SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION REPORT
Last week I and three others (Terry Delaney, Martha DeWitt, and Wayne DeWitt) attended the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Nashville, Tenn., as messengers from our church. We joined more than 17,000 other messengers, along with almost 4,000 registered guests. This was an important week in the life and direction of the SBC, and I left thankful and encouraged by the decisions that were made and the unity that was displayed.
The gospel and our mission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth through word and deed continue to be the priority. For example, during the International Mission Board’s sending ceremony, 64 new missionaries were commissioned, for a current total of 3,695 full-time missionaries around the globe (along with more than 2,700 of their children), all dedicated to sharing the gospel and planting churches in places where gospel-preaching churches have not previously existed. This is the heart of who we are as Southern Baptists, and this is what we support when we give to the Cooperative Program.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 500 new missionaries have been commissioned, and in 176 years more than 25,000 missionaries have gone to the nations through the SBC. In 2020 alone, 247 new people groups and places were engaged, 769,494 people heard a gospel witness (compared to just over 500,000 in 2019), 144,322 people confessed faith in Christ, 86,587 people were baptized, and 18,380 churches were planted.
I was also encouraged by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) report. Giving to the Cooperative Program also led to the start of 588 new churches across North America, 60 percent of which are ethnic or multiethnic congregations. Since 2010, more than 8,200 churches have been planted through NAMB, which make up almost 17 percent of the total number of SBC churches in North America. From 1990 to the present, the total number of churches in the SBC has increased from 41,799 to 51,528. Like the new church plants in 2020, 60 percent of the new churches added in the last thirty years have been primarily ethnic or minority churches.
Through different resolutions, elections, and motions, I was thankful that the SBC overwhelmingly reconfirmed its commitment to racial unity and reconciliation, took a decisive stance against sexual abuse, and rejected political litmus tests for Christians or churches. One of my favorite quotes from the sermon of the outgoing SBC President, J.D. Greear, was “We are Great Commission Baptists. We have political leanings. But we are not the party of the elephant or the donkey. We are the people of the lamb.”
Among nine resolutions passed, messengers approved a comprehensive statement on the Bible’s sufficiency regarding race and racial reconciliation, a call for all churches to permanently bar sexual abusers from the pastorate, a denunciation of any attempt to rescind the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits federal funding of abortion), opposition to the Equality Act, and a call on the Chinese Communist Party to end the genocide of the Uyghur Muslims. Additionally, messengers overwhelmingly approved a motion calling for a third-party investigation of the SBC Executive Committee regarding allegations of mishandled abuse claims. In my judgment, this was a necessary action. I am also thankful for the new SBC President, Ed Litton, pastor of Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala. In more than 27 years of ministry at his current church, Linton has consistently demonstrated a clear commitment to the authority of Scripture, the gospel, and our shared confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message. He is best known for his commitment to racial reconciliation in his community.
As a church, we do far more in sending out missionaries, planting churches, and training ministers of the gospel by partnering with other gospel-committed churches than we would ever be able to do on our own. Please continue to pray for all the newly commissioned missionaries, newly formed churches, and newly elected leaders as we continue to partner to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.