If Southern Baptists’ unity is built on “all of us agreeing on everything, then there really is no hope for us all,” said J.D. Greear, Southern Baptist Convention president, during his address to the SBC Executive Committee on Sept. 17. MORRIS ABERNATHY/Baptist Press
By Grace Thornton
NASHVILLE (BP) — If Southern Baptists’ unity is built on “all of us agreeing on everything, then there really is no hope for us all,” said J.D. Greear, Southern Baptist Convention president, during his address to the SBC Executive Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Unity has to be “built on loving something greater than what divides us” — that’s why Greear said he’s keeping Gospel Above All as the convention’s theme for his second year as president.
“The Gospel is why we come together … it is the basis of our unity,” he said. “I really believe that if we demonstrate that together, along with our state and associational partners, our best days are ahead.”
During his report, Greear also renewed his commitment to the “Who’s Your One?” emphasis and delivered a new mission challenge to churches called “Send Every Member.” He also gave a progress report on the convention’s actions to address the issue of sexual abuse, which he reiterated is a “Gospel issue.”
“I believe in this last year, thanks to your leadership, things are changing,” Greear told the committee.
The EC has set aside resources, Greear noted, to fund the Sexual Abuse Advisory Group, a step he called “bold and necessary.”
Since then, SBC leadership has heard “some amazing stories of cooperation with local churches, associations, and state conventions voluntarily partnering together for this cause,” Greear said.
In August, churches all over the convention voluntarily launched the Caring Well Challenge, a multifaceted effort to love and protect the vulnerable in churches. Many have also started care teams to respond to the hurting. See related Baptist Press story.
And the EC itself has strengthened its systems to deal with churches who show a “wanton disregard” for the issue, Greear said. See related report.
He encouraged SBC leaders to model caring well with two specific steps — for the EC to consider background checking those nominated to serve as trustees, and for state convention leaders to consider incorporating questions related to this issue in their Annual Church Profile reports with LifeWay’s help.
“This is a local church issue,” he said, “and we must keep it local by equipping and encouraging our pastors to take strong, proactive measures and helping our associations to implement good, solid standards.”
Greear also shared that Southern Baptists have responded well to the Who’s Your One challenge, which asks each Christian to identify at least one person to pray for and share the Gospel with. More than 30,000 Who’s Your One kits have been mailed out, he noted, and several state conventions have adopted it as their own theme for the year.
He said the Baptism Sunday emphasis Sept. 8 had seen incredible results, and he encouraged churches to participate in the next one on Easter Sunday 2020.
Greear also launched a new challenge — Send Every Member.
“Right now, both the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board say they have more money than planters and missionaries right now,” he said. “We want to change that.”
One way he hopes to do that is through Go2, which challenges young adults to spend the first two years of their career working in a place where they can assist with a new church plant.
Greear said he also hopes the SBC can also continue to grow in embracing diversity. More than 63 percent of Southern Baptist churches started last year were planted by people of color, he said, and convention appointments displayed a range of ethnicities and genders.
But he noted that there’s still room to grow.
“If we want to be faithful to the Great Commission, we must reflect the diversity of our communities and proclaim the diversity of the Kingdom,” he said. “This also involves thinking about our sisters in Christ and how to steward and develop their ministry gifts.”
He noted that Southern Baptists were “convictionally and unapologetically complementarian” but that women have a “crucial role in the church.”
Across ethnicities, genders, and political views, Greear said his main hope was that Southern Baptists would rally around the main mission that matters.
“I’m praying that God would help me be a unifier for all Southern Baptists keeping the Gospel Above All,” he said.
Greear said he wants “to see 15,000 messengers in Orlando, a new wave of evangelism that turns the tide on declining baptism numbers, and a wave of sending in the SBC that leads us to those days of multiplication and growth that characterized the first centuries of the church when a group of Jewish fishermen, without resources, conventions, money or public platforms turned the world upside down.”
Grace Thornton is a writer based in Birmingham, Ala.