We are tempted to become indifferent toward causes hyped too often or loudly. Our hype-intensive age tempts me to turn off every voice that speaks urgently. That’s a mistake. This is an important time in American Christianity, and in the Southern Baptist Convention. Consider a few important events currently underway.
The health of our leaders?I know of no fewer than eight prominent and influential Southern Baptists who have major health concerns. All of us age and eventually die but now we can name a remarkable list of people, who could predictably have decades of service ahead of them, who face cancer and other ailments at this moment. It is reasonable to assume also that scores of our leaders and mentors additionally face spiritual and leadership challenges unknown to us. The call is that we should systematically pray for them.
Transition at our boards and agencies?Three SBC agencies representing more than three-fourths of our denominational budget are in leadership transition. Three search committees are seeking leaders for our two mission boards and our Executive Committee. These leaders will make important strategy decisions for our missionary endeavors for decades to come. We must, in this day, have visionary and courageous leaders for those causes we would all agree are the reason for our denominational cooperation. Pray for the search committees as they seek God’s will. Pray that the various trustee boards (even those not currently seeking leaders) will be diligent and hard working as they make significant decisions at every meeting. And pray for God’s men, those retiring, those not yet in place, and those who continue to serve at the heads of our seminaries and agencies. Our convention requires leadership beyond what mere men can dream or accomplish in their own power.
The GCR Task Force?This committee will meet late in January to finalize whatever aspects of their report they will make available in February during the SBC Executive Committee meeting. That report will be the 500-pound gorilla as we go to Orlando for our annual meeting this year. I expect some dramatic surprises. Pray for them as they work toward their presentation in Nashville and Orlando. They need divine wisdom for the sake of our unity around priority causes and effectiveness in all we agree to do together.
The threat of fragmentation?Regional and generational balkanization of American Christianity seems more likely than at any time during my life. Millions of trees have given their lives so that hundreds of books and articles can try to explain, hype, or decry the rapidity of change within the cultural context of American evangelicals. I don’t know many people who don’t have strong opinions about what is important and what we should do regarding the current generational leadership hand off. How should current leaders respond to the unique concerns of pastors 15 years younger? How should those not yet in middle age understand the leaders and essentials of our common work? Whether these questions are actually big or small, they occupy much of our attention during a time when other things are also crucial.
Within our convention, I observe a similar divide between east and west, with the Mississippi as the boundary. Those on both sides are passionate about global evangelism and committed to innovative ministry. Some in both regions also seem disrespectful of their brothers across the muddy river. Pray for patience and gentleness within our convention as we speak of significant matters from different contexts. Pray that all of us will gain the virtue of speaking less and listening more. These divisions I observe are common to all evangelicals in our day, especially the first. My concern is specifically for the Southern Baptist Convention and the impact of needless division on our important work. A biblically founded spirit of peace and forbearance in the SBC will deeply impact the work of evangelicals in every locale.
These four things, at least, convict me that I should more regularly pray for those God has placed in leadership within our convention. We shouldn’t wait until we hear of a crisis or surgery or scandal. There will always be important things that come and go without our general knowledge?things that will bear fruit for good or ill before we know anything has happened. That is unavoidable because our work is so widespread and complex. The only way to pray is to pray regularly, on a schedule, so our leaders will be lifted up during times of need and opportunity know to but few. Join me in doing that more faithfully.