Recently, I joined several other pastors in a Zoom call with Ed Litton about his campaign for President of the SBC. Ed shared about his life and background and how he became involved in the Southern Baptist Church. His father experienced a dramatic conversion and was set free from alcohol addiction by the powerful witness of a Southern Baptist pastor when Ed was a boy. Ed says of his family, “We are Southern Baptist’s today because they came and got us.”
Ed shared about his service in our convention in church planting and his leadership in Mobile through his church. He shared his love for his church and his people and how he led his church to embrace a heart for missions and evangelism through a highly active and aggressive church planting partnership (Redemption is currently supporting ten church plants). Ed talks like a loving pastor when speaking of his church. He loves his church and is excited about what God is doing in the life of Redemption Church. In this way, I was very touched by Ed’s honesty and his humility because he knows that God is the one who is blessing his ministry.
It was a very encouraging time for most of us as we got a chance to get to know Ed on a more personal level. While I have had the pleasure to have a few conversations with Ed, many on the Zoom call had not yet had that opportunity. So, I want to share a few things that Ed said on our call that I believe speak volumes on the man he is and the leader he could be for our convention.
We need revival with the focus on repentance.”
Our churches and our convention need revival. But make no mistake, Ed spoke of genuine revival that comes from faithful preaching of the gospel that leads to a biblical understanding of repentance. Our churches are in desperate need of revival. And while he knows that we need a revival, Ed is clear in how we will see it: repentance.
We’ve forgotten the beauty of cooperation.”
Ed expressed his love of how the SBC, at its heart, is a cooperating organization. The beauty of cooperation is that we work together to advance the gospel by planting churches, sending missionaries, and sharing the gospel through partnerships and through the Cooperative Program. This kind of cooperation pleases God, glorifies the Son, and is enabled by the Holy Spirit. Our choice to cooperate causes us to work hard at it, we have to want it, and we must guard it because the mission of the gospel matters.
However, Ed sees that, somewhere along the way, we have become sidetracked by many things, which has led us to forget some beautiful things about cooperation. Indeed, as Ed said, there really is a “beauty” in churches cooperating. He encourages everyone to remain at the table and be part of this cooperating family.
Political power seduces us in the wrong direction.”
Whether we like it or not, we have to see an elephant in the SBC room. And that elephant is political in nature. While politics is not an evil thing, and we have an excellent opportunity to be involved politically, we must not become one of those things that get in the way of cooperation. “Political power seduces us in the wrong direction,” Ed said. Indeed, power of almost all sorts seduces and keeps us from being effective in our mission.
The SBC is by nature a warrior people…so let’s fight for love as defined in Jesus.”
Something Ed said that I really appreciated is that he recognizes that the SBC is by our nature a group that is ok with going to battle. We are a warrior people; however, we have often fought over unessential things that might have been important to some but were not of first importance. Ultimately divisive matters that damage our public witness and get in the way of fulfilling the Great Commission must be put aside. 1 Corinthians 16:14 reminds us, “Let all that you do be done in love.” We need more humility and dialogue in areas of disagreement
Our churches must work harder to be safe places.”
Amen and amen! In the wake of sexual abuse scandals, Ed wants to continue the work that JD Greear started in dealing with sexual abuse in our convention. Our churches and entities must become safer places. This will require intentionality and vigilance. I applaud him in this effort and believe that most will gladly join hands with him in this effort. We, as a convention, can and should do better.
The South is not the only place where racism exists.”
Ed has been active in building a movement of reconciliation in his city Mobile, AL, a challenging city to see racial reconciliation take place. One point that I feel must be made on this topic: Ed is not seeking reconciliation simply because it is the popular thing to do. Ed stepped into this reconciliation work because it is Biblical and gospel-centric. Ed has a genuine passion for this ministry, and, in my opinion, it reflects a proper understanding of the gospel. He understands Southern culture but also clearly sees that racism exists everywhere, but anywhere that it does exist, it exists because of sin, pride, and preference of ourselves over others.
Ed has a deep understanding of the SBC culture and knows how it operates. However, because he has a pastor’s heart, I believe that he will seek to deal with issues that need to be dealt with, but he will do so out of love. Additionally, I think that his pastor’s heart will lead us to deal with these issues appropriately, which will allow us to better fulfill the Great Commission.
Overall, I was glad to have been a part of this Zoom. The more I get to know Ed, the more I like him. My suspicion is that not a lot of you know much about Ed, and my goal in writing this was simply to give you a better picture of the type of man he is. He loves Jesus and his church and, if I am honest, I think he will lead us well.
If you would like to support Ed, share your thoughts with the hashtag: #EdLittonSBC