The difference between the Younger Leaders Summit and the rest of the convention was remarkable. The YLS was worshipful, thoughtful, thought-provoking, challenging, even shockingly offensive at times (in a good way). What I saw of the pastor's conference was a lesson in how to scold the culture rather than speak redemptively about it. The rest of the convention was business as usual, cheesy videos, predictable motions and resolutions, and so on. This is a generalization, so I want to reflect a minute on exceptions, some I've noted before.
Though some of the same rhetoric was leveled toward homosexuality that is common from SBC'rs, there were some better things said this year. This is especially true of the video shown during Richard Land's speech. Loving, hopeful, and redemptive without scolding. Former homosexuals basically said that we need to not point the finger at homosexuals but to take their hand and walk toward Jesus with them. Fantastic. Incarnational. Missional. The SBC has a lot of problems, but if we can do more stuff like this younger leaders are going to stick around.
I had a lengthy discussion with Erich Bridges on Tuesday, senior writer with the IMB. Erich is thinking of beginning a blog and wanted to ask some questions. Chris Turner at Lifeway got us connected. I don't want to divulge the conversation content, but this is a guy I liked from "hello." You could see in his eyes the desire to reach the nations and he wants to transfer that passion through blogging to others. I'll let you know if/when he gets a blog going. For now you can read him regularly through articles on Baptist Press. Also, take note of his article yesterday which opens with a comment about a young pastor he met at the SBC. He is a very generous guy and I'm thankful to know him.
What if we could make multiple connections like this based on a desire to be missional? That's all our meeting was, two guys discussing missional faith in the context of blogging. I told Erich that if it were not for the IMB that many emerging leaders would have left the SBC long ago. For all the problems the SBC has, the IMB is doing much good. They are making connections with other missional agencies from other groups and denominations and working together. They are about incarnational ministry in other cultures. The whole convention needs to hear from the IMB, and I hope Erich will work to not only lead people to leave home and go overseas, but also to see the need to help all SBC'rs understand was missional-incarnational living really is.
I believe a major missing element of the SBC is vision. It doesn't matter how many times the shofar blows, I'm not going with the vision of a million baptisms. It's an arbitrary number. I want real vision. Jeff Harris talked about it at the Younger Leaders Summit. Maybe the thing that could really unify younger and older SBC'rs, or traditional and "emerging" SBC'rs, or institutional and incarnational SBC'rs (or however you want to describe the divide) is if we have a vision of redeeming culture together. We need a vision of incarnational compassion and beautiful truth.
I think the future of the SBC is going to come down to whether or not those of us who realize buildings and programs aren't enough will offer with gentleness and patience the biblical vision for dwelling among the culture and loving them to Christ. We need to set an example for the SBC (1 Tim 4:12) so that they will finally realize we aren't in this for power, but for the mission. That way we not only can work to redeem the culture, but also the SBC.
One more post of pictures, and convention blogging is officially over.