I’ve been attending the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) annual meeting since 1985, when my parents strolled me around the convention hall. My wife is the same. Our families are deeply invested in this denomination. My father and father-in-law are trustees at SBC entities. I was on a council that concluded our business this week. I went to an SBC seminary. The church I pastor gave over $400,000 to SBC causes last year. Again, we are deeply invested.
I love the SBC and am encouraged about some things while I’m deeply frustrated about others. After this post goes live, I’m temporarily laying down my online comments about the Convention. Honestly, it exhausts me. I want to focus more on my family and church.
Here are 18 observations of the 2018 SBC annual meeting:
- The city of Dallas, Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and Omni are awesome.
Yes, I’m biased about Dallas. It is my home city. However, you’ve got to admit it’s a great city. The convention center and Omni are both really sleek and modern. I enjoyed them. The view from my room was breathtaking.
- The Presidential election was way more lopsided than I expected.
I predicted it would be tighter. Boy, was I wrong. The convention spoke, and they clearly wanted J. D. Greear.
- Mike Pence came, and it inconsistently bothered the Reformed camp of the Convention.
They defended Russell Moore when he invited Hillary Clinton to an SBC missions event. They never protested when Moore met with President Obama. I got raked over the coals on Twitter when I voiced my opinion on the matter.
When George W. Bush addressed the SBC several years ago, there was no pushback. The same is true with Condi Rice. This pushback pertaining to VP Pence shows the Convention has drifted to the left some and has become increasingly influenced become overly-sensitive. Political correctness may well be the SBC’s downfall if something doesn’t change.
- Non-Calvinists and non-Calvinistic-leaning people are the minority of attendees of the annual meeting.
It is the reality of the room. I feel like a minority member of my denomination. I have not moved theologically, but my denomination has.
- Bart Barber is the man.
I’ve known Bart for a long time. He is very level-headed and knows rules/procedures better than nearly any pastor with whom I’ve interacted. Bart’s statement revealed the Southwestern Seminary executive committee was forced into terminating Dr. Patterson. For those who don’t know Bart, he LOVES Paige and Dorothy Patterson. I can’t imagine how painful it was to experience that.
During the debate, I sat near my father, a fellow Southwestern trustee, as he cried. My dad was tensed up with major pressure. Bart had tears in his eyes as he spoke. The Southwestern trustees are tired. Bart defended them, and my respect level for him is higher than could be expressed in words.
- There was a slanderous statement made that was inaccurate and unkind.
An attempt was made to replace a trustee of the ERLC with another man. This was a controversy around the representatives of the Kansas-Nebraska Baptist Convention.
The two representatives from that state convention were a pastor with whom I went to seminary and with whom I served on staff at a church, and a layperson who is an attorney.
From the Convention floor, they were accused of being dishonest. There is nothing dishonest that they did. Controversial? Yes. Dishonest? No. Everything they did was within the parameters of the Convention. Furthermore, the desire for the Convention floor to overturn their decision was within the right of the messengers. All was within the rules.
- Kevin Ezell is a fantastic leader.
If you went to the NAMB luncheon, you saw how crisp he is when he leads something. His reputation as pastor of Highview precedes him in this regard. Dr. Ezell is a buttoned-up leader who chooses where he is going, then leads people to it.
- John Crist is funnier in person than online—which is saying a lot.
My wife and I LOVE watching John Crist online. We have his stand-up album. He is hilarious. His stand-up act was fantastic!
- The “For the Church” lunch was, yet again, fantastic.
I just love Dr. Jason Allen. He seems to be the most intentional bridge-builder amongst the entity heads. I enjoyed hearing from the panelists and feel I gained new perspective.
The culture Dr. Allen has built at Midwestern is so refreshing and exciting. The food at the luncheon was good, too.
- Southwestern Seminary feels gutted and in need of health, energy, and direction.
Going to the Southwestern booth, talking to professors, and attending the alumni luncheon made it clear that the leaders of Southwestern need to heal, the institution needs it, and there is just a lack of energy due to the exhaustion of the last few months. Totally understandable.
- D. Jeffrey Bingham is impressive.
This interim president of Southwestern Seminary gave the best seminary report I’ve ever heard. He was humble, clear, kind, direct, decisive, and wise.
- The exhibit hall was better than ever.
My kids love walking through there. I love it, too. It was great.
- The announcement of a joint ERLC and LifeWay study of abuse is really encouraging.
I’ve wondered about data pertaining to abuse in churches, and am glad Drs. Moore and Rainer did, too. This report will help churches see ways to more effectively protect women.
- David Platt’s story of the Muslim receiving Christ made me cry with joy.
The IMB report was great. I loved hearing about the financial stability they’re finally experiencing. Even more encouraging was the expression of missional movements around the globe.
- The church planting stats Kevin Ezell shared in the NAMB report were amazing.
Here are the stats:
- In Minnesota-Wisconsin, 57% of baptisms came from church plants.
- In New England, 34% of baptisms came from church plants.
- Churches planted since 2011 have an 84% survival rate.
- 34% of all churches in New York and 35% of all churches in New England were planted since 2010. 50% of all churches in Canada were started since 2010.
- The discipleship report given by Robby Gallaty and the evangelism report by Adam Greenway were both excellent and articulate.
I particularly like this website Robby and his team developed about the discipleship report. It is really helpful for churches to use in leadership meetings.
- Twitter is more of a political weapon than ever before . . . including in SBC politics.
You could see this from both political parties of the SBC. The spin is silly.
- I got to yell “Go Vols!” from the platform, and that was fun.
It lightened an otherwise tense time since our young leaders council immediately followed the presidential speeches.
Lastly, it was a blast hanging out with fellow messengers of Brushy Creek. We got to represent our church family and enjoyed our time together.
Do you have any thoughts on the 2018 annual meeting? Share them in the comment section below.