As I write this article, I am attending the 2023 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. While the final gavel has not yet fallen, there is much to report to you about this year’s meeting. Over 12,000 messengers from local churches all over the country have come to participate. In addition to the two days of actual “business meetings” in the main hall, there are nearly 200 ancillary meetings over the week.
I wish that every pastor and every church member could once in their lifetime attend an SBC annual meeting. It is like a huge family reunion each year. It is a time when I am reminded of our rich heritage and strong foundation from the past. We remember our great leaders who paved the way for us today. It is a time to celebrate those who are serving the Lord in difficult places and through many trials.
This year, during the International Mission Board’s dinner, we were able to recognize Dr. Rebekah Naylor, a native of Arkadelphia. Dr. Naylor is the daughter of a Baptist preacher. She has spent her whole life serving the Lord through the Southern Baptist Convention. She sensed a call to be a medical missionary early in life. She was finally appointed in 1973 to serve in India. She has spent 50 years serving in missions. Her impact in medical missions and training others is enormous. Upon being recognized at the dinner, she only offered this simple, yet profound response: “God keeps His promises and joy comes from obedience.”
At that same dinner, IMB President, Dr. Paul Chitwood, announced the start of Project 3000. Missiologists have determined that there are yet still, 3000 people groups in the world, that are unengaged and unreached with the Gospel. This exciting initiative will send 100 frontline missionaries on journeys to remote areas and major cities, where pockets of people live without access to the Gospel. They will study the people and help to begin strategies for engaging them. What an adventure awaits! Could it be in our lifetimes, we finally finish the Task!
There is much more that I have to say and that you will likely be hearing in the coming days from this convention. It has so far been a rewarding and encouraging meeting. Our president was strongly reelected; we dealt with three churches who were dismissed; we worshipped and sang passionately; we prayed; we heard many reports; we debated important matters. Despite what you may see or hear, the overwhelming majority of Southern Baptists are mission-minded, humble, godly people serving the Lord and others for His glory. And when all is said and done, I am still confident that given all the facts, Southern Baptists will make the right decisions.