My suitcase is packed. I am headed for Dallas. This will be my sixth Southern Baptist Convention. My first was in Houston in 2013, and I haven’t missed one since. I am excited to hear reports of what God is doing among and through Southern Baptists. I am excited to enjoy some tasty tex-mex. And I am excited to get together with friends that I interact with all year but only see once a year.
But before we gather in Dallas, I thought I would put together a brief list of questions that I have heading into #SBC18. Surely there are other questions. Surely there are things that will come up that cannot be anticipated. But this is my list of the top five questions I have heading into this year’s convention.
As I was thinking about this post, there was one question that I felt like had to be at the top of the list. Would Paige Patterson preach the convention sermon? Or would he resign? Or maybe the messengers would be forced to vote to remove him from preaching the sermon? Well, as was reported here and in other places yesterday, Dr. Patterson has withdrawn from preaching the convention sermon. Despite having attended 66 consecutive Southern Baptist Conventions, he will not be in attendance at this year’s convention. I am thankful that he has made that decision. Scandal surrounding the convention preacher should not take center stage at our annual meeting. Dr. Kie Bowman will do an excellent job.
With that out of the way, here’s the list of my top five questions heading into the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention.
1. Who will win the presidential election?
This was the top question on everyone’s mind just a few months ago. It has taken kind of a back seat to the controversy surrounding Dr. Patterson at SWBTS. But now that Dr. Patterson is out at SWBTS and has stepped down from giving the convention sermon, this is the top question heading into our annual meeting. The much anticipated vote is only a few days away, and JD Greear is still the clear favorite. But I think the vote will be much closer than may have been initially anticipated. I am still predicting a 60-40 victory for Greear, but I would not be surprised if it is closer to a 10 percentage point margin. Dr. Hemphill seems like a great man who has served our convention well in a variety of capacities, but if he wins this election, I will be shocked.
2. Will there be any significant updates on the process of finding a new leader for the Executive Committee or the International Mission Board?
I hope that both of these entities will find new leaders soon. We have a wealth of great leaders in our convention. There is no reason for these searches to drag on forever. Let’s identify new leaders for both of them and get moving forward.
3. What resolutions will be presented to the convention for consideration, and will there be any significant controversy surrounding the report?
The Resolutions Committee report was the big item at last year’s convention. No one wants a repeat of that debacle. But there have been approximately 665 resolutions submitted. One more will surely mean the end of the world as we know it. May God give wisdom to the committee, and may we leave Dallas unified behind a strong slate of resolutions addressing the most pressing topics of our day.
4. What unexpected item will become a major talking point coming out of Dallas?
Your guess is as good as mine. This is one of the reasons I seek to attend the meeting every year. Important decisions will be made in Dallas, and those decisions will be made by the people who are in the room.
5. What will be the general spirit of the messengers as we do the business of the convention and then leave Dallas headed back to our churches?
Perhaps this is the most important question. Regardless of who is elected president. Regardless of what resolutions we pass. Regardless of what may take place during floor debate. The mission is too great for us to allow this meeting to further fracture our convention over secondary matters. May we leave united for the sake of the gospel. May we gather in Birmingham next year to celebrate a reversal in our now decades long downward spiral in baptisms and membership. May our God move on us in power next week.