BIRMINGHAM, Ala., (BP) -- Last year, after accepting the nomination for presidency of the SBC, I laid out my prayers for our convention. One year in, as we prepare again for our annual meeting, I am just as excited to see God moving in every one of these areas:
1. Gospel Above All
The basis of our unity as Southern Baptists is the Gospel. As a convention, we should be neither defined nor characterized by a certain church style, method of ministry, political affiliation, or cultural and racial distinctive. We are a Gospel people; the Gospel is, as the apostle Paul said, "of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3).
We must avoid the temptation to let smaller doctrinal issues or any personal preferences replace the centrality of the Gospel as our unifying standard. The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is narrow enough to unite us on the essentials and broad enough to allow freedom in the peripherals.
2. Ethnic diversity and racial reconciliation
The church is supposed to declare the diversity of the Kingdom and reflect the diversity of the community. We have made significant strides in embracing the leadership gifts of brothers and sisters of color that God has placed in our midst. I am praying that this is just the beginning.
3. Intentional, personal evangelism
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus said He came "to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). Soul-winning was Jesus' main thing. That means if we are really following Him, it will be ours as well.
Our enemy will do anything to distract us from that. He loves nothing more than for us to spend our energy on institutional maintenance, personality conflicts, secondary doctrinal issues, church programs, even mission ventures -- so long as they don't involve actual evangelism.
Soul-winning has always been a Southern Baptist essential, and it should form the core of our mission strategy for the future. And by "evangelism" I mean not only sharing the truth that Jesus Christ took our place on the cross, but calling hearers to repentance and faith.
I have been encouraged beyond measure to see how "Who's Your One?" has taken off across the convention. Through "Who's Your One?", thousands upon thousands of Southern Baptist believers are taking ownership for evangelism, asking, "Who is the one person God has placed in my life to pray for, invite to church, share the Gospel with, and display the love of God to?"
4. Church planting
The recovery of church planting among Southern Baptists in recent years has been amazing. Church planting must remain the organizing principle of our mission strategy. Can you imagine what it would look like if every Southern Baptist church committed to help in the planting of one domestic church next year and got involved reaching one unreached or underserved people group overseas?
5. College mobilization
I have been encouraged to see the "Go2 Initiative" gain traction over the past year. This is an initiative encouraging college students from every Southern Baptist church to invest the first two years of their post-graduation lives in the work of church planting. Some will join domestic church plants. Some will go overseas. Either way, I am praying that we would flood the North American Mission Board and International Mission Board with young and eager candidates for mission.
6. Engaging the next generation in cooperative mission
Cooperation between churches for the sake of mission is a key component of New Testament evangelistic strategy. Southern Baptists continue to produce more church planters, more missionaries and more seminary graduates than any other group in America, and we need to do everything we can to get the next generation engaged in cooperative mission.
This is what the annual meeting is all about. It may be a two-day business meeting, but this business meeting is the vehicle that drives our convention's action.
But if the meeting is the vehicle, the fuel is still the Gospel. Everything we do and everything we say must be saturated in the life-transforming power of what God has done for us. The Gospel is a well of endless depth. We need not look elsewhere for power or life. We need only look deeper and deeper into this beautiful mystery.
I'll see you in Birmingham!
J.D. Greear is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.