Looking Back to Louisville, Part 1

As I’ve indicated over at my blog, I am moving my SBC-related blogging here to Between the Times. For better or worse, it will be all Baptist, all the time, when I am at Between the Times.

Though it’s hardly any secret that I’m a Southern Baptist, my blog has become a place where people discuss research, mission, and culture. It seems some Southern Baptists just love a good blog fight, but it seems strange to my non-SBC friends when the debate goes something like: “The IMB and NAMB need to consider the BI agenda while listening to the GCR people, not to mention the ERLC and the WMU.”

That’s not easy to translate for our Presbyterian and Wesleyan friends. Even if you know what it all means-we could all use fewer acronyms in our lives. ;-) So, you’ll be hard-pressed to find me talking SBC on my other blog. Like Al Mohler’s “Conventional Speaking” blog, this is now your one-stop-shop for “Ed on the SBC” (in addition to much better information from the other contributors).

I wanted to write about the Louisville convention, but I decided to wait until the Between the Times guys would actually let me blog. It took a lot of negotiating with our lawyers, but we nailed down a signing bonus and a five-year contract.

So, here are my belated reactions to the SBC meeting. They are not in any particular order, but here are my observations.

1. There was a definite consistent theme at the convention.

That theme was stated in the pastors conference and continued to the last session. With exceedingly few exceptions, the theme was “gospel unity expressed in mission.” You wouldn’t know that listening to some reports. According to some, we focused more on someone who was not even there than on Jesus and His mission. Those conversations were just a blip on the radar screen. An overwhelming majority of those in attendance would tell you that Southern Baptists want to unite and see a Great Commission Resurgence.

2. The convention is changing.

It appears to me that Southern Baptists are not just talking about methodological diversity, but are actually practicing what they preach. The pastors conference evidenced such as did the convention messages. (I am glad to call both David Platt and John Marshall friends, but they pastor very different churches.)

With the election of Kevin Ezell as pastors conference president, we will see more of that next year. (Having just talked to Kevin about upcoming speakers, I can say that next year will be exciting and interesting at the same time.)

3. There are still some people who want to create division.

As I said at the Baptist 21 panel, the voices of division get louder before unity appears. But we saw that those creating division are becoming increasingly seen as what they are. It was as if they were shouting, “pay attention to us!” However, the convention seemed to want to pay attention to the future-engaging in God’s global mission while uniting around that effort.

Let me encourage you that the tide is turning. And, that means we need to unite and not exclude those who would have preferred a different future. There are people to the “right” of the BFM2000, and I am glad they are a part of the family–I just want them to stop pulling to the right and instead push toward the mission. But, for those of us interested in unity under our common confession, let’s remember that they still need a place at the table.

4. Anyone can make a motion.

As you could see, anyone can make a motion. For some people, this is a bad thing. For me, it is not. I want a convention where people can speak truth in power.

Now, I do think it’s unfortunate that 10 people with an agenda can make some people think there’s a groundswell of support. In reality though, to quote Johnny Hunt, those motions get “thrown under the Southern Baptist bus.” Indeed.

However, it is this system that makes us Baptist. There would have been no Conservative Resurgence if the mics were closed. Having those mics open keeps the system accountable to the churches. And it keeps all of us honest.

Al Mohler cautioned that people should not overreact to “these motions.” I couldn’t agree more. Remember, motions are not actions. I imagine there will be more people making more motions of all kinds next year.

5. Social Networking is changing all the rules.

Blogging changed everything–until this year. From day one, all eyes were on Twitter.

When some leaders tweeted about motions, it was national news. People were even directed to the floor for the times votes would take place, again using Twitter. If you weren’t at the convention, the Twitterverse provided a front row seat.

Twitter also provided an instant barometer of how people felt about what was happening. If Tweeters didn’t like a motion from the floor, it was heard loud and clear online. And when they liked something, they raised their “voices.”

It was not too long ago when one state convention passed a motion critical of blogging and some referred to it as “Internet Pornography.” Today, the social networking revolution is gaining momentum instead of going away. The convention is “flat,” and those who are unaware or are simply kicking against the cyber-goads will soon lose their influence.

6. Extra meetings are helpful.

Over the last few years, additional meetings have been added to the “convention schedule.” From the Young Leader Initiative of 2005 to the Baptist 21 Panel this year, more meetings are being held around the convention. And though none of us want to have an extra meeting, more conversation about critical issues are good for all of us.

Each year, meetings are held at the SBC Annual Meeting by groups like the WMU and Crossover to encourage our participation. I’m glad for these meetings, because they serve as a reminder of why we meet–God’s big mission for the world.

7. We still don’t trust each other.

I have been surprised at how quickly people saw a Machiavellian plot to take over the SBC. Perhaps some are too accustomed to taking a defensive stance against all perceived change or loss to their preferred direction. I consider Danny Akin, Johnny Hunt, and Ronnie Floyd all friends. I talk with them regularly about the SBC and the future. And, I’m telling you: they are just not that devious. They are good men, but terrible connivers. But, it is interesting to hear all the conspiracy theories out there. I can tell you that they are not true-but of course, I might be part of the New World Order as well. ;-)

The men who have been elected and appointed to lead our convention are asking the right question: what are we doing and how can we do it better?

I wonder when we will trust more and gossip less.

8. Everyone wants to talk about young leaders now.

Well, I say, “Welcome to the party, but where were you five years ago?”

It is interesting to me that when Jimmy Draper started this young leader initiative a few years back, he was actually opposed by some of those same people now alarmed about the lack of young leaders. Back then, there was a “debate” if we were really losing young leaders. But then there was the next convention. And the next. And the truth became harder to deny. Now, when young leaders show up, it’s big news.

There were two main criticisms of Jimmy Draper. The first was that he was the wrong person to do this; the seminaries should. But, Jimmy pressed on and pointed out that most young SBC pastors were not in seminary. But, still some complained that LifeWay was the wrong agency doing it the wrong way.

Second, it was that Jimmy connected with some of the wrong young leaders. I’ll leave it to your collective wisdom exactly who are the special, perfect, right young leaders. Chances are that we will all come up with different lists. Jimmy took some risks, involving some people I would not, but he is a good man and it was still a worthwhile agenda. As one of our statesmen, he said what only he could: we are losing the next generation. He was right then. And, now it appears that everyone agrees. Thanks, Jimmy, for telling us when it was not popular. I believe that will be a key part of your legacy.

9. The word “missional” sure gets used a lot.

I still remember when I used “missional” in a sermon at Southern Seminary. Someone asked me if I was mispronouncing the work “missions.” People just did not use the word. Although Baptist Press quotes me as the first SBC user of the term, it was actually Francis Dubose, but he did so before the days of searchable hypertext.

Now, people throw around the word “missional” like opinions at a Baptist business meeting. Sometimes I wish they would not use it, but mainly I am just glad we are thinking more about joining God on His mission and living on mission in our settings.

10. I am hopeful about the future.

People ask me, “Does it bother you that they criticize research/missiological thinking/church planting/etc. regularly in certain publications?” And, the answer is, “No.” I say this, because things are changing.

I have attended the SBC every year since 1998. (I should get an attendance pin or something.) I was encouraged by the election of Frank Page and honored that he would ask me to speak at his first convention, but still unsure where things were headed.

This year, I was more hopeful than ever. The convention is turning. In tomorrow’s post I will share what I think needs to happen next.

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  1. Ivan Schoen   •  

    I am hopeful too.

  2. Michael Stover   •  

    Great thoughts Ed, and I agree. Looking forward to tomorrow’s post.

  3. Norman   •  

    Ed, I’m thankful for the bonus you negotiated. Please attend my next board meeting on my behalf! I appreciate your perceptions of the 2009 meeting in Louisville. There was a strong sense of forward movement there, which is encouraging to a 3-decade SBC watcher and participant. I would give more credence than do you to the negative attitudes on display as far as their presence and impact in setting tone. The reminder from high profile leaders that we can dismiss motions because they are no more than one person’s opinion — until the motion is acted upon anyway — is helpful. Encouraging young leaders to participate is the only way for future health, but we must be prepared for the inevitable reality that their participation will change things. Bring it.

  4. John   •  


    Just read “The Need for a Great Commission Resurgence” by Dr. David Dockery on the GCR blog. It seems someone else in the Convention understands the need for unity as well.

    I’ll promise to try trusting the leadership a bit more. Not to beat a dead horse, but it’s very difficult for those of us who witnessed the carnage of the 1980’s and 1990’s to believe anyone connected with those decades can do anything without an ulterior motive, usually a motive designed to concentrate power and exclude someone else from the SBC. Reading Dr. Dockery’s post brought a glimmer of hope.

  5. Todd Benkert   •  

    Thanks for all you do, Ed. Keep it up!

  6. Jonathan McLain   •  

    Thanks for your posts ED I really appreciate your view point.
    We need more transparency in our convention. Like it or not there is a perception among many that a small group of people set the agenda for the entire convention.

    When you have resolutions with non-southern baptist name on it yes it will raise some eyebrows. That is foolishness and it needs to be stopped. If we are coming together in Unity than the name calling needs to stop. This only takes away our focus on fulfilling the Great Commission. I’ve been a Southern Baptist all my life. I love my denomination, but I don’t always approve of it’s ways. We need to move forward and make some changes. I pray that we will.

  7. J. Cardinell   •  

    Ed thank you for all you do for the young leaders….yes we are still learning and forming our opinions but we ARE learning from you and those who are willing to teach us….Thank you for supporting @ashleyclayton’s attempt to hold the twitter meet-up that allowed a few minutes to show that many young leaders care about the kingdom….. your support of unlimitedpartnerships.org and Bill Taylor at that event was amazing…i look forward to seeing you at NOBTS this fall.

  8. Bob Cleveland   •  

    #7: Mistrust and gossip among those who lead? Among those who attend the convention? Need we go any further, when it’s a Christian organization?

    #10: “Does it bother you that they criticize research/missiological thinking/church planting/etc. regularly in certain publications?” Well, isn’t it the lead mule, in the 20-mule team, that gets shot at?

    I can think of two reasons I’m grateful you’re around. You speak out, and at least SOME folks listen.

    May THAT tribe increase.

  9. Pingback: Podcast Episode 10: Ed Stetzer Edition :: SBC Today

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