This year’s meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Louisville, Kentucky was nothing short of amazing. For me, the totally unexpected happened. I came away feeling more optimistic about the SBC than I ever have before. Why did I feel this way?
1. The Great Commission Resurgence (GCR). Danny Akin first cast his vision for a “Great Commission Resurgence” at the “Building Bridges” conference back in 2007. If you have not ever listened to this sermon, I encourage you to do so (audio below). It was prophetic, timely, and courageous.
Essentially, the GCR calls on Southern Baptists to unite around the central truths of the gospel for the sake of cooperating together to fulfill the Great Commission. In April of this year, Dr. Akin preached a sermon in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s chapel in which set forth 11 axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence. Not long after, a website was launched calling on Southern Baptists to sign their name in support of the GCR.
Even though the GCR was the brain-child of Danny Akin, it became the rally-cry of President Johnny Hunt in the lead-up to the convention. As a result, Dr. Albert Mohler made a motion that President Hunt appoint a task force to study how Southern Baptists can work “more faithfully and effectively together in serving Christ through the Great Commission.” Efforts to divide the convention over the issue of Calvinism ultimately came to naught, and the measure passed overwhelmingly (95% to 5%). President Hunt appointed 18 people to the “Great Commission Resurgence Task Force.” Members include David Dockery, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, J. D. Greear, Frank Page, Jim Richards, Ronnie Floyd, and others.
2. Auxilliary Events. 9Marks ministries teamed up with Southeastern Seminary for two auxiliary events called “9Marks at 9.” Both “9Marks at 9″ meetings were well-attended and involved a lot of younger pastors. Also, there was a Baptist21 event that featured a panel discussion with Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Mark Dever, Ed Stetzer, David Platt, and Daniel Montgomery. This meeting became strategically important in deploying troops to be ready to vote in favor of the GCR motion. There was tremendous unity of purpose exhibited in these meetings, and it was very encouraging.
3. SBC Leadership. Johnny Hunt’s leadership was phenomenal. He has led the effort to unite Southern Baptists around the GCR vision, and it would not have happened without him. Also, he bought lunch for the hundreds who showed up at the Baptist21 event, and he showed up to greet us. There is a whole new constituency of younger Southern Baptists who are now looking to Johnny Hunt as one whom they can trust and whose leadership they can follow.
One messenger told me that he has a man-crush on Danny Akin. I wouldn’t go that far, but I will say that Danny Akin’s GCR vision has inspired an entire convention to unite around the gospel and to rethink how we are doing what we are doing. Akin is a bridge-figure in Southern Baptist life, and it’s hard to imagine how the GCR coalition could have come together without him. Also, he has the courage of his convictions, and many Southern Baptists have taken note.
Dr. Mohler was the right man to make and defend the GCR motion. His remarks were right on point, and I can’t imagine a better spokesman for the cause. He knocked it out of the park. Without Dr. Mohler’s strategic leadership, I’m not sure that this would have gone as well as it did.
4. SBTS Sesquicentennial. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held a Sesquicentennial celebration on its campus on Wednesday, and it was an amazing event. Over 1,300 people bought tickets for the luncheon, and the chapel was packed for Dr. Mohler’s sesquicentennial address. The seminary dedicated a new building in honor of former President Duke McCall. Dr. McCall was President of SBTS for 30 years, and he is now 95 years old. His magnanimous remarks at the ceremony were a highlight of the convention for me.
5. Constructive Resolutions. The Convention overwhelmingly approved Russell Moore’s resolution on adoption and orphan-care, and it was a poignant testimony to the gospel as Moore stood on the platform with his two sons. Also, the committee struck the right balance in its resolution about the presidency of Barack Obama. The convention, therefore, celebrated the election of the nation’s first African American President even as they reiterated the SBC’s opposition to his policies on abortion and gay “marriage.”
I think some great things happened this week in Louisville, and I am more hopeful than I have ever been about being a Southern Baptist. It was an amazing week.