BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BNM) – Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear gave his address at the SBC Annual Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama on June 11.
Rather than focusing on changes in doctrine or mission, Greear said the SBC is in a “defining moment” at this point, and he focused on implementing three values that will shape the future of the SBC.
First, he committed the SBC to “prioritizing the Gospel above all,” fitting with the theme of the meeting, “Gospel Above All.” He challenged Southern Baptist churches to set aside anything that may distract new church visitors from the message of the Gospel – especially politics. “Politics are important, but they aren’t as important as saving somebody’s soul,” he said. None of the church’s activities will have any meaning if the Gospel is not the core of the operation; if this is so, acts of service would merely make people more comfortable on their way to hell, he said.
He also said the Gospel is not only for nonbelievers, but it is literally the “power of God” that allows current believers to grow. “The Gospel is not just the diving board, but it is the pool,” he said.
Greear’s second point was that the church should “be willing to do whatever it takes to reach all people.” He said a church with the Gospel at its core will “lay down every preference at the altar of whatever it takes to reach their community.” This is not just a role for church leaders, but the responsibility of “ordinary people,” he said. He praised the SBC for “diversifying [its] leadership” alongside an increasingly diverse nation wherein whites are no longer a majority. He said 20% of Southern Baptist members are people of color, and that 63% of the churches planted in 2018 were planted by leaders of color. He emphasized the importance of remaining diverse in leadership to effectively reach a diverse nation.
Third, he said Southern Baptist churches should “commit to sending every member” of their congregations to fulfill the Great Commission. The number of disciples and the number of missionaries should take precedence over attendance trends, he said. He also mentioned that a church should not be afraid to send one of its leaders to plant and lead a church, as that leader will then produce more disciples.
“I do believe that how we respond to the challenges that are in front of us right now will define not only our testimony in this generation but will also shape who we are,” he said. An overarching theme throughout the Annual Meeting has been prioritizing reaching the “one” person, rather than multitudes. Greear said reaching the “one” will make a more significant impact for the Kingdom than reaching groups – another reason why congregation members should be responsible for making disciples.