I’m writing this on Wednesday morning in Anaheim and we still have one more day of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) business today. As Southern Baptist, we have different perspectives and those differences often come out in loud and divisive means. Despite the differences, I am always encouraged when I hear about the work of God through our International Mission Board (IMB), North American Mission Board (NAMB) and Send Relief efforts.
The number that really caught my attention this week is 157,690. Every day, it is estimated that 157,690 people die without a relationship with Jesus. On Tuesday, the IMB commissioned 52 new missionaries who are moving around the world for the sake of taking the gospel to many who have never heard about Jesus. Last year, IMB missionaries saw 176,795 people trust in Christ. While we celebrate that harvest, we are reminded of how much gospel work is still left to be done. Dr. Paul Chitwood is the President of the IMB and during the commissioning service he said, “This is why we came together. This is why we must stay together.” There are plenty who are trying to tear down the SBC and while we have issues to address, the work of our IMB missionaries provides plenty of reasons to work together for the sake of the gospel. Dr. Chitwood said, “The IMB exists to help the world deal with its’ greatest problem (which is lostness).” Let us pray for our 3,600+ missionaries that are living out the great commission on behalf of Southern Baptist. And, lets be setting aside some dollars to give to our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering this December (100% goes to support our IMB missionaries).
I was also encouraged by some of the Send Relief reports. As of June, over 11.5 million dollars have been given to help with the refugee crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. Southern Baptist are heavily involved in meeting the many needs of refugees. Small churches outside Ukraine are working to house and support refugees. God is at work in the midst of this crisis and many are hearing the gospel and turning to Christ. Send Relief also reported on their efforts in western Kentucky. Additionally, Send Relief felt like ministering to survivors of sexual abuse was within the framework of one of their 5 pillars (protecting children and families) and committed 4 million dollars towards the sexual abuse task force recommendations that were presented this week.
One of the primary concerns of this year’s annual meeting was dealing with the findings of the sexual abuse report. On Tuesday, the Messengers (from our churches) voted loud and clear that we want to act on the sexual abuse task force (SATF) recommendations. Overall, there is consensus that we want to do more to prevent sexual abuse in our churches, we want to respond to abuse in a way that is honoring to the Lord, and we want to care well for those who are survivors of abuse. Because there is much work to be done, the SATF recommended the creation of an Abuse Reform Implementation Task Force (for one year) to study the findings and bring forth additional recommendations at the 2023 annual meeting. The biggest recommendation was the creation of a “Ministry Check” website and process for maintaining a record of pastors, denominational workers, ministry employees, and volunteers who have at any time been “credibly accused” of sexual abuse and who have been or are associated with a cooperating Southern Baptist church or entity. This action has been discussed for years but has finally been approved in an effort to keep abusers from simply moving to another church while continuing their sinful sexual behaviors.
While there will continue to be plenty of differences to be discussed and decisions to be made, I often leave the SBC annual meeting being reminded that we really are better together and can have a greater gospel impact when we work together. While there are plenty of distractions and smoke screens, a majority of Southern Baptist want to be faithful in fulfilling the Great Commission, shepherding and serving their churches, and doing what they think would be most honoring to our Lord. I don’t have all the answers but I know the gospel is the answer to the world’s greatest problem. Let’s go share the good news that Jesus saves!