I am now back in Denver after spending the last few days at the Southern Baptist Convention’s Pastor’s Conference and Annual Meeting. I was blessed on a number of fronts by this meeting—and am growing more and more encouraged by the direction our convention is taking.
Over the next few days, I hope to give some reflections on our denomination’s get-together. But let me start with some things that encouraged me:
First, I love the direction of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). For me, the highlight was Monday’s (free) lunch that the NAMB sponsored, where Kevin Ezell and others gave a report and rallied the troops to begin planting churches (15,000 in the next ten years). With Denver being a SEND North America city (one of twenty) that has a need of more of a gospel presence, I am all on-board. Plus, knowing that men like Dave Howeth (Church Planting Coordinator of the NAMB) and Jim Misloski (State Missions Director for Eastern Colorado) are on our team here makes me glad I am in Colorado. God is starting to stir our church (Arapahoe Road Baptist Church) into considering the possibilities of planting. This lunch in particular and the NAMB in general stoked the fire even more.
Secondly, I’m thankful for Fred Luter, Jr., being the president of our convention. Dr. Luter serves as Pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, and possesses a heart to reach the lost and unify the convention under the banner of Christ. His sermon on Tuesday night possessed a power and an unction of the Spirit in my own heart to such a degree that I felt the stirrings of revival take place in me. All this at a convention meeting? Absolutely! Such is another encouraging direction in the SBC and its annual meeting. I love one particular quote from his sermon: “Nothing can be politically right if it’s biblically wrong.” Should his talk ever become available, I will be sure to link to it on this blog.
Thirdly, I’m thankful for unifying conversations. As you may have heard, the Southern Baptists have had a controversy stemming between Calvinists and non-Calvinists. So, rather than talk at and around each other, Dr. Frank Page of the Executive Committee started a conversation with a 19-member Calvinism Advisory Committee, containing both Calvinists and non-Calvinists. The report that came out showed a unity even amidst the disagreements.
“We can talk like brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can work urgently and eagerly together,” the 3,200-word report reads. “We have learned that we can have just this kind of conversation together, and we invite all Southern Baptists to join together in this worthy spirit of conversation. But let us not neglect the task we are assigned. The world desperately needs to hear the promise of the Gospel.”
As one who calls himself a Calvinist, I have never really understood how, in the scope of history of Spurgeon and Edwards and even Calvin himself, how one could dispute the need to evangelize. Even Jesus said, “All that the Father has given to me will come to me” (showing God’s sovereignty in calling a people to himself) “and whoever believes in me, I will in no ways cast out” (showing our responsibility in responding to the call—and even the fact that Jesus himself issued that call). Consider Calvin’s own words:
Since we do not know who belongs to the number of the predestined and who does not, it befits us so to feel as to wish that all be saved. So it will come about that, whoever we come across, we shall study to make him a sharer of peace . . . even severe rebuke will be administered like medicine, lest they should perish or cause others to perish. But it will be for God to make it effective in those whom He foreknew and predestined (John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. K. S. Reid (London: James Clarke and Co., Limited, 1961, p. 9).
And also this:
God certainly desires nothing more than for those who are perishing and rushing toward death to return to the way of safety. This is why the gospel is today proclaimed throughout the world, for God wished to testify to all the ages that he is greatly inclined to pity (John Calvin, Calvin: Commentaries (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1963), vol. 23, The Library of Christian Classics, eds. Baillie, McNeill, and Van Dusen, 402).
As mentioned in my previous sermon from June 2, God does not send anyone to hell against their will.
So I thought this conversation was very important, because it all stems around the effect and execution of the Great Commission. This report finally began to help many see regarding both sides that we know that God is the one who saves, and that we want that to happen in Christ. Yes, there may be some differences—and that will elicit another conversation, I’m sure. But we’re all on-board for the Great Commission. So let’s ‘go’ and get it done for the cause of Christ.
More reflections next time regarding the Boy Scouts Resolution.