1. Calling off Orlando was 100% the right thing.
I love the annual meeting and look forward to it. Calling this one off was the right call. Even if we are blessed and the COVID-19 virus crisis fades quickly, we need to be spending the next couple of months ministering in our communities, not preparing for a trip to Orlando. I hate it, but it was right.
2. The SBC Cooperative Program is in a crisis mode.
I am sure some people will find a way to point fingers of blame on this, but the math is simple. My church gives 10% of our general offerings to missions through the CP. If our offerings tank, and the trend, unfortunately, seems to be headed in that direction during the COVID-19 crisis, then our 10% will shrink. (Our giving base is a lot of older people who view online giving with suspicion. They are generous – amazingly so – but like to drop their envelopes in the plates as they are passed.)
Assuming that we are not the only church with dwindling offerings at this time, this may not be a record year for the CP.
3. Sorry, Kevin, Annie Armstrong may be headed for a lean year.
In the last couple of years, our church broke our Annie Armstrong giving records. We may do the same this year but in the opposite direction. With no church meetings, our Annie giving may be lower than it has been in decades. Sorry, Kevin. Blame COVID-19!
4. Our entities will need emergency funds to dip into.
At one point, the IMB had a good buffer, but we burned through a lot of that, prior to David Platt’s restoration of fiscal sanity a few years back. Any state convention or national entity (or church, or parachurch ministry) that doesn’t have some reserve funds may be in a time of crisis soon.
5. This is no time for partisan divisiveness.
The Executive Committee’s moves against the ERLC simply must end. Mike Stone, the current chair of the EC, needs to put the needs of the entire Southern Baptist Convention ahead of the agenda of those who want to pursue Dr. Russell Moore and the ERLC. Since there is no Annual Meeting to speak to this, Stone and his friends need to drop it for now. This is not the time for that kind of divisive maneuvering.
6. Kudos to Ronnie and the rest of our entity leaders
To this point, they have led well and given good advice.
7. A Thought to Ponder: Does God want Al Mohler to EVER be president of the SBC?
The last time Al Mohler announced as SBC president, he got very sick and had to withdraw his name. This time, the whole country got sick and the entire convention was canceled. I had discussed this with friends and then saw the estimable Rev. Dr. Barber joking about it on social media. It does not appear that Dr. Mohler is predestined to be president of the SBC.
In reality, one of the reasons for his candidacy (I don’t know if this was announced publicly) was to have someone who could navigate the SBC through the tough days of the 2020 political season. That need will not exist in 2021, so one wonders if Mohler will run again.
One also wonders if a plague of frogs will descend on Nashville if he does.
8. The 2020 political season still looms as a potentially divisive issue in the SBC.
In 2016, I will admit, many of the larger weapons were being fired by those of us described as NeverTrumpers against those who put their enthusiastic support behind Donald Trump. (I sometimes failed to make that distinction in my comments, others failed to listen even when I did – I respected “ReluctantTrumpers” who thought Hillary was worse, but I couldn’t understand those who became messianic about a man with Trump’s moral flaws.) In 2020, the roles are reversed. The Trumpers are holding the big guns and seem ready to do battle.
I’ve said very little about Donald Trump publicly. My views about his character haven’t changed. I’ve liked some of the things he’s done and not liked others. I actually believe in the principle of showing respect for leaders. I can criticize his actions but try to avoid public ridicule and derogation. I received criticism from people because I practiced the SAME principle when Obama was president. I disagreed with just about everything Obama did, but I refused to skewer him like many of those who now preach “respect the president” did. Since November of 2016, you will find few public comments about the president from me. I’ve expressed some disagreements and wished that someone would shut down his Twitter account a time or two, but I do not believe it is right to be disrespectful toward the president publicly. I practiced that with Obama, with Trump, and will do the same with the winner of the 2020 election.
One thing I absolutely refuse to do in 2020 is to mistake politics for theology. I will not judge someone’s heart over their political choices. Yeah, there are people whose political stands I simply cannot square with evangelical theology – that is true for those who will vote for pro-abortion candidates and those who ignore moral failings and immoral positions of Republicans as well. But our voting choices is not a fundamental theological issue.
Are we going to let differences of opinion about a PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE or a POLITICAL PARTY divide us and derail us from the work of the gospel? Are we really going to judge people by whether they share our political opinions? Are we going to question the theological bona fides of those who diverge from us politically? How is that not idolatry? If you vote for President Trump, join me in the work of the gospel. If you do not, join me in the work of the gospel.
Are we going to let politics be the thing that divides us? If so, we do not deserve the blessing of God.
9. We have been spared (at least temporarily) from unnecessary controversy!
There were so many controversial things that were planned for Orlando’s annual meeting. I realize that people will cook up new controversies for Nashville 2021, but by then, maybe common sense will have returned (a rare moment of optimism for me). Maybe people will stop talking about “taking the ship” and rescinding resolutions and making false accusations against our leaders as being liberals and progressives.
It could happen.
A couple of weeks ago, on a Tuesday, (seems like two MONTHS ago now) I studied the evidence for hours and made a careful decision to go to Africa on Saturday, March 21, as scheduled. Three days later, the situation had changed so much that on Friday I canceled my trip. In 72 hours the world situation changed so much that a calculated, careful decision on Tuesday became unthinkable three days later.
If you think you know what is going to happen in America next week, or next month, you are either a lot smarter than I or you are not nearly as smart as you think. I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow.
When I canceled my Africa trip and we shut down our church, I remember thinking, “I wonder what I will do with my time.” What was I thinking? Here’s my final observation.
10. I can’t wait for this all to be over.
Can I get an amen?