My Thoughts on the Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

In early March news broke that Florida pastor Jimmy Scroggins would nominate J. D. Greear to be the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention at the 2016 annual meeting in St. Louis. I wasn’t surprised. Under Greear’s leadership, The Summit Church has become a mission sending powerhouse in the SBC. I’m excited even for his potential presidency for one reason:

J. D. Greear’s candidacy sounds a call to young leaders in the SBC to recognize that our time is now.

Greear recognizes the need of the hour and referenced it in his explanation for accepting the nomination:

First, it is time for the next generation of Southern Baptists to take personal responsibility for the entities of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This single line on Greear’s blog resonated with me more than any of his comments about higher profile topics (i.e. baptism, CP funding). Why? J.D.’s candidacy signals the transition from the generation of the Conservative Resurgence to the generation of the Great Commission Resurgence.

As a young Southern Baptist, I remember going to FBC Jax as an elementary student for the Pastors’ Conference and listening to Homer Lindsay Jr. and Jerry Vines hold forth. I remember when my home church invited both Paige Patterson and Junior Hill to preach in the same year. When we met Junior Hill at the airport he asked if I would carry his Bible. I nearly came out of my 12 year old shoes. I adored Adrian Rogers and made a special trip to hear his final sermon in Binkley Chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

As a child I viewed these men as pillars and buttresses of the SBC. Even living they had become legendary. The wars they fought for the soul of the SBC and the blood they spilled in giving up the praise of men in exchange for faithfulness to the Word of God deserved honor. But, a future without them never occurred to my 12 year old self. Adrian Rogers was synonymous with the SBC. How could you have an SBC without him? Yet, he’s been gone for a decade.

Whether or not Greear becomes the president of the SBC, his candidacy marks the shift, in earnest, to the next generation of SBC leaders. The day is here when 12 year olds in our churches need their own Homer Lindsay and Adrian Rogers. The generation of the Conservative Resurgence is not yet through with their mission, but I pray their faithfulness will be rewarded by seeing those for whom the SBC was defended take up the mantle and run the race.

As a young pastor who just accepted his first senior pastorate I have come full circle. When I started my time at Southeastern Seminary, to be honest, I was disenfranchised with the Convention. 25 years ago my home church rerouted most funds away from state convention, and traditional SBC giving programs. We supported Southeastern Seminary, IMB missionaries, and other agencies straight out of the offering plate. We didn’t send messengers to the SBC, or state convention.

Two things changed my perspective. First, Dr. Nathan Finn, a professor I highly respected, championed the SBC. He showed me we could love the convention, flaws and all, because that’s exactly how Christ loved us. The mission sending capacity of cooperative SBC churches can’t be matched by any other agency. We shouldn’t abandon it. The second thing that changed my perspective was a short conversation with my seminary president, Dr. Danny Akin. In early 2006 we were walking from Binkley Chapel to Stealey Hall at SEBTS and I’ll never forget him looking at me, almost emotional, and saying that the SBC needed Great Commission renewal. He didn’t care if he was the one that catalyzed it. He simply prayed and begged God for it. By God’s grace, and for his glory, God has been using men like Dr. Akin, Nathan Finn, and I pray he will use J.D. as our next president to call young SBC leaders to the unfinished task. After reading J.D.’s post I hear that call yet again. I hope to be faithful in answering it. It’s time other young SBC leaders answer it as well.

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