Announcing the SBC Leadership Diversity Initiative

In the preface to Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “That part of the line where I thought I could serve best was also the part that seemed to be thinnest. And to it I naturally went.” We see a need in the Southern Baptist Convention, and our desire is to provide a means to strengthen that weakness.

The SBC Leadership Diversity Initiative is designed to be a networking tool that helps open channels of communication within our convention. We are receiving nominations of ethnic minority leaders and women who may be available, interested, and willing to serve the SBC in leadership capacities – committees, boards, elected roles. We will compile the names of those submitted, along with some basic information, and make that available to anyone responsible for nominating or appointing these leadership positions. 

For example, if the Committee on Nominations is looking for a pastor from Florida or a lay representative from South Carolina, our goal is that they could contact us and we would be able to provide a number of potential nominees whom the nominations committee could then consider. Or if a state convention is searching for minority pastors to join their board or a committee there, we could help open channels for that to happen.

We want to open the floodgates and remove as many barriers as possible to achieve our goal: A convention where ethnic minority leaders and members, as well as Southern Baptist women, know they are valued and considered an indispensable, integral part of our denominational life together. 

Will you help us build our network? Do you know of SBC pastors or leaders who are willing to serve our convention? All you have to do is fill out our short nomination form and click submit. You can click here or on the image below to visit the nomination form.

Our Goals

We want to open communication networks. One comment we’ve heard form SBC leaders is that we need to build more friendships across ethnic lines. Many have the desire to appoint diverse committees and boards. Sometimes we’ve seen them be very successful in that desire. Other times they’ve tried and have failed, but afterwards have admitted that much of the problem is that we need to know more people of various backgrounds who are willing to serve. 

We want to see our effort duplicated. We have no desire to become a centralized institution – the one place where people come to find suggestions for minority nominees. We believe this effort should happen first through organic relationships, but we also know that is not easy and progress on that front has not been as quick as it should have been, therefore other means have become necessary. In addition to growth in organic relationships, we believe the Executive Committee, state conventions, associations can all play a role in making leadership diversity a priority. We would like to be the first (or maybe the 5th) crack in the dam – where water begins leaking through slowly at first, but before you know it the entire dam collapses and water rushes through unimpeded. 

We want to raise the prominence of “lay” leaders and nominations. Many times our mind first goes to pastors who can serve in these capacities. Many of our boards and committees actually require a certain number of lay representatives, and we believe this is a largely untapped resource for making sure diverse voices are included in leadership roles. 

We want to help educate Southern Baptists about the process of leadership selection and how they can be involved. Honestly there are many people who have been active in convention life for years who don’t fully understand how all these boards and committees function. Sometimes it seems pretty complicated. We want to simplify as much as possible and clear the path – if you want to participate and you’re doing what you can to be involved, then we want to help clear any remaining hurdles out of the way.

Ultimately, our goal is this: That the SBC would be a convention where ethnic minority leaders and members, as well as Southern Baptist women, know they are valued and considered an indispensable, integral part of our denominational life together. 

 

FAQ

Whose idea was this?

This project has been months in the making. It’s primarily the result of work that Alan Cross and Brent Hobbs have engaged in over the past few years. They have worked through aspects of the nomination process and have talked with various leaders about the hurdles they encountered through that process. They saw a need for opening up communication channels in this area and have received positive feedback when suggesting this initiative.

Can you guarantee a name submitted will be chosen for any given committee, or even selected at all?

Absolutely not. All we are able to do is pass along the information we receive to those who are responsible for those decisions. On the other hand, many people in convention leadership share our goals and priorities so we believe we can make a real difference with this project. Please keep in mind the appointment and selection process is slow, usually on a yearly basis, so it may be that someone nominated through our website now might be two or three years before they see an opportunity to serve.

Can I nominate myself?

Yes, there is a checkbox on the form if you are nominating yourself and you don’t need to fill out the last section requesting information about the nominator. It won’t be held against anyone that they nominate themselves rather than getting a friend to nominate. We want as many people willing to serve as possible, so feel free to nominate yourself.

What about church size diversity? 

In the nomination form, we include information on church size as well. Those committees who are looking for nominees from smaller and mid-size churches will have easy access to that information.

Why do you ask about Cooperative Program Giving and Great Commission Giving?

There are many indicators of participation within the SBC and we ask about some of the others as well. We agree with many who say too much emphasis is sometimes placed on how much a church gives to the Cooperative Program, particularly when it’s made to sound like that’s really the only thing that matters. However, financial support does matter. It’s one way we show that we’re invested and wanting to participate together. Those amounts are not required on our nomination form. Sometimes you may not even know those figures.

Are there other ways, besides financial support, that increase the likelihood of being chosen for a leadership role?

Yes! One important factor is to make sure your church fills our its Annual Church Profile. That way the state convention and SBC have information about your church, including figures like baptisms, attendance, location, etc… that may be considered in the nomination process. Another factor is to participate and serve in your local association, state convention, or other denominational posts. This helps with organic networking but it also shows your personal willingness to commit and participate in these kinds of leadership roles.

Was this a response to the recent controversy over the Committee on Nominations report? 

No, this is an idea and project we’ve been considering and thinking through for months now, well before any of this latest cycle of nominations were announced. Recent controversies, in our minds, confirm the need for a project like this, but our work on this has not been driven by that or any other specific event.

Are you promoting any particular tribe or theology?

No. We have no interest in using this to promote one view or another. This is designed to make contact information available of members and leaders of cooperating SBC churches. There are no questions on the nomination form about theological views or anything like that.


 

Help us by nominating people you know, by sharing this project on social media and among your friends, and by providing helpful feedback for us. We will use the comments section in this post exclusively for questions and constructive feedback, it will be moderated more heavily than our normal posts. Disagreement or other concerns may be expressed through email.

Why I Am Voting for J.D. Greear to be the Next SBC President (K.V. Paxton)

K.V. Paxton is Lead Pastor at Grace Baptist Church, Quinlan, Texas. He’s a Palestinian-American, graduate of Criswell College, Midwestern Seminary,  and a veteran of the United States Air Force.

The Southern Baptist Convention is at a crossroads. We may not be battling for inerrancy like we did during the often-referenced “Conservative Resurgence,” but the future is no less at stake for our convention. Millennials and minorities, both inside and outside of the SBC, are watching what we do next with great interest on a host of topics. And though I am often given to hyperbole, I do not think it is hyperbolic to expect a potential mass disengagement of young SBCers if they see the wrong choices made or that their voice isn’t being heard. The future of our convention is at stake.

With this in mind, I am casting my vote this June in Dallas for J.D. Greear as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention. What I mentioned above is partly why I believe in Greear. Allow me to give you 3 main reasons why I am voting for Greear next month:

Honors the Past with an Eye on the Future

As a casual observer of Greear’s in the last decade or so, I have seen and heard him honor the past while leading his church into the future. Greear has acknowledged that he stands on the shoulders of those who came before him and offers gratitude to them for their contributions. However, Greear has cultivated an environment at the Summit Church that reaches the next generation. On top of this, Greear’s vision is to continue (note that word, since they are already doing this) to plant churches well into the future.

Further, one look at Greear’s members and staff will also show an eclectic collection of people across generational lines and different ethnic groups. Greear has proven that he can bring generations and groups together for the cause of Christ and has explicitly stated that diversity will be a goal of his as president.

This we need because, for better or worse, real or perceived, the generations coming up in the SBC feel as though past generations will not let go of leadership or the status quo. What we do not need is a disengagement of previous generations, nor a disengagement from the generations coming up. We need someone who can unite all generations to work together for the future of our convention.

With the election of J.D. Greear we will show that we are moving into the future while we honor those who came before us. We do not forget them, we do not leave them, we honor them and say, “join us” as we take the SBC into a new and necessary season of fruitful ministry. Greear has demonstrated that he can do this.

Unity

In 2016 Greear was nominated to be the SBC president and withdrew from the race with Steve Gaines because of continuous runoffs. Greear withdrew in order to preserve unity in the SBC and to show to the watching world that we are united. He did not have to do that, instead he could have allowed the process to move forward, but he chose unity.

Since he has been nominated this year, Greear has continually called for unity and civility in this process, something we wish would not even need to be said, but in our current climate, is necessary. And while Greear is not a so-called “traditionalist,” he has not, does not, and will not place traditionalists outside the camp nor exclude them from the table.

On the other hand, we have a presidential nominee stating that those who believe in limited atonement do not “believe in the same God.” To declare that our reformed brothers are somehow “outside the camp” is not only unhelpful and uncharitable, it creates an unnecessary line in the sand. Does that speak to how he will lead? You be the judge.

Indeed, Greear has been endorsed by some notable traditionalists in part because they know that he would be a unifying force for their “tribe,” for reformed SBCers, and others. We desperately need unity, and Greear can be a unique voice to bring us back together. Observe in his own words:

“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.”

This is unifying voice we need.

Proven Leadership

Finally, Greear has demonstrates proven leadership at the Summit Church, some I have mentioned already. He has stated that as SBC president he will point the convention to personal evangelism, church planting, church revitalization, college mobilization, and engagement of the next generation in cooperative mission.

As pastor of the Summit Church, he has shown that he can do this as the Summit engages in all of these things already. The Summit Church gives 19 percent of undesignated receipts to Great Commission Giving, according the Baptist Press. This includes 40 SBC church plants in America and 200 around the world.

On top of this, the Summit has a vibrant and growing college ministry, which is actively engaged in multiplication and missions. In fact, the Summit Church asks college students to give a summer to go on a mission trip. Remember the unity and reaching across generational lines I mentioned earlier? Well Summit asks Baby Boomers in the church (which there are plenty) to do the same things in regard to missions.

It gets better: according to the Gospel Coalition, “Of the 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, the Summit has the most missionaries on the field—seven-times as many as the next church with the International Mission Board.”

Greear has shown that he can do what he says he would do as SBC president, and what he has listed is what we desperately need.

It is high time the SBC moves into a Great Commission future full of diversity and unity. Not that we haven’t in the past, but the crossroads we are at demands action that will prove these commitments. While we must all do our part on the ground level of our churches, we must also us our voices and ballots to ensure the convention as a whole does this for the foreseeable future. A positive step in this direction is by electing J.D. Greear as the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Because of the reasons listed above, and a host of other reasons, I will proudly cast my ballot for him next month. I hope you will do the same.

Requesting and Utilizing an IMB Missionary at Your Church

This is the third in what has become a three-part series. Section one lightly sketches some reasons why IMB missionaries don’t frequent many churches, with the main thesis being churches no longer request missionaries as speakers. Part two is a more in-depth treatment of that initial thesis, pointing to trends and patterns which have led the SBC to this condition.

Today we’ll look over how to request an IMB missionary and what to do with them once they arrive. Do not expect a comprehensive listing; I imagine comments from current and former IMB workers will far outshine my own in terms of creativity and efficacy.

To request an IMB missionary for an event at your church, you may choose from the following standard options:

Fill out an official Speaker Request form.
Email speaker@imb.org.
Follow @IMB_SBC on Twitter and send them a message or tweet.
Call 1-800-999-3113 and ask for Mobilization

Feel free to follow more informal methods, like calling a Director of Missions, other pastors, associational offices, and perhaps even the national WMU. For today’s festivities, though, I’m going to focus on the official IMB Speaker Request form, and to that end I’ve attached some screenshots.

 

 

The first several questions should not challenge anyone. Note the contact person does not have to be the pastor; anyone can do coordinate this.

 

 

The self-explanatory questions continue. An event name can be something as simple as “Sunday morning service.”  Also – do not feel pressured to choose a precise date and time without the possibility of alteration. Once you complete the request, someone will contact you and you’ll have ample opportunity to tweak dates and times.

Nearly as important as time and date, the event purpose helps the IMB and the missionary prepare for the event. Be creative, but try to be explicit as well. Is this about missions education? Involvement? Lottie Moon fundraising? Just a sermon? The only wrong answers are “No real purpose” and “We need fresh meat.”

 

 

The most interesting part of the above section is the WebEx offer. Sometimes, the organization just can’t find someone you need. Suppose you want a woman who speaks Russian to address a group of Russian students in Chicago, but all the Russian-speaking missionaries are unavailable to travel. The solution is to meet online, and the IMB will facilitate this. Missionaries will, in fact, wake up at 3:00 AM to meet with your church.

 

 

Questions 19 – 21 allow you to flesh out what you need from the missionary and to add any special requests.

Be explicit about services what you want from them. Here’s some ideas:

  • Fill the pulpit for the week; please be explicit as to whether this is a preaching moment (sermon) or a share-about-your-work item. Remember, the missionary chooses events he can handle, and knowing what you need helps. One note: if you want someone to preach, then pastors don’t need to be around. I mean, feel free to take the week off and sit in the pew if you want, but you should also consider taking advantage of the opportunity to get away for the weekend. However, if this is your missions emphasis week, then please, pastor, stay. Show members that missions are important to you.
  • Visit Sunday School classes – all of them.
  • Eat-and-meet on a Saturday evening with the whole church informally, ending with a sharing about work/call to involvement. Or invite them to mingle from Sunday School through worship, church picnic and evening youth meetings.
  • Teach theology of missions at a multi-church gathering over the weekend.
  • Speak on missions and Lottie Moon Giving. Please remember many churches make this request. Get yours in early and avoid the late fall rush.
  • Camp visitor who doesn’t teach much but instead acts as a missionary presence alongside preachers, youth ministers, and counselors.
  • WMU speakers; feel free to request the specific type of woman you’d like: single, wife, mother, educated, from a specific state, etc.
  • Men’s retreat speaker
  • Missions breakfast on Saturday morning, lunch with the youth, supper with the deacons and Sunday School teachers. Make it personal and engaging.

Close out the process by adding miscellaneous information.

  • Consider gender: Do you want women? Men? A married couple? Singles?
  • Languages: Is your church one that uses something other than English? Include that information here: “Missionary must speak ________.” If you want someone who knows sign language, or Spanish, or Greek, just spell it out.
  • Region: Some churches have a heart for a specific place in the world. Some have old partnerships, or immigrant church members. If you want someone from a specific country – again – spell it out. Try not to box organizers in too tightly (blind left-handed Guatemalan dentists without tonsils), but say what you need or want and work with the IMB to see how to meet that need.
  • Most missionaries I know will sleep anywhere and eat anything; even so, if they are going to sleep on the couch and eat with your nine children, warn them
  • And best of all, miscellaneous!

Some old-timers will weigh in here, I’m sure, with some great ideas. My point is that there’s more to offer than the pulpit; just write it down and see who comes. I’m not promising every request will be satisfied, but we’ve got folks ready to go; why not ask?

Oh – and thanks for all you do to support missionaries. It helps more than you could ever know.

 

Why Good Trustees Don’t (And Shouldn’t) Blog About Their Business

I’m the one guy who contributes here who sits on the board at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I’m the one guy who contributes here who has had nothing whatsoever to say about recent controversies at the seminary.

At the end of this post, those two things will still be true.

But I aspire someday to be a full-fledged SBC polity wonk, and it seems to me that this is an opportune moment for us to think together about the way that our polity works. Why haven’t I put to writing my thoughts about these important matters? A superficial answer would be this: I wish to end my term as a trustee with integrity. When I began to serve, I affirmed a code of conduct for trustees that required me to refrain from public discussion about matters before the board. I’m just keeping my word. And yet, even though this answer is sufficiently dispositive, let’s scratch a little deeper. I adhere to some policies that I think are unwarranted. This is not one of them. I think it is a GOOD thing for trustees to refrain from public comment about matters pending before their board. I’d briefly like to suggest some reasons why.

First, refraining from public discussion preserves a trustee’s freedom to be persuaded. Boards of trustees are deliberative bodies. When they meet, the trustees air their opinions and present evidence. They attempt to persuade one another. I believe that every trustee ought to participate in this process in good faith and with an open mind. Having previously taken a public stand makes it harder for a trustee to do that. In addition to weighing the evidence and considering the arguments on all sides, now the trustee also has to consider how to unsay what has already been said if a contrary case proves to be persuasive.

Second, refraining from public discussion helps to minimize conflict among trustees. This is particularly true if more than one trustee is articulating more than one point of view. Will one blogger-trustee misrepresent another blogger-trustee’s views? Will they get caught up in a contest for traffic or likes? Any of these scenarios can undermine one of the most important possibilities in trustee governance—the possibility of discovering collaborative solutions.

Finally, refraining from public discussion helps to clarify who governs the institution. I am a trustee at SWBTS. I do not govern the institution. A TRUSTEE does not govern SWBTS; THE TRUSTEES govern SWBTS. Not until twenty-one trustees have cast a ballot in one direction or another has a decision been made. It is best and least confusing if the first and loudest proclamation that people hear about institutional decisions is the proclamation that actually matters.

Conclusion

For all of these reasons, trustees should be very averse to public discussion about matters before their board. They should be slow to speak. This does not mean, however, that they shouldn’t be quick to listen. I’m thankful for everyone who emails or messages me about SWBTS. That these conversations are one-sided, with you talking while I listen, does not mean that they are not valuable. I’m thankful that you are engaging in rather than disengaging from our polity as a convention. It matters when you speak. I hope you’ll understand that it also matters when I don’t.