the Confederate battle flag represents a symbol of atrocities that occurred during a time period in our nation’s history, and sadly, racism still exists in our country today.
Can we recognize that in the Bible, we are called upon us to set aside our preferences for the sake of the gospel, especially when they become a stumbling block to others? The Confederate flag is a stumbling block to many of our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as others who have not yet come into the family of faith. I agree with former SBC President James Merritt who said in speaking for the resolution from the convention floor that “all the Confederate flags in the world are not worth one soul of any race.”
In light of everything that took place during this year’s SBC meeting, I left St. Louis hopeful and excited about the future of our convention.