Reflections of an SBC Rookie

This is a guest post from seminary student and first-time SBC messenger, Meredith Cooper. She shares her first impressions of the Southern Baptist Convention as someone who had never attended before. For all of you who have never been, this is what you can expect.

Last week, I attended the Southern Baptist Convention for the first time. While I am not new to the SBC—I grew up in an SBC church and now attend an SBC seminary—I did not consider myself immersed in the denomination until last year when I became a full-time employee of the seminary. As I learned more about the inner workings and politics of our denomination, I have to admit that my perception was less than positive. There were various reasons, ranging from sheer lack of interest in anything political to focusing on the wrong things to simple misunderstanding. However, attending the annual meeting last week put things in perspective, and these are some things I learned.

We are blessed with good leaders.

We have great leaders in Frank Page, David Platt, Russ Moore, Kevin Ezell, Thom Rainer, our seminary presidents, and others. These men sacrifice a lot to lead our convention. They are kept busy, often away from their families, and they deal with a lot of criticism from both outside and inside our denomination. These men work really hard to lead our denomination well. This, of course, does not mean that we should place them on a pedestal. Like the rest of us, they are fallen, sinful, and they put their pants on the same way we do. While we do not necessarily need to agree with everything they do or say, we should respect and pray for them.  I believe the Lord has raised and equipped these men to take on these roles. We should both support and keep them accountable as they attempt these difficult tasks.

There is more encouragement than discouragement.

A friend who has attended the convention before told me that it was the most encouraged and discouraged she has ever felt at the same time. After sitting in on the business meetings at this year’s convention, I understood what she meant. Because the convention allows for any messenger to offer comments and questions at a microphone (provided there is time for them to do so), things can get interesting. There were some things said with which I wholeheartedly disagreed and by which I was discouraged. However, these were in the minority. As a whole, the denomination made some great decisions that move us in the right direction. I left encouraged by our denomination as they unified around some important issues. In a room of 7,000+ messengers from local churches all across the country, it is impossible that all of these will agree with each other and there will unfortunately be some who speak out of anger or fear. If we focus on those, however, it will be easy to become jaded. Yes, some speak out publicly whose opinions do not line up with biblical principles. It can be disheartening to hear people speak out of anger, fear, judgment, arrogance, etc. However, these are just individuals. They do not represent the collective heart of the Southern Baptist Convention, and it is the collective group of people who make the decisions. At this year’s convention, those who spoke brashly were not supported by the whole. Instead, the majority of messengers chose to support motions and resolutions that will move our denomination in a positive direction. Let’s choose to focus on the majority and the good. It far outweighed the bad.

It is important for us to be involved.

It is easy to be disinterested in the business affairs of the Southern Baptist Convention. Whether it comes from from laziness, apathy, embarrassment, ignorance, etc, many of us—especially in our generation— are not very involved in SBC life as a whole. I certainly was not very involved. However, after attending and participating in the convention, I realized the importance of what goes on during those business meetings and the part I play in them. As a messenger from my local church, I had a responsibility to represent it well by voting on resolutions and motions that will impact our entire denomination. As part of the “younger” generation, I now see the importance of involvement in the denomination as a whole. One day, some of us will be leaders. We should take advantage of the time we have now to learn from those who are currently leading, who have wisdom and years of experience. There is not a cooperation of churches quite like the Southern Baptist Convention and it is a great thing to be a part of. We need to take responsibility for being involved now, so that we can be equipped to participate and lead in it later.

 

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for this article. As a viewer from afar, I found several things that greatly encouraged me from this years SBC: the refugee resolution, the flag resolution, the unity shown in the eventual President’s election and Dr Moore’s defense of the bedrock Baptist principle of religious liberty or soul freedom for all. I hope that more of the younger generations will continue to get involved in the work of the SBC.

    How does the picture of the 1913 New York Giants tie into the article? Perhaps a picture of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers or the 1955 team would be more fitting.

    June 22, 2016
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    • Meredith Cooper said:

      Louis, thank you for the feedback. It was very encouraging to be in the room as all of these resolutions were voted on. I’m thankful for leaders who facilitated these resolutions- both from the stage and from the microphone (like Dr. Merritt). I also hope the younger generation humbly accepts the responsibility to be involved and learns from those who have gone before us.

      As far as the photo goes, Keelan was responsible for that! I believe it was just to tie in with the “rookie” theme!

      June 22, 2016
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  2. Robert Eubanks said:

    The resolution on Confederate Battle sticks out like a sore thumb. First there are not any SBC churches that have a CNC in there church. If they are present they exist over former Confederate soldiers buried near their homes. The Sons of Confederate Veterans place flags there each May to honor the soldiers. Political correctness better known as progressive Marxists should not influence the SBC in making a blanket statement about what St. Andrews cross represents. This kind of reasoning will come back to haunt us when the Christian cross which offends the Muslims who the ERLC now supports wholeheartedly is portrayed as a symbol of hate. What about the American flag that protected slavery for 75 yrs.? It just a matter of time before the SBC once again will capitulate to the Marxists of the left smh. 😣😣😣

    June 22, 2016
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    • Keelan Cook said:

      Robert, I can see you have some strong feelings about the proceedings of this year’s annual meeting. There has been a lot of conversation since the convention concerning the votes that were made, and I understand that there are two sides to many of these issues. That said, this specific post isn’t dealing with any of the decisions that were made. It is simply a call to participate in denominational life in an appropriate way. That is the beauty of the convention, every church has a voice at the annual meeting. The ability to influence those decisions happens there. I would prefer the comments on this post not stray into arguments over specific decisions that were made and I will require that comments stay civil. Thank you for speaking up though.

      June 23, 2016
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  3. Jenny Whitaker said:

    Thank you for this post! I lt is encouraging to see from afar what our convention is doing. It makes me proud to be a member of our convention. As a younger generation member and a woman however, it’s hard to know how to be involved. There are a lot of calls to our generation to get involved but no resources to tell us how. And it seems that those calling for our involvement are usually the few of us who are already there and see the need for more of us to get involved, but I would love to hear more of your experience about how it felt to be a younger member at the convention. Did you feel welcome? Did you feel like you were supposed to be there? Were you invited to go or did you just decide to go? Did you have “people” there or a mentor who showed you the ropes or did you just figure it out as you went on your own? And these are of interest because I think it would help prepare those of us interested in stepping up to the call to get involved. For example, should we find a mentor from our local church and buddy up with them For our first go? Would it help to go in knowing that you may feel out of place but that it doesn’t mean you are and hearing your input about how to handle those feelings that may be discouraging to a newbie may help us overcome some fears or apprehensions about getting involved. I think it can be intimidating as the younger group getting involved in an area of our convention that has, for a while, or in our perspective, been mostly done by the older members. And to a degree I know that is on us, but there seem to be ways that we could make our involvement less scary and lonely, less like scaling a wall to get in and more like an invitation to come through the front door. I realize there are degrees of this happening within our convention on each end of the spectrum and some in the middle, but like I mentioned to Keelan in a reply to his post yesterday – it would be helpful for someone to tell us HOW to get involved and it would also help to feel prepared and equipped if and hopefully when we go. A suggestion as seemingly small or obvious to someone already involved (such as finding a mentor to go with the first time) could make a huge difference for someone who wants to be involved but has no idea how and who has never been. And perhaps that same suggestion could be given to the older members (“go find a younger member to mentor and bring with you”). I am so excited about the future of our convention and I am passionate about our mission as a convention, and I, for one, would love to be involved, but it’s hard to know how and it’s scary to do and I’d just love to see some more conversations about how we get that to happen! It’s definitely time for us to figure out how to get involved and do that. We aren’t the kids any more, we are the future leaders and we can’t just step into leadership roles once we are “the older ones” we need those who are there now to teach us and help us and equip and encourage us and I am grateful for the steps already being taken to get that to happen! This post is one of those steps and thank you for writing it!

    June 22, 2016
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    • Meredith Cooper said:

      Jenny, thank you for your feedback! It is nice to hear from another lady who wants to be involved in our denomination. You have asked a lot of great questions and I would love to discuss these things further by email. I look forward to talking with you!

      June 23, 2016
      Reply

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