A “Thank You” Letter to Southern Baptists

I know we can be a messy people. Sometimes we have family squabbles. We don’t always take the best route to make the best decision. We don’t always immediately get it right, either. Nevertheless, I come away from the 2024 Southern Baptist Convention with deep gratitude for the people and churches of the SBC. Here’s why:

  1. Southern Baptists made it possible for me to be a full-time pastor. I was a 20-year-old rookie when I started pastoring a small country church in Ohio. The 19 people there could not afford a pastor . . . but, they were Southern Baptists who thus had access to help. In fact, my first paycheck in ministry consisted of funds from my local church, our local Baptist association, our state convention, and the Home Mission Board (now NAMB). Cooperation and coordination allowed me to get started without needing another job. 
  2. Southern Baptists continue to make it possible for me to serve Him in ministry. I served as pastor for 14 years, followed by 28 years of serving as a seminary professor—which means the folks of the SBC are still making an investment me. As a veteran recipient of their generosity, I pray I will steward their investment well. 
  3. Southern Baptists support missions. My home church gave a significant portion of our undesignated receipts to the Cooperative Program. They didn’t really explain the CP process well, but I knew these funds supported missions. A couple of Southern Baptist professors influenced me as a PhD student to open my heart to my own involvement in and support of missions. Now, I have the privilege of helping train outgoing missionaries – and I’m humbled and challenged by their faith and obedience. All of us are in this work because of Southern Baptists. 
  4. Southern Baptists talk to one another. We talk, and we discuss. We talk some more. We differ, and we talk again. Emotions grow at times—even vocally—but still we talk. Sometimes we vote, and we’re seldom 100% on a topic—but still we talk afterward, knowing we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. Somehow, solely in God’s grace, we make this Convention thing work. 

Thank you, my family. 

1 Comment

  • Randy says:

    Thanks, Dr. Lawless! Well said! I completely agree! As I approach a few months away from fifty years in full time ministry, I am so thankful for and fortunate to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Sorry I missed seeing you at the SBC.

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