Pay attention to SBC meeting this year

Have you ever received shareholder voting proxies in the mail? Either because of an investment I’ve made or because of an organization I’ve joined, they’ve come to my box and received little attention; I don’t know the issues or the personalities involved to any degree. I also assume that usually I have no real stake in how the votes turn out. Some of us think about the Southern Baptist Convention that way. We shouldn’t.

We, you and I, are stewards of a remarkable collection of institutions and infrastructure. These resources have wavered in focus at some points, as do our churches, families, or any other collection of fallible people. But, like your church and your family, the SBC remains important to the kingdom of God. Additionally, at its wavering worst, our convention touches thousands with the gospel every week, if not every single day. Other groups of which I am a part cannot say the same. Other groups in which you may have a keener interest (HOA, club, alumni group, etc.) cannot say the same.

Our June 13-14 meeting in Anaheim this year will be attended by a large group that is not a patch on the whole number of us. That’s fine. For all the decades I have paid attention to the SBC, thousands who don’t attend read with interest the news of the meeting. In recent years, streaming has allowed thousands to watch whatever portion they want as it happens. While I don’t think the online experience can ever be the same as being in the room with your fellow Southern Baptists, you can get an informed idea of what we’re a part of, why it matters. Here are a couple of important things:

Missions

The SBC meeting commonly has a commissioning service, a sending service for missionaries we will support around the country and around the world. These folks, from everywhere and of every demographic, have usually attended our seminaries, been taught in our children’s and student ministries, and maybe been discipled in our collegiate ministries. They are us and ours, and will remain so as they join a gospel effort some place where you and I will never go. It’s fitting that we see this at our annual meeting because missions is the apex of what we do in cooperation with each other. As your church supports the Cooperative Program and our national missions offerings, these ambassadors are the focus of those funding streams. This year’s sending celebration will be Tuesday morning in Anaheim.

Budgeting, business, and reports

The messengers your church sends will be asked to consider a budget that funds all this. At the SBC level, missions and seminary education account for more than 90 percent of the budget we’ll consider in Anaheim. We usually don’t debate the budget a long time; committees and boards elected from our churches by past conventions have spent hours sweating the details of it. But, unless the messengers say “yes,” the budget is not adopted. The recipients, themselves stewards of SBC resources, will report on what they’ve done with the budgets approved in previous years. You can watch what happens and hear the reports even if you can’t go.

You may also know that a sexual abuse task force appointed in 2021 will make its report and recommendations during our two-day meeting. They have made a thorough report to the convention and their recommendations will have a significant impact on the future ministry of the SBC.

Leadership

The presidential election gets all the attention, but significant leadership roles are also decided by the messengers. Those who make appointments will be elected, as will the appointments proposed by last year’s committee. We will consider the men and women who will elect the leaders of our agencies, oversee those ministries, and recommend next year’s budget from each agency. These men and women come from our churches—they are us, volunteers that corporately “own” our institutions during the time of their service on boards.

The presidential election matters because of his appointive powers. He also has opportunities to speak for us and to us during his term. He is a volunteer, as well, and makes a big sacrifice in time and energy to lead Southern Baptists. Of this year’s election, I’ll only say a little. The three men being nominated are conservatives who each love the mission of Southern Baptists. They also have distinct emphases. This year is not about who’s an old timer or newcomer or who believes the Bible more than someone else. The men each interpret this era of SBC life in a little different way. Any of them could lead us well. I have a preference among them, but we’ll have to discuss that in private. If you follow the news as the convention begins, you’ll have a chance to hear from the man elected, even as interviews have given you an insight as to their differing views of the challenges that face our convention.

The convention is also made up of music, preaching, prayer meetings, all manner of niche group events, and lots of eating. Some messengers spend very little time in the hall during business meetings because of reunions and hall conversations. It’s all part of Southern Baptists reminding ourselves of the important things we have in common.

Follow along as the most important Southern Baptist meeting of the year unfolds. The SBC has likely been important to the beginning and building up of your church. Somebody passed a budget or trained a leader or sent a missionary that made all the difference. That’s what will go on this June in Anaheim. Join us as best you can. You should be able to access streaming of the event at the SBC website.

 

Correspondent
Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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