Jun 13, 2011

I Wish I Was In Phoenix...

Right now I am sitting in my office with a cup of coffee and a messy desk from two busy weeks of ministry.  I am critiquing my sermons from yesterday (not feeling real good about them) and preparing a sermon plan for the next few months.  I have a Doctor of Ministry proposal that is way too far overdue and I have little motivation right now to get it done.  My wife's car is in the shop with an electrical problem and I am dreading the final bill.

At the same time, the Southern Baptist Convention is taking place in Phoenix, AZ.  I had planned to go this year, but several circumstances have kept me from doing so.  I attended my first SBC since becoming a pastor last year in Orlando.  It was my first time attending since 1996.  As a pastor now, I definitely had a different perspective.  I also was interested to see first-hand the discussion and debate surround the Great Commission Resurgence.  It was a large topic of conversation in my local association and in my State Convention in the days leading up to the '09 SBC.  I enjoyed the whole process and felt like while the SBC has a number of issues that we need to address, it is nice to know that I can be a part of the process and hopefully part of the solution.

There has been a trend for a long time of many younger Southern Baptist leaders to ignore and avoid the convention politics.  I am 42.  Most of my friends and colleagues my age and younger have been frustrated over the convention and have viewed it as a bunch of power-hungry pastors fighting over crumbs instead of aligning the convention for the future.  I don't think that it's coincidence that the issues of declining baptisms convention-wide, detachment of younger SBC leaders, turnover in the convention entities, and the call for a refocus on the Great Commission are all aligning at the same time.  I am happy to see from social media that a growing number of younger SBC evangelicals are starting to check back in.  The rise of groups like Baptist21 and Advance the Church show some promise that positive change is attainable in the near future for our SBC family. 

From my observation, most of the people in our churches have no idea what the SBC is, what it does, how it operates, and why it may be the last hope for conservative evangelicalism on a denominational level.  We know the names of Lottie and Annie and pass the plates to support them.  We have been a convention of churches with pastors who have a hard time cooperating with anybody or anything other than the Cooperative Program.  We have created a false sense of health in our churches by using a methodology that inflates our numbers so we can answer that question "How many are you running?" while filling our pews with unconverted believers who have never been told that following Jesus will cost them everything.  As a result we have a large State and National bureaucracy that is hard to define and harder to unite.

Do I know all the answers? Certainly not.  I do have some opinions.  Do I accurately understand all the issues?  Not really, but I am trying to learn.  Nevertheless, I wish I was in Phoenix so that I can remind myself that my church in rural Alabama is part of a wonderful family of churches that have the potential significantly impact the Great Commission.  I want to be there to be part of the process instead of sitting in my office critiquing things without being part of the solution.  I want to be part of a generation that takes the baton from a faithful generation that has run the race before me and hand it off to a powerful generation that is coming behind me.  I want to be part of the generation that can stand soon and report that baptisms on a national level are increasing.  I want to be a part of a generation that can report hundreds of new church plants in pioneering areas and list unreached people groups that now have disciples of Jesus and access to the gospel message.  This is why I wish I was in Phoenix.

Here are some helpful links I have read today and recently by some much smarter bloggers than me about the SBC and the future:
Ten Thoughts About the SBC - A very helpful post from Timmy Brister about some of our issues.
Again. From Decline to Decision - An appropriate post by Ed Stetzer who is a gift to Southern Baptists.  We need to heed some of his warnings.