I have already written about some of the things that transpired at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last week, but I have not shared my overall impressions of the meeting or my opinion about the most significant thing that happened.
First of all, full disclosure: I am a convention newbie. The San Antonio meeting of the SBC was my first time ever to attend the annual gathering. Travelling, lodging, and eating can bust the budget really quick without an expense account. So for me, going to the SBC has always been cost prohibitive. But this year I just decided to go anyway and to try to do so on the cheap. Thankfully, the Lord provided.
Being as it was my first convention, I had a rather steep learning curve. When I say “learning curve,” I mean that I was figuring out for the first time the very basics. That’s why I sat next to Russell Moore in the early sessions so that he could tutor me. The early sessions went a little something like this:
Denny: “Why are they telling me to raise my ballot? I thought I was supposed to punch out the holes to vote.”
Russell: “Most votes are taken by raising the ballots. The only time the president calls for a ballot vote is when it’s too close to call.”
Denny: “Oh, okay. Did you know that this is my first time to come to a convention?”
Russell: “No kidding?”
So for any of you who had the impression that I was a seasoned convention insider, I’m sorry to disappoint.
Second, the best thing by far about the convention is the fellowship with old friends from around the country. I got to spend a ton of time with my best friend of 23 years, Barry Joslin. Barry and I also linked up with our third amigo, Jim Hamilton. The three of us have been dear friends since we began seminary at DTS in 1996. We all earned our Ph.D.’s under the supervision of Tom Schreiner (whom we also got to see), and we continue to be the best of friends today. Since we all serve in different parts of the country now, I especially relish the opportunity to see them on occasions like this one. And if that weren’t retro enough, I also ran into my youth minister from high school, Doyle Cooper (and his wife Mickey), as well as my boyhood pastor, Bill White.
Third, the best speakers of the convention were Dr. Albert Mohler and Pastor Voddie Baucham. Dr. Mohler’s report on Southern Seminary was one for the ages, and I am ready to print up the “Mohler ’08″ bumper stickers right now. There is little more that I would rather do at next year’s convention than to cast a vote for Dr. Mohler as SBC president. I hope the campaign starts in earnest. In his report he opposed the idea that trustees and entity heads can have no hiring standards beyond the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. He spoke eloquently to the point, and I think his argument will ultimately carry the day. For more on this, read the debate that is unfolding under my previous post, “Did Baptist Moderates Win in San Antonio?” There you can read comments by Rick Garner (who introduced the BF&M motion), Boyd Luter, Mac Roller (who composed the motion), and others.
Voddie Baucham’s sermon wasn’t actually a part of the official program of the Southern Baptist Convention. Baucham preached at the Founder’s breakfast which meets annually in conjunction with the Convention. Baucham argued that Southern Baptists need to repent in seven areas: regenerate church membership, church discipline, biblical exposition, church planting, family discipleship, biblically qualified leadership and Christian education (read about them here). But it is the first two or three in this list in which Baucham put his finger on the besetting sin of so many Baptist churches, a sin which indeed has compromised the witness of the entire Southern Baptist Conventionâ€”the failure of our churches to maintain a regenerate membership.
And this brings me to my final overall observation and my greatest disappointment at the convention: the failure of the “2007 Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership.” I wrote two weeks ago that Tom Ascol would be proposing this resolution calling Southern Baptists to practice integrity with respect to church membership. Dr. Ascol’s resolution calls on Baptists to be Baptists. His resolution calls on Southern Baptists “to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and . . . to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members.” So many Baptist churches are ill today because they are composed of a mixed multitude of believers and unbelievers. This is due to the fact that leaders and members refuse to be faithful in guarding the front door (faithful gospel preaching and discipleship) and the back door (church discipline).
I was aghast that some Baptists actually stood and spoke against the resolution. As a result, the resolution failed to come to the floor for a vote before the messengers. Thus, the convention missed an opportunity to speak a prophetic word to the churches, and I am grieved about that. I had hoped to use the resolution to exhort my own church towards biblical fidelity and faithfulness to Christ. This was a missed opportunity as far as I am concerned. But I am thankful that Dr. Ascol has said that he will introduce the resolution every year until it passes. I aim to be there to support his effort. To understand why the failure of this motion is such a mistake, I encourage you to read Mark Dever’s “Southern Baptist Mistake”, which he wrote after the resolution failed last year.
There is much more that I could write about last week, but I will leave it at that. But one last thing: Vote Mohler in ’08!