Updated: Apr 1, 2021
As a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, it’s important that you know why I’m a Southern Baptist (SB). The short version is that I’m an SB because of their love for Jesus and their missionary commitment to preach Jesus and reach people throughout the United States and to all the nations on earth.
I became an SB in Butte, Montana over 40 years ago. I was a petroleum engineering student, preparing for what I thought would be my life’s work. That changed because of the one and only Bible-teaching Christian group on campus, the Baptist Student Union (BSU). Through BSU I learned to love God’s Word. I learned to share the gospel. By my senior year I experienced a “call to preach” and moved to Texas after graduation to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Through BSU I also learned the value of cooperation and the Cooperative Program (CP). I learned that Southern Baptists were committed to reaching the lost with the message of Jesus, and they were willing to cooperate to do so, even in places far from the south, like Montana.
I’m an SB because I’m a product of SBC cooperative missions. My parents are too. My dad ran a sawmill in Montana, and what they learned through my experience caused them to seek out the nearest SBC church, Easthaven Baptist in Kalispell, MT. There, my parents experienced a call to missions and moved to Pakistan to serve with the IMB. Their service extended over 13 years in which God greatly used them in several Islamic countries. Their mission investment transformed my ministry. I led my church to invest heavily in various mission partnerships. We took our family to Bangladesh, Mexico and Peru on family mission trips, and we’ve served in many other places with our IMB partners. The IMB is a big reason I’m an SB.
I’m an SB because you don’t build what we have in one lifetime. We are part of a convention that took 175 years to build. We have a network of churches, associations, conventions, seminaries and mission agencies that was scratched from the earth by generations of pioneers who sacrificed greatly to give us what we have. We inherited this from them. When someone surrenders to ministry and missions in your church, you have a network of schools and seminaries for training, a network of churches in which to serve, and mission capabilities that are unmatched. With all our troubles, Southern Baptists still train more leaders, start more churches, and send more missionaries than any other ministry network. We are a people who believe the Bible, and at our best we actually try to obey what it says!
I’m an SB because we are a large convention of churches, with great linguistic and ethnic diversity, more than any other network of churches. Nearly one-third of the churches in the Northwest Baptist Convention (NWBC), which I serve, worship in a language other than English. I am frequently in Korean, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Burmese language churches, among others. My message to those churches is that the beauty of the SBC is not simply our diversity, but that our diverse network of churches unites for the purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ among all the peoples and languages of the world. SBs find unity in our theological convictions, as outlined in the BF&M 2000, and in our common mission commitment.
Speaking of the NWBC, I’m an SB because in 1948 the SBC admitted the NWBC into the family, beginning with only 15 churches. But that small beginning opened the faucet of pastors and church starters and resources that resulted in immediate growth. Today we number about 500 churches and missions, most of which were started and funded by SBs in the south. We have dozens serving with the IMB, hundreds educated in SBC seminaries, over 50 church planters currently receiving financial support, and other support, from SBs through NAMB.
I’m an SB and I have a vision for how the SBC can do better than we are, and I pray we can become better than we’ve ever been. I don’t think the answer is going back to a bygone era. I don’t think the answer is staying with the status quo of the present established order.
I believe there is a Third Way, a New Vision. One in which more people are involved. The theme of the annual SBC meeting should be “Everybody, Every Year” as we expand participation to those without finances and vacation time to travel to a remote location. We need to move into the 21st Century in the way we do business.
My vision is more people, more missions, joyful partnership, complete transparency, and an eagerness for accountability. We live in a day when we must prove we’re doing right before we’re ever accused of doing wrong. I believe we can do that. The question before us today is not whether we do evangelism and missions. We all agree that people need Jesus. The question today is how best we do it. In the last decade we haven’t done very well. But like our nation, SBs have the ability to right wrongs and make changes.
That’s another reason I’m an SB. We have corrected course in the past, and I’m confident we can do so in the future. It will be to the glory of God if this 175-year-old old ship is righted, and restored, with fresh sails and the wind of the Spirit providing power as we take the name of Jesus with us wherever we might go.
Northwest Baptist Convention