Reflections on the Southern Baptist Convention 2008 (part one)

I am writing this blog aboard Southwest Airlines jet somewhere between Kansas City and Denver at a cruising altitude above the clouds. In some ways as I look out the window the perspective of the earth below is quite different from my day to day life walking the planet below. When your feet are firmly planted on planet earth often little things look huge while from peering down from above the clouds these same obstacles seem so tiny. I wonder if God doesn’t sometimes chuckle (or worse grieve) over the things we get so worked up about on good ol’ planet earth while we often miss the main things.

During the SBC Pastor’s Conference Charles Lowrey (no relation as you can tell from the spelling) spoke about the important things in life in his humorous conversational style. He spoke of funerals and potato salad, and how in the end life seems to boil down to faith, family and friends. In all our planning and plotting too often we get distracted from the simple essence of life. It was a gentle reminder to me to be real in a world of facades and images. For my dad’s generation the SBC annual meeting was as close to a family reunion you could find on this side of heaven. Under Frank Page’s leadership this year’s meeting had that feel in many ways.

I wish I had a dollar for everything someone on stage used the words “Conservative resurgence” or the “inerrant Word of God.” I don’t know why we have to keep bringing up those difficult days in our family. In hopeful terms a new catch phrase also began to take on life—time and time again speakers referred to the “Great Commission Resurgence”. It appears the reports of the demise and decline of the convention is beginning to get our attention. It is sad that in our battle over the Bible we wander away from its central message. I suspect as we get back to Kingdom business many of the lines in the sand we have drawn between each other will be blurred by the winds of the Spirit.

The presidential election was quite interesting. Good men from across the nation and from various perspectives were nominated. There were so many that we had to go back to the old fashion method of casting lots to determine the order of nomination speeches. Johnny Hunt of Woodstock was elected president. Surprisingly to me he won a majority on the first ballot. I voted for Avery Willis because of his touch on my life and ministry by training me in the principles of Masterlife a number of years ago. I believe Hunt will be a good president. He is a good man, and is the pastor of a great church in Georgia. The shock of the election to me was the poor showing of Dr. Wagner from California. He actually ran a campaign for the position complete with website, and printed full color handouts for the messengers with his promises to the SBC. He was nominated by Wade Burleson who has been a lightning rod for SBC issues in recent years. When the ballots were counted Wagner received only 257 votes out of over 5000 votes. I will let those wiser and more insightful interpret this outcome, but I was quite surprised. I thought Burleson had a greater following. One lesson I will take home from this is the reality that “blog world” may not always represent “reality” in the real world. On the internet everyone can have his “fifteen minutes of fame” but that does not always translate real influence and power.

A final thought: We did not make the front page of the New York Times that is good news and bad news. The good news is we did not say or do something really dumb to can the attention of the national media. The sad news is that seeking to change the world through the good news of Jesus is not front page news in our secular world.

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