My Reflections on the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention

For my Southern Baptist readers, here are some of my bullet point observations about our Southern Baptist Convention meeting this past week:

  1. God’s a great God who works through His people somehow. How thousands of Baptists meeting in one room accomplish anything is beyond me; it’s only through God’s grace that we function together.
  2. We need each other. Somehow, we work through committees, give input from the floor, discuss and vote together, and most often come out with a stronger product because we work together.
  3. We’re all still messy, sinful brothers and sisters. Sometimes our prejudices become apparent, our tempers flare, our impatience screams, our political jockeying manipulates – but we’re still part of the same family.
  4. Some younger Southern Baptists don’t understand our history, and some older SB’s are afraid of our future – and both groups might be missing what God’s doing. Younger leaders do need to understand better what God did through the Conservative Resurgence, and we older leaders need to trust that God will work equally powerfully through the young leaders He’s now raising up. I, for one, am excited about the days to come. 
  5. Many of us genuinely long for God to do something miraculous through us. The numbers may not be as high as we’d like, but some members of our family stay on their knees asking God to send an awakening.
  6. We’re an evangelistic denomination from a distance. That is, we’re more committed to giving so others can do evangelism and plant churches than we are to doing these tasks ourselves.
  7. God was gracious to us in the presidential election. The spirit with which J.D. Greear and Steve Gaines modeled prayerful humility before us was nothing less than powerful. The call to unity for the sake of the gospel should echo loudly in our own lives.
  8. The transition from one generation of leaders to another is upon us. Some may say that Dr. Gaines’ election shows that the “old guard” remains in charge, but that’s not the case, in my opinion. Young families among the crowd and younger leaders on the platform remind us that the future is here. Dr. Gaines will wisely and prayerfully help us move into that future together.
  9. We’re not even close to perfect, but God blesses us anyway. Southern Baptists, as parochial and internally focused as we can be at times, are somehow still touching the nations for God’s glory. 
  10. God’s in charge. We can rest in that truth. 

Just my thoughts . . . .


  • Charles Frazier says:

    Thank you for your thoughts and spiritual direction, Dr. Lawless. It was great to see you at Convention.

  • clawlessjr says:

    Good to see you, too, Charles.

  • Dr. Lawless,

    Your website continues to be a great resource. Thank you.

    I agree with your observations. Mine here below are simply practical. My tone is one of friendly engagement.

    The main thing I want to say that needs to change in the meeting itself.

    I find all the music and sermonettes/lectures during the actual business meeting to be exhausting and time consuming. It is jolting to be taken from thinking on business to turn to “Hey! Lets all stand sing!”

    It is frustrating mentally and it is frustrating practically. Practically because there was so much wasted on things irrelevant to what messengers assembled to do.

    It is frustrating to see messengers come to the microphone and hear the President say, “We are at our allotted time.” To which I want to respond, “Well, why not tell the music team they need to wrap it up some.” There is the Pastors Conf and there is the business meeting. Let the business meeting get to business! 🙂

    There could be more business done if they drop all the extra fluff that is in-between. The music is so performance oriented and it drags on sometimes. It barely resembles congregational involvement anyway.

    The messengers come along way. I make a motion that we cut the music in half during the business portion and give more time to the folks trying to ask questions on the reports given. It is a business meeting after all.

    God Bless.

    • clawlessjr says:

      Thanks for the honest thoughts, friend.

      • By the way, I had a friend kindly correct me and say, “Listen, they have to put a time limit on discussion. Southern Baptist will debate all day.” 😉

        I agree. Maybe just a little further time extension for the messengers.

        Dr. Lawless, I pass on your posts to folks all the time to encourage and help them in their walk. You are so helpful brother.

        Thanks again.

  • Marty Childers says:

    Great article. I agree that God is raising up many great young leaders. May we move into the future on our knees and work together to disciple and train our churches to take the Gospel to those who are waiting to hear.

  • Doug Miller says:

    Great to see you there. It was a fantastic meeting of the convention this year. Your analysis is what I thought as well. I do wish that when there is more to discuss that more time could be given to that matter. However, if we allowed for endless discussion we could at times have filibusters that would prevent us from getting on to other business that needs time as well. All in all a rousing ? to the organizers for a job well done. I am already looking forward to next year.

  • clawlessjr says:

    Thanks, Doug. Always good to see you.

  • Dan Rice says:

    Knees calloused, feet shod, and hands completely open. Let’s roll!

  • Russ says:

    The best thing I did was take a class on the SBC, during which we were able to attend the EC meeting among others things, which greatly helped me understand the “why” question on the reasons for some things we do. Overall, I was encouraged by the numbers overall, the better representation of younger folks and I was made a fan of JD, or at least more a fan than the skeptical outlier that I probably am. In all, I am more proud to be connected to the SBC than ever.

  • Ken says:

    I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said, but I do have a couple of concerns. First, is there any reason why we do nothing but contemporary music at the SBC? I’m not asking that we get rid of that kind of music, but I do think it would be nice if the leaders would show some consideration toward those that have more traditional tastes.

    Second, I fear that we’re falling into the trap of pitting one generation against another. Certainly there’s nothing wrong with getting younger people involved, but there is something wrong with slighting the wisdom and experience of older leaders. I’m too young to be a Baby Boomer and too old to be a millennial. I guess that makes me part of “Generation X”. Personally, I think they ought to call us “Generation Chopped Liver”, since we’re generally being disregarded.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Fair questions, Ken.

  • Barry Bishop says:

    Regarding #8, I’m so disappointed that Gaines was elected. Greear or Crosby would have been better picks based on character alone. From what I have observed, Gaines is not a humble man and that is pretty much the most important characteristic for a Christian and a leader. I believe he was picked based on checking the right boxes for some Baptists.
    God is still in control and I will pray for Gaines, that the Lord will use him in leading the SBC. I will also pray that the Lord will keep me from being another cynical Gen-Xer.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Barry. I will join you in praying for Dr. Gaines and for yourself. 

  • Ken says:

    One thing is certain: Southern Baptists seem to have a fondness for slandering one another. I truly am disturbed by some of the nasty comments I’ve read about Steve Gaines and Russell Moore by people who call themselves followers of Christ.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    This is a problem for believers in general.

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