Today Baptist21 will be releasing interviews with the 3 Southern Baptist Convention Presidential Candidates. In addition, several of the topics we discuss with them we will discuss at our panel next Tuesday. Register for that event here
1. Will you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what your passion in ministry is?
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Jeana for 37 years, a father of two godly sons, a grandfather of six, a pastor for 37 years pastoring the same church 27 of those years, and a very passionate leader who wants to spend the rest of his life influencing and investing in others to win the world to Jesus Christ. Being raised in a small Texas church pastored by bi-vocational pastors, God saved me, called me, and sent me out to advance His gospel globally. I love the Lord, His gospel, His church, and the work of our Southern Baptist Convention, being most passionate to see the church revived, the nation awakened, and the Great Commission escalated to its rightful priority and accelerated to its completion in our generation.
2. Serving as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention is a massive time commitment. Why are you willing to commit to such a task?
Whenever I believe in something, I am all in. I believe in our Great Commission work and our future together as Southern Baptists. This is why I am more than willing to humbly serve as President of the Southern Baptist Convention if called upon to do so. I am very passionate about all of our work together and believe God has prepared me to lead for such a time as this. The process God has taken me through to prepare me to lead in these days is one of the main reasons I am more than willing to give the time commitment it will take to fulfill this calling. I also believe God has prepared my church for this gospel opportunity, especially with a very capable staff well equipped to help continue to advance our mission while I lead Southern Baptists. Our people love Christ, His gospel, and the Great Commission. They will uphold me through prayer and encouragement during this possible spiritual journey.
3. How do you think your gifts and vision will help the Southern Baptist Convention?
I believe God has gifted me to lead other people towards accomplishing great things for God. With a Pastor’s vision to reach the world for Christ, I believe God could use me if called upon to serve. I have served in leadership positions at all levels of Southern Baptist life. I have not only been a part of major national leadership initiatives, but have led them. I have served as Chairman of the Executive Committee and been a part of the two major restructurings of Southern Baptists in the past twenty years, of which I led the most recent, called the Great Commission Resurgence. Additionally, I am now serving as the Lead Pastor and Strategist for SEND North America and as General Editor of LifeWay’s largest curriculum series called, Bible Studies for Life. I know the Southern Baptist Convention, who we are and what we do. I know our leaders and have worked with them effectively and successfully.
4. What is one of the greatest strengths of the Southern Baptist Convention? Why?
One of the greatest strengths of the Southern Baptist Convention is our desire to reach the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are seeing many of our churches go to great levels to advance the gospel in ways that are unprecedented. We are seeing our mission boards working through enormous financial challenges, trying to discover new, effective ways to mobilize more people and advance the gospel. We are seeing our seminaries partnering with local churches to see their students become better equipped for gospel advancement. We are seeing some of our state conventions reorganize and many sending more monies to advance the gospel through our SBC Great Commission ministries nationally and internationally. Our conversation at all levels of Southern Baptist life is now about the Great Commission and its continual advancement, not only globally, but also locally, regionally, and nationally.
5. What is one of the greatest weaknesses of the Southern Baptist Convention? Why? How can we address it?
I believe the greatest weakness in the Southern Baptist Convention is where we are spiritually. Our culture in SBC life is more apathetic and splintered, than spiritual and unified. Many of our churches are unhealthy, filled with apathy to division. Our lack of evangelizing, baptizing, discipling, sending, and giving are all indicators of our unhealthy condition. The church needs a mighty move of God — yes, genuine spiritual revival. Our churches must wake up, rise up and begin to pray extraordinarily for the next spiritual awakening in America. Apart from the next Great Awakening occurring our potential in the future is limited. I believe our churches and all of us together as a convention of churches need to believe that God alone is our source for seeing this turnaround occur. Therefore, we must create ways and venues where our leaders and churches can pray together extraordinarily for the next Great Awakening. This glaring weakness leads to another major weakness, which is the lack of a disciple-making culture in many of our churches that leads to a strong commitment to personal evangelism. The lack of intentional evangelism is indicative of our great need for revival in the church and spiritual awakening in America.
6. What is one of the most encouraging trends right now in Southern Baptist Convention life?
I believe one of our most encouraging trends right now in Southern Baptist life is the vast turnaround in vision, energy, and excitement about planting new gospel churches throughout North America. Through the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force report, I think we have handed the next generation a vision for which they are very excited and becoming increasingly engaged. As Lead Pastor and Strategist for SEND North America, the North American Mission Board’s church planting strategy, we are seeing an enormous interest in planting new gospel churches. Our church is involved and we would love for every Southern Baptist Church to join us in this grand commitment to planting new gospel churches. The energy and crowds attending in our Send North America gatherings and conferences is unprecedented. For our Cross Church family, we believe in church planting. Since 2000, our church has invested in and planted 101 churches — 56 in the last three years. In 2014, we are investing in 27 church plants, 15 of which are in 13 of NAMB’s designated SEND cities. We also have 4 resident church planters being equipped by our Cross Church School of Ministry. We are raising up church planters and launching them to plant healthy gospel churches in North America.
7. What is one of the most discouraging trends right now in the Southern Baptist Convention?
I believe one of our most discouraging trends right now is the lagging attendance at our Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. At this time, we do not know our attendance for our upcoming Baltimore convention meeting, but we do know that our most recent trajectory is not encouraging. If I am called upon to serve Southern Baptists, it is my desire to reinvent our annual meeting with the goal of making it a spiritual experience that is so fresh and exciting that all generations are compelled to come and be sent out with a renewed engagement with who we are and what we do as Southern Baptists. I believe this is possible and if we worked together, we can see it done. I really believe it could become one of the greatest cross-generational annual gatherings in Christianity.
8. How can the Southern Baptist Convention better engage and keep younger leaders?
I believe when younger leaders hear the real story of who we are as Southern Baptists, they will desire to engage with us. When they hear the story of our strong conservative theology, our 10,000 missionaries nationally and internationally, our commitment to planting new gospel churches and revitalizing older churches, our six seminaries equipping over 16,000 God-called students to advance the gospel, our compassion ministries in disaster relief, as well as our compassionate and conviction-driven leadership in Washington D. C., they will desire to engage with who we are and what we do as Southern Baptists. As President, I will continue to listen to young leaders, convey their interests and concerns to our leadership, and appeal to both sides for change & unity.As I travel and communicate with Southern Baptists, I would hopefully have opportunities to create some listening sessions with younger leaders. Each SBC church must feel the burden of bringing along the next generation. One of the ways we are doing this is through our Cross Church School of Ministry.As stated earlier, it’s my desire to reinvent our annual meeting with the goal of making it a spiritual experience that is so fresh and exciting that all generations are compelled to come and be sent out with a renewed engagement with who we are and what we do as Southern Baptists.
9. What is one admonition you would give to younger SBCers about something that may need to change with them?
I would counsel younger SBCers to understand the value of working together as Southern Baptists. Some may see our only value is through church planting and going to the unreached peoples of the world. While these are two exciting efforts, we also have many others at the associational, state, and national levels of all of our work. Our churches at all levels need ministry, care, and leadership. At times, these are administered by our associational and state conventions. As we understand the value of working together at all levels of SBC ministry, I would also encourage patience. It takes time for things to change in a major ministry operation like the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, I want as much money as possible on the international mission field and have led efforts accordingly; however, it takes time. Be a team player. Understand everyone brings value. If I serve as President, I will call upon all of us to accelerate the pace of completing the Great Commission.
10. Recently, concern has been raised that state conventions are not following through on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force suggestions, especially, moving more money to international missions. How would you address this problem, and how would you counsel younger leaders to think about it?
I would advise all Southern Baptists to go online and re-read the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force amended and final report as overwhelmingly adopted by the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention. There are many things that need to come to everyone’s attention. We do have some state conventions that are moving more monies towards our national and international ministries of our Southern Baptist Convention. Some advancement is being made. At the same time, there may be some of our state conventions that are lagging behind. Younger leaders, like all Southern Baptists, should be involved in their state conventions. These autonomous bodies act at the direction of those who are involved. Younger leaders who believe their state conventions should be doing more to make more funds available to penetrate lostness beyond our nation should express their concerns by respectful engagement.