ST. LOUIS, MO - I heard a dozen people say it while we were at the annual SBC June gathering. “This is like a family reunion,” they said. I believe there may be 3 C’s that motivate Southern Baptists to attend the annual Southern Baptist Convention: causes, connections, and celebrations. It may be a simple list, but I see one of those in just about everyone who attends the June meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.
First, let’s look at the “cause.”
It’s obvious each SBC president has a burden on his heart when he takes office. His sermons and comments echo his concern for the nation. His invited guests amplify the president’s emphasis. The intensity on one subject is timely. But even more so, as I walk the halls and meeting rooms of the annual meeting, it is obvious many of the church messengers come being carried by a cause or they arrive at the convention ready to discover and pursue a cause. There are so many worthy pursuits on display being described.
I saw one man having a conversation with another after they had heard Dr. Russell Moore speak. The hipster asked, “Didn’t I tell you that you would love him? He speaks right to the issue. Addressing the culture isn’t hard for Dr. Moore. We have got to get him into our city talking to our pastors. Do you think he will come? Something has to change in our city!” Women were sitting beside a long table displaying dozens of books that the Women’s Missionary Union published. Books from the display were scattered on their 8-foot tablecloth covered table. They traded books feverishly squealing, “You’ve got to look at this one.” A young woman spoke to the older women at the table with a slower, sadder cadence, “We have got to get some of these books to share with the women back home. If I had read things like this I would not have made some of the poor decisions I’ve made. Do you think we can order some now?”
Second, there are those who come for the connections.
Those are easy to see. A woman screams out from one side of a crowded room to the other side, “Betty Lee, is that you? I haven’t seen you in years, girl. You are looking as beautiful as ever. You don’t look like a grandmother to me!” Men connect in a different way. They huddle up outside the convention doorway. They yell out to past friends from college, seminary, or past churches. They invite the next old friend to come join the huddle. As soon as he steps up they take their jabs at him. “Hey man, you look like you put on some weight.” “Are you still at that country club church or did you get a real place of ministry?” No harm is intended. It’s just what guys do to one another.
Those silly connections often ended in spontaneous prayer. Women bowed their heads over their coffee cups on the café table and prayed for a woman who sobbed because her adult daughter was running from God. Men laid their free books on the floor and leaned closer into the huddle with their arms on one another’s shoulders because they learned their absent friend was home preparing for a bone marrow transplant. Those connections seemed to suspend all the crowd’s chaos.
Third, there are the celebrations.
I think everyone finds things to cheer about at the convention. The International Mission Board reports growing numbers of salvations among certain people groups. The North American Mission Board unveils focused ways to enter communities with the Gospel. Seminary presidents explain that the number of students coming to their schools for ministry and mission training is increasing. Veterans and active duty military personnel fill the front of the auditorium. Southern Baptists love to clap, say “Amen,” and cry over the big wins.
At the start of the convention, veterans and active duty military personnel led the entire convention in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the National Anthem. Everyone stood to his or her feet. Right hands covered hearts. Men and women of youth and age saluted with their hands over their brow. Everyone guessed where each man or woman might have served. All of us were celebrating our freedom to serve the God we love. All of us felt the opportunity before us. All of us understood the treasures and resources that are within reach. Dreams of what might be filled our hearts during the first hour of convention. It was a celebration! 1 Peter 2:16 says, “You are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil,“ (NLT).
Causes, connections, or celebrations? Come find your desire in Phoenix, AZ at the upcoming annual Southern Baptist Convention on June 13-14, 2017. You can find me. I will be in one of those huddles praying for a friend.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tony Lynn is the State Director of Missions for the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Before coming on staff at the BSCM, Tony served as lead pastor for more than six years at Crosspoint Church in Monroe, Michigan. He and his wife, Jamie, also served with the International Mission Board in Africa and in Europe.