With all the controversy surrounding this year’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, I have seriously considered canceling my hotel reservations and staying home. With each new “revelation” and Twitter storm, I have thought it might be emotionally easier to skip the trip to Dallas. After all, a 15-hour drive, wall-to-wall mini-conferences, meetings, and crowds are exhausting—not to mention the added ministry weight of planning and preparation that’s required to be away from our small church during the height of gearing up for summer ministry.
With those things in mind, it would be physically, mentally, and emotionally easier to stay home. But I can’t. I can’t because, despite the controversy and the difficulty, next week will be far too valuable to miss. Here are three reasons why:
The fellowship opportunities. Every week I have the privilege of praying for dozens of Southern Baptist brothers and sisters around the world. They see and respond to my texts. Occasionally I get to talk to some of them on the phone. What a blessing it will be to see them face-to-face, and if time allows, share a cup of coffee or even a brief hallway conversation. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world.
The discipleship opportunities. This year my wife and I will be serving as messengers with a young couple from our church—my son and daughter-in-law. This will be the first time they’ve ever experienced what it’s like to be a messenger to the SBC Annual Meeting. She was raised Independent Baptist, so I can’t wait to see the look on her face as she hears the reports from the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. I predict there will be tears shed as we commission missionaries our Cooperative Program is providing for. While on a mission trip as a teenager, my son stood in the back of the convention hall in Orlando during the historic vote on the Great Commission Resurgence (and to see his Dad lose his First Vice-Presidency bid in a landslide). Currently a Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary student, it’s been a blessing to watch him learn our polity and see how it plays out in difficult circumstances. We’ve already been able to have difficult but necessary conversations about our convention and our entities—and I know those conversations will intensify while we’re there. Seeing God’s work being accomplished despite all the messiness will remind them (and me) that God does amazing things through weak and frail people. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world.
The celebration opportunities. Pastoring a small church through a revitalization effort is a difficult and sometimes arduous process. As passionate as I am about leading our church to look outside our walls, love our community well, and cooperate to accomplish the Great Commission—it can be difficult to see a bigger picture than last Sunday’s attendance numbers. Few things open the aperture more than walking the floor of the convention hall and hearing the stories of “regular” churches throughout our convention. I cherish the times I’ve been able to meet, talk to, and pray for other messengers. As I hear their stories, I can’t help but celebrate the work God is doing throughout the world through folks whose churches will never grace the cover of On Mission Magazine. Yes, we will celebrate the victorious reports of what God is doing through our entities. But more than that, I love celebrating God’s work that I would never hear about except from the mouths of other messengers I’ll meet while we’re there. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world.
As messengers, I know that our voice is important. Decisions are made by those who show up. But while it is important, the voice of our votes pales in comparison to the rich blessings of Southern Baptist cooperation we will experience and celebrate while we’re there. I wouldn’t want to miss that for the world. See you in Dallas!
Jim Drake is pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Bluefield, WV. He blogs at deepriches.blogspot.com. You can follow him on twitter @PastorJimDrake