Two observations I would make about the Executive Committee Plenary Session this evening.
- I’m not much of a “meeting” guy, but this was interesting, as some of our leaders gave reports about what is going on in the SBC.
- If anyone is under the impression that Fred Luter’s election as SBC president was some sort of symbolic act,; that he was elected only because of his race, that person would be wrong.
He is the real deal. He told us tonight that he was just going to give an address, and not really preach. Yeah…right. He articulated a vision for the SBC that was biblical, inspiring and forceful. His theme, a common one among SBC leaders today was the necessity of unity. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” he said repeatedly. He offered himself as a servant to the SBC, the EC and the boards and agencies to work together. If that sounds trite and cliched, all I can say is that the problem is more my presentation than Fred Luter’s words.
He issued a challenge to other ethnic churches, especially those that are predominantly African-American, encouraging them to involve themselves at every level of SBC life – local associations and state conventions – as well as issuing a call to give to missions through the Cooperative Program.
Perhaps the most direct words he had concerned the most divisive issue among Southern Baptists – Calvinism (pro or con). He spoke of how he had been travelling all over the convention talking to pastors, and he was repeatedly being asked about the Calvinism debate and the future of the SBC. Then he said, (and this is not a precise quote, but pretty close):
The question should be about the declining number of baptisms in the SBC. The question should be about declining attendance in our churches. The question should be about young people leaving our churches. The question should be about the declining number of messengers at the Southern Baptist Convention. The question should be about how we can plant more churches, win more lost people and send more missionaries. The question should not always be about Calvinism.
He pointed out the question that one layperson asked him. “Why can’t you pastors and leaders get along?” Good question!
He shared a verse that we Southern Baptists have largely ignore. We all know it, we just don’t regard it as that big a deal. But remember what Jesus said to his disciplines in John 13:34-35:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We need sound doctrine, but Jesus did not say that all people would know that we are the disciples of Christ by our systematic theology. Nor our impression intellect and argument. Nor our buildings or budgets or any of the other things we so often use as measures of success.
It’s about love. We, who have been purchased from death and hell by the demonstration of God’s sacrificial love at the Cross need to demonstrate sacrificial love to one another – overlooking offense, showing grace, forgiving and seeking reconciliation.
To president Fred Luter’s powerful words I add only one: Amen.