It was truly amazing. In roughly a two hour session more change has come to the SBC than has happened in over 30 years. You ask, what is so big that it would be placed at the same level as the conservative resurgence that we still feel ripples from today? The answer lies in two things. 1. The Southern Baptist Convention elected Fred Luter to be its first (of possibly many) African American presidents in our historically white convention. 2. The Southern Baptist Convention possibly (my apologies, the ballots are still out) changed its name to the Great Commission Baptist Convention. One was unanimous the other was far from it.
I have to tell you, coming in from lunch there was an air of excitement in the room. I sat in the middle of a large group of African American brothers and sisters buzzing with excitement. The nomination came, there was no other candidate and the convention voted unanimously as we all stood and cheered. We cheered for a man whose credentials were that of a Southern Baptist President and we cheered because we took a giant leap rejecting the sins that our convention was founded for and to long was known for. To tell you the truth my first tear of the night was shed as I was overwhelmed by the moment. Today was a day we should be proud to be called Southern Baptists.
As with any family there are moments that make your chest swell with pride and there are moments that make you just shake your head. I had known for about eight or nine months that there would be a motion coming from the SBC to informally change its name. The reason was simple, the Southern brand was not helpful to our friends in the north trying to plant and lead churches. I came very split on the decision. I believe that an organization defines a name rather than a name defining an organization. On the opposite end we as baptists can do what ever we want so if the SBC/GCBC wanted to change its name every individual church could reject it just by ignoring it. The motion was brought forward and microphones were filled with messengers ready and willing to put their opinion in. I remember an older pastor sharing his wisdom. I don’t know if he stood for it or against it, but he said that what matters wasn’t our name, instead it was our actions. The call to question came, the vote was taken, ballots were submitted and we will find out later today what happened.
Then the oddest thing happened. A hall filled with people became a hall half filled with people. The votes were taken, people were hungry, they left.
What they left sadly tells me that nothing has really changed in our convention. The last and most important presentation of the night was still yet to be given. It was the presentation of the International Mission Board. Funny enough we had just taken a vote to be named after the great commission and yet few stayed to hear how we could actually partner with each other to do it.
What they missed was a presentation that was Spirit filled. It was a presentation that placed an urgent conviction my heart that I knew was God breathed. It was a call to actually be about the gospel. Truth be told voting for the first African American president wasn’t hard. Honestly, it cost me nothing. My vote on either side of the Convention’s name wasn’t hard, it cost me nothing. Being on mission, apart of God’s great commission, isn’t free, it’s costly.
I watched as scenes of Beirut played on a screen and listened as stories of Japan were told. In the midst of the presentation my second, third, forth and following tears streamed down the sides of my eyes. God had broken me once again. He had broken me to remember vividly that those people, 3000+ groups world wide, have never heard the gospel. He broke me to realize that not only am I blind to need world wide, I’m blind to those who don’t know Jesus in Pasadena.
Every week I preach Jesus crucified. Every week we put together a service that any person can come to trust by faith at. That said our Sunday mornings are more a pep rally than anything else. Those who hear the words of the cross have already found them pleasing.
God has placed on my heart this week an urgent brokenness for the lost in our community and throughout our world. I don’t know what the next steps are, and I don’t know how we will take them, but I do know that they must be taken.
This Sunday I believe God is leading me to share this with my church. What if the passion and focus of Memorial Baptist Church was to intentionally reach people both in Pasadena and world wide with the gospel of Jesus? What if that was all we did?