I mentioned previously how I was impressed with the leadership Johnny Hunt has displayed during his time as SBC president. He has once again made a decision that is a learning tool not only for our convention, but also for us local church pastors. Johnny Hunt appointed several SBC leaders to the Great Commission Task Force during the week of the annual convention held in Louisville a couple of weeks ago. The GCR was by far the most prominent motion on the floor this year and a worthy one. However, in the days following the appointments, Hunt began to hear voices concerned with the lack of ethnic and regional diversity on the task force. Hunt recognized the validity of the concerns and took action, appointing four more members to the task force, an African American, a Hispanic, a woman with knowledge of the west region, and a representative of the northeast. This is of interest for several reasons. Here are two that catch my eye.
1. I have been vocal in the past concerning the lack of ethnic diversity in our SBC churches, and more importantly, our apparent disinterest in reaching people of all color. After attending an All-State choir performance in the state of KY a couple of years ago, I was shocked to notice that out of over 120 teenagers representing SBC students across the state of KY, the only racial make-up was white. After sending letters to the KBC, making a few phone calls, and writing a prominent Baptist African American leader, I was a bit disppointed to hear responses to the effect of, “people are just comfortable around their own racial make-up.” No doubt there is truth in that, but what about the hundreds of thousands of racially diverse people living right in our own cities who are not currently attending church? Shouldn’t we be about the business of making efforts to provide a place of worship and service in our churches that is welcoming to all? Any kind of a Great Commission Resurgence must incorporate a strategy for reaching all people, not just efforts to reach our own kind.
2. I recently had a conversation with someone concerning their local church and the ministers who serve there. She was struggling because the ministry staff, with one exception, was not listening to the people. The ministers had plotted a course and were staying true to that course regardless of the church’s input. Now, there is a balance here. I can testify that sometimes pastors must stay the course and follow through even when others are voicing opposition. That is just leadership. But to have a reputation and history of neglecting the concerns and voice of the people is not only dangerous to the church but also blind to the Gospel. Hunt’s action to listen to the concerns and make changes is a fine example for us in ministry. We sometimes need to fine tune things without necessarily changing everything all together. I am aware of another church who currently has a pastor who is very strong willed and minded, not overly concerned with advise and direction he has received, even from those whom he served with who are his elders. Thus far, things are great, the church is growing. I have concerns. Pastoral leadership must be Christ-centered and people-minded. God help us all.