With the annual meeting next week and the number of pastors who are not going to attend because they think it’s a waste of time, I thought I would share why I encourage fellow pastors and concerned laymen to attend the Southern Baptist Convention. Here are what I believe are four compelling reasons to attend:
1. If you want to be part of the decision making process, you have to be involved. If you are involved, you ARE part of that process. Real decisions are made at the Southern Baptist Convention – decisions that affect the direction of the Convention, how cooperative resources are used, who will lead and serve, statements of consensus opinion on contemporary issues, and how we will cooperate together in fulfilling the Great Commission. If you care about the direction of the denomination and how we use cooperative resources then I encourage you to participate in the process.
2. Your vote counts. Many decisions are not made until the vote is taken. Those who believe that everything is decided in advance have never been to an annual meeting. This year’s Convention is a case in point. We will likely vote on whether or not to adopt the Great Commission Resurgence Declaration as the official position of the SBC. The outcome of this motion, however, is far from certain. There has been a good deal of discussion and some notable opposition. The issue will ultimately decided, however, when messengers vote. I will be casting my ballot for the GCR, but it will only pass if others who agree with me also attend and cast their ballots.
In the 10 years that I have been attending the annual meeting, for better or worse, I have seen healthy heated debates on significant issues, close votes, unlikely presidents, rejection of initiatives presented by boards, overriding the chair, needed resolutions passed, all because ordinary pastors and laymen came to the annual meeting and participated.
3. Your voice can be heard. I believe any action initiated by a messenger should be done with great care, much prayer, godly wisdom and discernment, proper motives, and maybe even a little fear and trembling. Be “slow to speak.” That being said, your voice CAN be heard. ANY messenger has the right to initiate action on the floor. Among the more significant actions…
ANY messenger may submit a resolution to be considered for adoption. If the resolutions committee rejects it, ANY messenger may appeal to the floor to bring that resolution out of committee. ANY messenger can offer an amendment to a resolution being considered. Again, do so only with extreme care and godly discernment, but if you have something significant to contribute your voice can and should be heard.
ANY messenger can make a motion. Sure, most motions are referred and rightfully so, but every motion that is made is ruled on in one way or another, and many are adopted – just see your book of reports to see the outcome of last year’s motions. If the agency to which your motion was referred rejects a motion, ANY messenger may move to have that motion brought to the floor for a vote and the messengers decide if that happens. Many great ideas adopted by the SBC and its agencies originated from motions made by ordinary pastors and laymen serving as their church’s messengers.
ANY messenger can nominate a person for Convention office, even president. The messengers decide among those who have been nominated, no matter who nominates them. And, in case you doubt, ordinary pastors can and do receive significant vote counts and even win elections.
(Let me reiterate here that it is good for your voice to be heard, IF you have something legitimate to contribute. Don’t be “that guy” at the Convention. I was once and regret it)
4. Beyond the business, the annual meeting can be a tremendous blessing. I for one look forward to the annual meeting. Corporate worship, inspiring messages, reuniting with old friends, meeting new ones, speaking with Convention workers, seeing old professors, discovering resources, getting good advice, meeting missionaries, hearing of the progress of missions cause, and generally being motivated in Great Commission work are all benefits I have come to expect from my attendance. While the responsibility of involvement is enough for me to justify the expense of attending the Convention, these added blessings affirm that such an investment is good stewardship.
There are other reasons I could give for attending the annual meeting and I could have approached the subject a different way. These four, however, address common objections I have heard for not attending the SBC. I hope to hear your thoughts in the comment thread. Even more, I hope to see you in Louisville.