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I didn’t grow up in a Southern Baptist church. In fact, I didn’t officially become a Southern Baptist until I moved to Nashville in 2013. Southern Baptists are an interesting group. Sometimes, they are made fun of both by other Christians and by those who would not consider themselves Christians at all.
Sure, Southern Baptists have their quirks. They would admit as much—I suppose I should say we would admit as much.
But man, every time I gather together with other Southern Baptists from around the world at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, I remember why I’m thankful for Southern Baptists. I love Southern Baptists because:
Southern Baptists’ commitment to world evangelization through the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, and the outreach work of each individual local church is humbling and brings me so much joy.
I love walking past the IMB and NAMB’s booths on the exhibit hall floor at the annual meeting each year, seeing dozens of people hanging out, praying with one another, and swapping stories of mission work on the field.
Make fun of Southern Baptists’ fashion sense or whatever else you’d like. One thing is clear: they want as many people as possible to experience eternity with Jesus. Who cares if they wear socks with sandals sometimes?
If you aren’t a Christian, you probably aren’t aware of the ways Southern Baptists have fought among themselves over the years. If you are a Christian, you may think that all Southern Baptists ever do is fight among themselves. If you have studied Southern Baptist history, you will see that Southern Baptists are imperfect followers of Jesus like every one else, and they are made up of people who hold a variety of theological and methodological views.
Yet, despite small quibbles and massive battles throughout their history, Southern Baptists persist. I am convinced this is because, despite whatever sin or differences Satan may want to use to quell the work of the Southern Baptists, God has seen fit to deliver them by his grace by the reconciling, unifying power of the Holy Spirit.
The only reason Southern Baptists exist after all these years is because amidst their sometimes-glaring inadequacies, they ultimately want God to be glorified, not themselves.
Like most Christians, my prayer life can be inconsistent. One month, I may make 20 minutes to pray every single day, and the next month I may struggle to spend 20 minutes in a given week.
Every single time I come to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, I am encouraged in my prayer life. I see attendees praying with people on the street, praying with each other at exhibitor booths, and spending significant amounts of time in the main sessions praying for the unreached around the world and in local communities.
Gathering together with other Southern Baptists encourages me in my prayer life because Southern Baptists are serious about prayer. Their love for prayer points to a posture of humility that says, “I know I can’t control the winds and rains that may come in life, but I know God can.” Such humility is so attractive and refreshing.
So, say whatever you want about Southern Baptists. Say they fight too much. Say they don’t have fashion sense. Say they need to get with the times.
Say whatever you want, but don’t doubt their love for the world, their love for the Church, or their love for the Lord.