Two years ago, I accepted the counsel of several friends and mentors to have my name placed in nomination for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. Our church leaders and I had been surprised by the counsel, but after wrestling with the issue in prayer for several months, we felt like the Spirit of God was telling us to go forward. I explained my reasons for doing so at the time here.
When it came time for the actual election, after two votes no clear winner had emerged between Pastor Steve Gaines and me, and the Spirit of God impressed upon my heart that I was to withdraw, cast my support for Steve Gaines, and ask all those who had voted for me to do the same. Steve is a personal friend and great leader in our Convention, and one I was happy to follow. He emphasized two vital things in the life of our Convention—the importance of prayer and the primacy of personal evangelism. Both were timely and prophetic calls, and both are great foundations we must continue to build on. I had the privilege of serving on Steve’s committee on evangelism and have been challenged by his emphasis on prayer. We declared 2018 “The Year of Prayer” at The Summit Church, a year in which we are making a concerted efforts to raise the prayer temperature in our church.
Many have asked if I am planning to run when Steve’s term is over this summer. And, after a lot of prayer, encouragement, and counsel, with the consent of our leadership team and my wife Veronica, I am again allowing my name to be placed in nomination for the election in Dallas.
(For those of you in The Summit Church unfamiliar with how the SBC works, “President” is a volunteer role that will not take away from my responsibilities at the Summit. Our church is, and will always be, my top priority.)
The basic passions that God laid on my heart haven’t changed from 2016, and I feel more committed to them than ever:
The basis of our unity in the SBC is the gospel. As a Convention, we should be neither defined nor characterized by a certain church style, method of ministry, political affiliation, or cultural and racial distinctive. We are a gospel people; the gospel is, as Paul said, “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3). We must avoid the temptation to let smaller doctrinal issues or any personal preferences replace the centrality of the gospel as our unifying standard. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is narrow enough to unite us on the essentials and broad enough to allow freedom in the peripherals.
The church is supposed to declare the diversity of the kingdom and reflect the diversity of the community. We need to recognize the leadership gifts of brothers and sisters of color that God has placed in our midst and embrace their leadership. This should have happened a long time ago, but in this new era we desperately need their wisdom and influence.
The church is supposed to declare the diversity of the kingdom and reflect the diversity of the community.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said that he came “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Soul-winning was Jesus’ main thing. That means if we are really following him, it will be ours as well. Our enemy will do anything to distract us from that. He loves nothing more than for us to spend our energy on institutional maintenance, personality conflicts, secondary doctrinal issues, church programs, even mission ventures—so long as they don’t involve actual evangelism. Soul-winning has always been a Southern Baptist essential, and it should form the core of our mission strategy for the future.
Recently, at The Summit Church, we asked each member of our congregation to identify one person they could pray for and seek to bring to Christ over the year. The phrase we kept repeating was, “Who’s your one?” This emphasis led to our most evangelistically effective year to date. What would it look like if every Southern Baptist asked God to let him or her lead one person to Christ next year and our agencies worked with pastors and church leaders to make that a possibility?
The recovery of church planting among Southern Baptists in recent years has been amazing. Church planting must remain the organizing principle of our mission strategy. Can you imagine what it would look like if every Southern Baptist church committed to help in the planting of one domestic church next year and got involved reaching one unreached or underserved people group overseas?
In addition to a wave of new church plants, we need to plead with God for a wave of new life in existing churches. Church planting and church revitalization have always gone hand-in-hand. I’m especially burdened for this because The Summit Church is a revitalization story. I’ve seen first-hand that it’s possible for plateaued congregations to gain new vision and breathe new life into their community. May God give more of both in the coming years.
I would love to see Southern Baptists mobilize a generation of college students to give the first and best of their careers to living strategically on mission. We have asked college students at The Summit Church to spend their first two years after graduation pursuing their careers in a place where we are planting a church. We tell them, “You have to get a job somewhere. Why not get one in a place where you can be a part of a strategic work of God?” Every year we see dozens of college graduates accept that challenge and plant their lives in a place where we are planting a church. What would it look like if Southern Baptist college students all across the country did that—pursuing careers in places that NAMB or IMB are facilitating church plants? Can you imagine the catalyst that would be for our church planting?
You have to get a job somewhere. Why not get one in a place where you can be a part of a strategic work of God?
Cooperation between churches for the sake of mission is a key component of New Testament evangelistic strategy. Our church has greatly benefited from our involvement in the SBC, and we are enthusiastic supporters of cooperative strategies. Southern Baptists continue to produce more church planters, more missionaries, and more seminary graduates than any other group in America, and we need to do everything we can to get the next generation engaged in cooperative mission.
Whether or not I have any official role in leading in these areas, this is where I hope to see our Convention go in the days to come, by the power of the Holy Spirit and grace of God.