There are some things the Southern Baptist Convention can learn from the 2016 United States presidential election. We have lived through one of the most historic moments in the history of the United States. I believe before we run too fast past this moment, we need to consider what our Southern Baptist Convention can learn from this year’s presidential election.
1. Be sure you are listening to all people, not just those around you.
President-elect Donald Trump will become America’s leader on January 20, 2017, because he was listening to the people of America, not just those who were around him regularly. Nor was he just listening to the multiple establishments that comprise our nation.
Southern Baptist leaders must always listen to the real people in our 51,000 churches and congregations, not just each other and those who comprise the structure of our denomination. I am not minimizing a leader in our convention listening to their board of trustees or colleagues; I am optimizing listening to the people in our churches, who we are charged to serve in our ministry assignment.
We cannot minister to those to whom we are not listening. We cannot identify with people we do not take the time to know. The Southern Baptist Convention is a cross-generational, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual denomination that is comprised mostly of smaller-membership churches located all over America.
Before the election had been determined, Dr. Alvin Reid released one of the greatest and most transparent tweets I have seen on this issue. He wrote, “The one “issue” overlooked by too many in this election cycle is the impact of movements. Our institutional lenses cloud our vision.”
This is not only true about political institutions and establishments, but our own.
2. Be careful what you say and write, otherwise, it may come back to harm the entire convention.
The 2016 presidential election process was way too long, extremely too volatile, and at times, extremely too divisive. From the beginning of the primaries all the way to the finish line, we saw again and again, what a leader says and writes can come back to harm them.
This is also true about the Southern Baptist Convention. My heart has been so heavy and my spirit grieved with things said or written by Southern Baptist leaders, including many pastors. In John 17, Jesus calls us to love and unity, not divisiveness, insults, and sarcasm.
What a political leader says or writes may cause harm to our nation for a period of time. But much more devastating is that what a God-called leader says and writes may jeopardize their calling, influence, and effectiveness. Not only is their personal testimony and leadership harmed, it harms our churches, our convention, and testimony.
God has the final word on all things; not us.
3. Take the high road, even when it is not easy.
After a challenging election season, we have seen the high road taken by at least three people. President-elect Trump took the high road in his first address in the early morning of November 9. Secretary Hillary Clinton took the high road in her address, not just congratulating our new president-elect, but calling for unity toward the future of America. Then, President Barack Obama took the high road in his address to the American people.
Each could have gone on an endless rant, but they did not. In future days, they will each promote and stand strong in their ideology, but they stood tall when it mattered greatly, even when it would have been easy not to.
Southern Baptist leaders and pastors can learn a lot from this. For the sake of all, the high road should always be taken even when it is not easy. Of all people, we should know this. Our follow-through needs to be consistent.
Jesus personified this again and again as a servant-leader. There were innumerable times Jesus took the high road when it would have been so easy for Him not to. After what Jesus lived through in His life here on this earth, we should walk in His steps.