This week, I flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting as our church’s Messenger (a Messenger is someone representing a church congregation at the annual meeting). Catalyst Church SD is a church planted from a Southern Baptist church and has aligned with the SBC since our beginning.
There is nothing like being at one of these meetings. Over eighteen thousand Christians gathered in New Orleans this past week, representing many SBC churches and ministries across North America. They met to worship God together, hear reports from different SBC ministries, and discuss issues within the SBC.
A clear distinctive of the SBC is a heart for missions. We heard reports from both the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board. These two organizations represent the heart within the SBC of bringing the Gospel to the nations. We heard from missionaries who shared their hearts and inspired our convention to pursue the Great Commission in our areas.
The report from the International Mission Board particularly impacted me. Missionaries came to the stage to share their testimony of God calling them to a people group and nation. Yet, for many of them, their identification would put them in danger within the country they worked in. So many missionaries gave their testimony silhouetted behind a screen to hide their identity. What a testimony of faithfulness!
A prayer gathering started the week well, where various ministry leaders gathered to pray for our convention. There was a Pastor’s Conference on Sunday and Monday, where different preachers gave sermons on the Beatitudes. Sessions from 9Marks and Baptist21 presented valuable information on the upcoming discussions within the meeting. I enjoyed speaking with other church planters during a Send Network gathering and hearing from leaders during the luncheon. A Send Relief breakfast highlighted opportunities to reach those in need in our communities.
At our annual meeting, the importance of our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 confession was central to much of the discussion. Between last year’s meeting and this one, the SBC’s Credentials Committee disfellowshipped several churches for having a church practice contrary to the SBC’s confessional statement. For most cases, the practice in question with the churches was the BFM’s statement on complementarianism.
Three of those churches appealed the ruling and were present at the SBC meeting to present their case. Of the three churches, the one with the most prominent profile was the disfellowshipping of Saddleback Church. After both sides gave their position, the Messengers voted. Ultimately, the SBC Messengers held to their confessional statement by a wide margin. The message conveyed by the vote was that the basis of our cooperation as a unified body of churches is our biblical convictions, as represented by our BFM confession.
The highlight of the Annual Meeting for me was a conversation with a Missions Pastor from Texas. As a NAMB missionary, I spent one hour on Wednesday morning at the booth. The Missions Pastor approached the NAMB booth and asked to speak with a church planter. The NAMB representative asked me to talk with him. The church was concerned that they didn’t have a missionary they knew of to pray for and were looking for someone to pray for by name. I shared the story with him of what was happening at Catalyst Church in San Diego, CA, and told him I would love for his church to pray for God’s work at Catalyst.
I left New Orleans jet lagged but encouraged. Knowing we are not alone in our faith journey is encouraging. There are Gospel partners across our nation and world who share our convictions that people need Jesus. We are a group of churches that hold to our biblical beliefs. This week was a reminder that it is a blessing to be a part of the SBC family of churches.