Young Leaders Summit

The Young Leaders Summit is over and I have to admit I am pleased with what went down. For greater detail about what was said, check out Steve’s and Marty’s blogs. The Summit itself was a response to the previous year’s dialogue between young emerging leaders and the established leadership within the SBC. The year long dialogue was spearheaded and organized by Jimmy Draper, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, and took place in various online formats (link // link) and in 9 gatherings around the country. The response today came in the form of 6 addresses from Robbie Partain, Adam Greenway, Kevin Shrum, Chris Seay, Ed Stetzer and Jeff Harris, all considered younger leaders in the SBC. Even SBC Prez Bobby Welch (not a young guy) stopped by and spoke to us off the cuff about the issues we are facing. The first three speakers (Robbie, Adam and Kevin) sought to establish what is central to our concerns. Robbie was best here and explained that the issue is not doctrine. Assuming we all agree in essential theology (fair enough), the matter before us then is the mission Jesus sends the church on. Perhaps what I am going to say is what they meant, and I believe they would agree, but I would say that "mission" is not the issue. The issues are the contextualization of mission and the relevance of the SBC to this mission in the lives of young churches and young leaders. Besides, "mission" itself needs to be defined in this conversation. If mission can be simply stated to be Jesus’ redemption for the world, we should also say this mission will look different in varying cultures and contexts. Is the SBC open to this? Is there room for varying ecclesiologies within our confessional and cooperative identity? And if so, so what? Why continue with the SBC? These are the questions being asked, and they amount to the issue. All of this was dealt with by the latter three speakers (Chris, Ed and Jeff) who were the most compelling to listen to.

There appears to be a growing, or at least more visable part of the Convention that is open to diversity and inclusiveness within the SBC. When Bob Reccord joined the discussion today he said that the North American Mission Board is asking, “Who has a missional heart?” and is responding by saying “We’ll stand with them!” He also said NAMB is making changes in-house to help local churches and associations function missionally.

Chris Seay (check out the audio) was provocative in all the right ways emphasizing the incarnational aspect of being missional; that each church must enter their cultural context with the Gospel in such a way that redemption can be plainly seen, understood and experienced. He spoke of the need for truth to be more than mere propositions and dogma, but also a reflection of what is beautiful. His words painted a picture of missional church life happening at his church, Ecclesia, that is admirable and hopefully contagious.

Ed Stetzer (audio) was hilarious and articulate as he explained in greater detail the picture Chris painted for us. He argued that we must continue moving forward and beyond the conservative resurgence. Such a work was good and necessary, but we now find ourselves in need of a missional resurgence, he said. And missional work necessitates something other than a monolithic Convention where every church looks the same. He said we don't need to be a "cool" Convention, or a traditional Convention, but an ecclectic body of churches who are working to be missional in their context. But he was careful to say that biblical/incarnational mission is hard. It has always been hard. “What does a biblically faithful church look like?” is the question the church has asked from the beginning. This is something to talk about, wrestle through and practice while we seek to be faithful to Jesus’ mission.

Jeff Harris (audio) closed out the Summit with an appeal to both the younger leaders and the Convention. “We need a revolution,” he said. What kind of a revolution? One that hits at the SBC’s structure, sense of identity, purpose and cooperation. Jeff went on to say that the passion of Christ must also be our passion. Because Jesus was passionate about people, real people he met on the street and in his hometown, so must we be passionate about the real people God has placed us among.

Overall, this was a very good meeting and Jimmy Draper promised that although this was the end of a yearlong dialogue, it was only the beginning of what we are all working toward. I have a lot of thoughts on this that will come later on during, or after, the convention.