On Inter-Congregational Relationships

One of the highlights for me of this year’s SBC annual meeting was the opportunity I had on the Sunday morning before the convention to worship at both FBC Farmersville with Bart Barber and Cornerstone Baptist Church with Dwight McKissic. Bart and Dwight were gracious hosts, and their congregations were both very welcoming. It was a joy to be able to worship in both churches.

As I think about those visits, I am reminded of the inter-congregational relationships that we see throughout the New Testament. A great deal of the Apostle Paul’s ministry was devoted to visiting and writing letters to other churches. Sometime these were churches he had planted. Other times these were churches he had merely heard about from others.

Consider some of the verses from Paul’s letters that demonstrate what I am talking about.

Acts 15:41
And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 18:23
After spending some time there, he departed and went from one place to the next through the region of Galatia and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.

1 Corinthians 16:19
The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

Philippians 4:21
Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you.

Colossians 4:10-15
Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him), 11 and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. 13 For I bear him witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hierapolis. 14 Luke the beloved physician greets you, as does Demas. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

It is clear that not only did Paul strengthen the churches with his visits, he was strengthened and encouraged by the fellow believers with whom he visited. His letters were intended to instruct the churches but also to encourage and build up the churches.

While his ministry as an apostle was certainly unique in some ways, I am reminded that it was not just Paul who valued the relationships that he had with other churches. In fact, several of his letters conclude with greetings from the Christians where he currently was to the Christians to whom he was writing. There seems to have been a sense in the first first century that they were all in it together for the sake of the gospel. They understood that they had brothers and sisters in Christ in other places throughout the region, and they valued those relationships.

I believe this is one of the beautiful things about the Southern Baptist Convention. Our churches are in different places throughout the country. We have different styles of worship. Some of our churches are more traditional, while other of our churches are more casual. Yet we all come together for the sake of the gospel. We partner together to get the gospel to those who have never heard that there is salvation in no other name but the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I was encouraged to see and worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ in Farmersville and Arlington, Texas. I can only hope that those churches were also encouraged by the visits of some of their fellow Southern Baptists. May our sense of togetherness continue to grow across congregations and geographical boundaries, and may the gospel continue to go forth through the ministry of each of our churches.

Why I’m glad JD Greear was elected SBC President

I did not vote for JD Greear on the first ballot in 2016. I did vote for him the second time around. I was prepared to do so again on the third ballot, but I was glad when he graciously stepped aside for Steve Gaines to become SBC President. While he was not obligated to do so, I believe it was the right thing for him to do under the circumstances.

But the 2016 election has very little to do with why I enthusiastically supported JD in this year’s election. I do not believe he was owed the presidency. I am always happy for any candidate who wants to serve in an elected office in the SBC to be nominated. Let the messengers decide.

And that’s exactly what we did Tuesday afternoon. JD Greear was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention by an overwhelming margin of nearly 70-30. I expected JD to win. I had predicted it would be 60-40, but I also said that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer than that.

I was thrilled when the convention elected JD as President by such a wide margin. But why? Allow me to mention just a few brief reasons.

1. The gospel above all.

JD has made clear that it is the gospel above all at the Summit Church. He has also made clear that his vision for the SBC is the gospel above all. These are challenging times in our culture, and these are challenging times in the SBC. We need a leader who understands the importance of keeping the main thing the main thing.

JD has not only spoken about the gospel above all, he has led his church in that way. One of the ways this is seen is Summit’s participation in the SBC. The Summit Church gives more money to the Cooperative Program than any other church in North Carolina. While percentages are important, $500,000 per year to the CP is nothing to sneeze at. The Summit Church also has more people serving on the international field through the IMB than any other church in the convention.

JD Greear has proven himself to be a man with a laser-like focus on the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaiming it to every tribe, tongue, and nation.

2. The need for more attention given to ethnic diversity.

Much progress has been made in this regard, but we still have more room for improvement. I believe that JD’s example at the Summit Church in this area has prepared him to lead our convention to intentionally include more ethnic minorities in positions of leadership and influence. I am also thankful he will have A.B. Vines and Felix Cabrera by his side as 1VP and 2VP as he leads out in this important way.

3. JD is a BF&M 2000 Southern Baptist.

This is important. It is important that JD himself affirms our confessional statement, but it is equally important that he does not wish to add to that statement. I fear we will always, as long as God allows the SBC to exist, be pushing against the desire on the part of some in our convention to narrow doctrinal parameters beyond that of the BF&M. We must stand firmly and unapologetically on our shared confession of faith, but we must never allow tertiary matters that go beyond this statement to divide us.

4. JD’s humility and leadership as a candidate.

This election process hasn’t been easy. JD has been unfairly attacked, and there has been quite a bit of conflict and difficulty in the SBC over the last couple of months. When confronted with unfair attacks, JD has responded by bearing in love with those who attacked him. When faced with tough issues, JD has spoken (tweeted) a clear and convictional word without unnecessarily fanning the flames of controversy. These actions have shown that JD’s willingness to step aside two years ago was not a political stunt but a reflection of his character.

5. This election sent a clear message.

I want to be clear here. I have nothing against Ken Hemphill. I think he is an honorable man. But some of his supporters worked very hard to spread division in our convention. The nomination speech that was made on Hemphill’s behalf even included a couple of digs at JD. By electing JD by such a wide margin, the messengers sent a clear message that secular campaign tactics have no place in our Southern Baptist Convention.

The election also sent a message to younger pastors and ethnic minorities that there is a place at the table for them.

For these reasons and more, I am glad that JD Greear is the next President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Let’s all commit to praying for him as he leads us this next year.

Pass us not, O gentle Savior

It’s been a tough couple of weeks (really couple of months) in the SBC. Leaders have fallen. Sin has been revealed. There is a heaviness that rests over our Southern Baptist family as we head into our annual meeting this week

A friend recently said, “Tell me why I should stay.” Those are sobering words. I must admit that similar thoughts have passed through my mind. But I will be in Dallas. I want to be part of the solution. I believe that God can and will continue to use the Southern Baptist Convention.

So as I listened to the words of Fanny Crosby, they became my prayer for the SBC.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me;
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in heaven but Thee?

The song is often sung during the invitation time of a church worship service. The idea is that we do not want Jesus to pass us by as He calls His sheep to Himself. But as I listened to this song, I was reminded that Christ will build His Church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. He will accomplish His purposes with or without the Southern Baptist Convention. But this is my prayer as we gather this week in Dallas: “Pass us not, O gentle Savior.”

Pass us not, O gentle Savior

It’s been a tough couple of weeks (really couple of months) in the SBC. Leaders have fallen. Sin has been revealed. There is a heaviness that rests over our Southern Baptist family as we head into our annual meeting this week

A friend recently said, “Tell me why I should stay.” Those are sobering words. I must admit that similar thoughts have passed through my mind. But I will be in Dallas. I want to be part of the solution. I believe that God can and will continue to use the Southern Baptist Convention.

So as I listened to the words of Fanny Crosby, they became my prayer for the SBC.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Savior, Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

Let me at Thy throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.

Trusting only in Thy merit,
Would I seek Thy face;
Heal my wounded, broken spirit,
Save me by Thy grace.

Thou the spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me;
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in heaven but Thee?

The song is often sung during the invitation time of a church worship service. The idea is that we do not want Jesus to pass us by as He calls His sheep to Himself. But as I listened to this song, I was reminded that Christ will build His Church. The gates of hell will not prevail against it. He will accomplish His purposes with or without the Southern Baptist Convention. But this is my prayer as we gather this week in Dallas: “Pass us not, O gentle Savior.”