Though the actual annual meeting has yet to begin, I offer the following reflections from Monday in Indy.
Executive Committee’s Plenary Session
The Executive Committee (XC) of the SBC is the group that acts on behalf of the convention between meetings. It is their job to put into action the wishes of the convention. In a sense, it is the belly of the beast. They recommend to the convention how the CP funds should be appropriated, choose the site of the next convention, etc.
The plenary session is open to all, but my attendance was for two reasons. One, there was some speculation that a motion might be made to refuse to seat the messengers from Broadway Baptist in Fort Worth. As the chair of the Credentials Committee for the Tarrant Baptist Association, I was asked by our DOM to be present just in case. The issue did not come up, so it was all in vain. (I won’t take the time to unpack that issue in this post.)
The second reason was for self-education. It was a typical baptist business meeting. Most of the work had been done by sub-committees who were making their recommendations to the larger group. Everyone approved the work of the sub groups. There was on funny point when the XC approved a motion about the funding formula for the seminaries. The formula is one of the most complicated formulas in the history of mankind (one that I think was created to keep the average Southern Baptist from knowing why SWBTS gets more funds than the other schools but has fewer students). One member asked for the formula to be explained. The chair said it couldn’t be explained, but everyone voted yes for it anyway.
NAMB Missional Network Dinner
Each year, NAMB hosts a dinner for those interested in the missional model of church. This is the gathering of many young pastors and church planters. The last two times it has been a good time to hear what the Lord is doing in creative ways in the church, and a time to be challenged in my own understanding of church. This year was no exception. I apologize for not knowing the names of all of the speakers (we were crammed into an Italian restaurant and I couldn’t even see the speakers), but they had some good things to say.
Several pastors spoke about how messy life transformation can be. Like the time a group of unchurched people gathered together to study the bible, and the host served margaritas. Or the biker group that started a bible study at Hooters. The point of their stories was that when we engage the unchurched and Christ begins to change lives, it is rarely clean. When the old passes away, it often slides away slowly and stinks for a while. But this is the work of kingdom people.
Another point was that a church can choose what kind of culture it will have. Will it be a culture that is comfortable to “church people,” those who have grown up in church all of their life. Or, will it be a culture that is accepting to those who don’t know Jesus. Jesus was known as a friend of sinners, but sinners don’t know how to act in church. They don’t dress right. They don’t sing the right music. They bring coke cans into the sanctuary. And they don’t respect those who have taught in Sunday School class for three decades. If we embrace a church culture that makes church people comfortable, we will probably be driving away those who are lost. One of our jobs is to eliminate the “cringe” factor.
The Pastor’s Conference is the meeting before the meeting. From Sunday afternoon through Monday night, there is an endless string of preachers and singers. You can sit through 12 back to back sermons if you had the constitution. In my understanding, it started in the days of the Conservative Resurgence as a tool to tell the people which candidate to vote for. So, it was a political event. But, that has changed. It really is a surprisingly worshipful time. Last year, I was surprised by the Spirit during a sermon by Johnny Hunt.
I must admit, I can’t sit through 12 hours of preaching, so I usually pick one or two. Tonight, Charles Lowrie (spelling?) spoke. His topic was how to make evangelism LAST, and he used an anachronism for LAST. However, what stuck with me was the first two letters: laugh and authentic. We ought to laugh and enjoy life more. Those who are filled with joy, share the gospel without preaching. If people do not want to become like us, they won’t want the gospel we are sharing. We talk about the joy of Jesus, but we don’t really know it because we are taking our religion too seriously. He also spoke about being authentic, something that is almost next to impossible in our church contexts today. But, the great story of redemption is hidden when we don’t share how Christ has brought us back to life after we were dead in our sins.
The fireworks begin tomorrow convention moves into a business mode.
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