Just some brief thoughts on the day and the preaching. For detailed information see Timmy's blog. Steve and I arrived on campus at Union early and grabbed lunch with Tim Ellsworth. We had a great conversation about Union, blogging and the future of the Convention.
The gathering started at 4pm with an address by Dr. Frank Page, president of the SBC. He spoke about the future of the Cooperative Program and affirmed a bright future if we can maintain the right mindset, motive and methodology. He admitted that there are problems that we need to face in our convention, even with the Cooperative Program itself, but he was not specific about the problems or potential solutions (this is something I really need to hear and is why I came). Dr. Page had a great attitude, is working for greater unity and cooperation in the SBC and was encouraging.
Dr. Thom Rainer, President of Lifeway Christian Resources, then spoke on the issue of "Evangelism and Church Growth." He was more detailed in diagnosing what some of the problems are, but I wanted to hear more precision when it comes to how we can practically bring about the needed change. I really appreciated his candor and call to humility.
Dr. Mike Day, Director of Missions for the Mid-South Baptist Association in Memphis, TN, addressed "The Future of Baptist Associations and State Conventions." I have to say, it took a lot of conviction to say what he said. He outlined the history and development of our local associations and state conventions in such a way that highlighted the problems that we face today. He was very specific and I think accurate: We duplicate our efforts unnecessarily, tend to put the institution before the churches, continue to narrow the parameters of cooperation, are spreading our financial resources too thinly, and we have lost our influence in the world.
He then painted a picture of a possible future where state and local associations fade out into something new: associations that are church-driven and focused on church planting, and leadership development, but allow for unique needs to give birth to relevant ministries run by our churches. These associations would be "regionally located, but not geographically bound." He said much more than this of course so please see Timmy's summary. Honestly, his ideas were so big and thoughtful you really need to listen to his lecture if you are thinking about the future of our cooperative efforts. Downloads should be available soon.
Afterward there was a time for students of Union and bloggers to hang out and meet one another in a coffee house setting. It was great meeting the students and I am very encouraged by their heart for God, his word and his world.
We reconnected with a lot of great people and made some new connections as well. I do believe that, particularly for me, this will prove to be a very important gathering as I try to envision the good that can come about in the SBC, and our church's place in that.