On May 7th 2019 Steve Horn was elected as the Executive Director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Since that time I cannot recount how often I have been asked by friends from within and without Louisiana what I think about the new hire and when I would share my thoughts here on Voices. However, I did not think it was fair to do such a thing until I had an opportunity to sit down with him to ask questions and express concerns I have regarding the LBC, its culture and the need for some significant changes.
Unfortunately, his schedule has not yet allowed for us to meet but I am happy to say we have now made arrangements to meet in the near future. Thus, this article will not be my assessment from an in-depth meeting but will be my thoughts on what I experienced and heard from him in a public forum this past Monday.
Dr. Horn was the keynote speaker for our New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA) Fall Meeting which took place Monday night at First Baptist Church of New Orleans. It was a great meeting where we voted to received churches into our Association, commissioned some of our new BCHS medical missionaries and generally experienced wonderful fellowship (as we always do). I do not need to go into what a gushing crush I have on our cooperative work here in New Orleans nor brag about the amazing (and in some cases, completely unique to the SBC) ministries in which we get to partner. Regular readers of Voices know how I feel about that.
Regular readers also might be aware of the strained relationship we have had with a few personalities in and around the Baptist Building in Alexandria. But it is unnecessary to recap those issues here. (May I take a moment again to say there have always been great servants of the Lord working for the LBC and God forbid that any disagreements we might have had with some in leadership stain the reputation of those good and faithful servants working to bless Louisiana Baptists). Suffice it to say that although I will reserve more thorough comments until after my meeting with Dr. Horn, after Monday’s meeting I am happy to say that I am hopeful for what is to come in Louisiana.
Before his key address on Monday night, Dr. Horn gathered with NOBA in a meeting he initiated which he calls “Listening Sessions.” He explained to us that this was something the new Georgia state director had done and that he found great value in it.
Dr. Horn warned that we need to be careful not to think that we are giving him a list of concerns he’ll go back and immediately implement. I’m fairly certain that was understood by our group but it probably did need to be said. He noted that the state is indeed very diverse, even suggesting that there might be up to 9 different regions with distinct cultures and subsequent expectations. I concur and would love to see that fleshed out and used as a foundation for approaching ministry in the state. Admittedly, those divisions can make unifying diverse areas a difficult task. Understood and granted. Further, he explained that he has no grand plan to launch as he enters this new role. Rather, he is using these listening sessions as opportunities to hear from local churches so that he might have a better grip on the state of our convention. I think that direction is wise and I am happy to see his willingness to engage. Finally, he explained that he wanted to use 5 questions to guide the listening session:
1) What are we known for?
2) What do we want to be known for?
3) What should we keep doing?
4) What should we stop doing?
5) What are we not doing that we should start doing?
Over the past weeks I’ve heard from a few friends who had attended earlier listening sessions. Each of them expressed that they thought the events were well done and that Dr. Horn appears to genuinely be interested in hearing answers to these questions. From what I saw last night, I agree with that assessment.
Dr. Horn was engaged and interactive and to be honest, what most impressed me, was his willingness to stand there and take what was dished out to him. Don’t get me wrong, the event was cordial and not the least bit contentious but some hard things were said… and he listened. I appreciate that. Granted, the list of questions I’ll bring up during our private meeting might be a bit more pointed, but he showed real leadership during this interaction.
He and I spoke directly and transparently, albeit rather briefly, and he was cordial with me. I would have understood why he might have been cold and indifferent toward me considering I have spoken critically about the direction and tenor of the organization he now is responsible to lead. However, as it should be with brothers and sisters, he was gracious and attentive and that was good to see.
He consistently spoke of his desire for unity and the fostering of a cooperative spirit. He pointed out that unity doesn’t require uniformity. Amen to that! He was humble and transparent. He seemed to listen and process what was being said. And he delivered a solid sermon from 1 Peter on the need for our holiness leading to a testimony of hope in a hopeless world. His first official interaction with New Orleans was a good one, I think.
Let me be clear, I am certain there are a number of things things over which Dr. Horn and I are going to disagree. That’s perfectly fine. Vive la difference! I’ve never wanted uniformity, ever. I have wanted unity in our diversity. I have wanted a celebration of our differences (under the umbrella of our Baptist Confession of Faith, of course). I have wanted fairness and inclusion of different perspectives without feeling like I am unwelcome unless I tow a certain set of doctrinal positions. This concern was the very reason I started blogging. Specifically, it was the wrongful non-renewal of the contracts of Godly professors for protection and political expediency due to those professor’s views not lining up with some LBC leaders.
My upcoming meeting with Dr. Horn is not to demand action from him. I simply want to explain my concerns and hear what he believes about those concerns. That will tell me whether or not I think meaningful changes might happen and kingdom-focused cooperative ministry will be realized in the LBC.
I believe a few drastic changes are needed in Louisiana, but real change starts with a change in culture. There must be an attitude of humility and a willingness to work along side those with whom we have disagreements. I hope Dr. Horn is the man to help lead us through that change. For me, Monday’s meeting was a positive move in that direction and I am looking forward to our upcoming time together.