Sunday morning Rachelle and I ate breakfast at the hotel with several Southern Baptists. We overhead a few conversations around the breakfast tables near us regarding "blogging" with remarks like "be sure and check the blogs" and "they will be blogging all day," etc . . . Interesting how blogging is now part of conversations of everyday Southern Baptists.
On our way to the room last night a young sixteen year old man from Washington, D.C. named Tim Sweetman asked me in the elevator if I was Wade Burleson. I told him I was and he shook my hand and said it was an honor to meet me. This morning I read where he put on his blog that he had met me in the elevator, and after hearing some of his thoughts about the convention I realized again that blogging is engaging a generation of young people toward involvement in the SBC, young people who without blogging would be oblivious to some of the issues at stake. To me this new generation's involvement in the SBC is one of the great blessings of the blogs.
Calvary Baptist McLeansville, North Carolina
Rachelle and I left at 9:30 a.m. to travel to the Calvary Baptist Church at McLeansville, North Carolina where Terry Larson is the pastor. I had never met Terry before, but he is a reader of this blog and he invited me to speak to his congregation for a Greensboro Crossover Rally at 10:30.
Several people read on my blog last night that I would be at Calvary and showed up! I met Bob Cleveland (a frequent commentor on this blog) and his lovely wife, a professor of North Greenville College who spoke some great words of encouragement to me, students from Criswell College in Dallas, and several pastors who came to the rally from around the country, including several of my good friends from Oklahoma.
A great Christian singing group named LordSong sang for the rally and I preached. We had a great morning of worship! Terry and Donna Larson are doing a fabulous job of ministry at Calvary and this is one of the largest and most vibrant Southern Baptist Churches in the area and will soon be building on 52 acres of prime property. I appreciated the opportunity to speak and the Larson's are new friend to the Burlesons.
The religion editor for the Greensboro paper was in the audience and will be writing a story for the Greensboro paper tomorrow about the effects of blogging on the SBC. She is a wonderful lady with a soft heart, keen mind, and a very professional manner. I look forward to reading the article.
After lunch Rachelle took a nap and i "hobnobbed" with many pastors in the lobby of the hotel. It was good to visit with a few men that I had not seen in many years and to renew acquaintances. I met several people that I had not known previously, but they came up to me because they recognized me from pictures being in the press and spoke some very encouraging words. Sometimes I feel I ought to ask when I shake hands "Friend or foe?", but of course, in the SBC we are all friends and family :). Rachelle and I are staying at the Greensboro Four Seasons hotel, the convention headquarters hotel, and I had some delightful conversations throughout the afternoon.
The Pastor's Conference
At five o'clock Rachelle and I went to the Pastor's Conference at the Greensboro Coliseum. We registered as messengers and went into the arena for the start of the Pastor's Conference. The first speaker really turned me off with a diatribe against people who believe God elected a certain number of people to go to heaven. He said that the number of people who will get to heaven will increase and surprise even God Himself if God's people were simply more faithful.
This type of teaching would not be too bad, even though the theology of it is aberrant, but what makes it unpalatable to me is the way in which "reformed" thinking is seemingly constantly attacked by some in the SBC. Southern Baptists need to preach the gospel and quit castigating each other over soteriological views (Arminanism vs. Calvinism) and I for one really wish anti-reformed diatribes would stop.
Overall I believe the Pastor's Conference is going to be one of the better ones in many years. I commend the officers of the Pastor's Conference for the creativity. Tomorrow morning the entire Pastor's Conference will be breakout sessions in various ballrooms at our hotel. I look forward to attending the dialogue between Al Mohler and Paige Patterson on the doctrine of election.
The Closing Meeting in Our Room
Several bloggers ended the day with a fellowship time in our suite at the Sheraton. Art Rogers, Tad Thompson, Dorcas Hawker, Tim Sweatman, Kevin Bussey, Rick Thompson, Tim Sweetman (different from Tim Sweatman), Gene Bridges, Paul Burleson, Ben Cole, and others gathered after the Pastor's Conference. We also had several non-bloggers who came in for the fellowship as well. One was Sam Hodges, the religion reporter for the Dallas Morning news. He was one of a handful from the traditional media present.
Sam's grandfather was the founder of the Baptist Television hour way back in the days of M.E. Dodds. His mother often sang as part of the Baptist hour broadcast, and though Sam is not a Southern Baptist, he sure is familiar with our convention.
The other day Sam unintentionally distorted my views on the two new policies of tongues and baptism. He read to me yesterday a correction he was giving to his editor to run in the Morning News. The correction succinctly, precisely and clearly hit the nail on the head. I really appreciate a reporter who is as diligent in wanting to get the facts straight as Sam.
The Southern Baptists who met during the Fellowship time have played a very key role in the direction of the convention this year. As of today I have heard of at least three candidates for President, six candidates for 1st Vice President and at least four candidates for 2nd Vice-President. For someone to have said six months ago there would be that many running would have been a laughable proposition. It just goes to show you how things can change so quickly during this informational age.
One of the things I appreciate about this loose knit group is it's unparalleled transparency. Nothing is said behind closed doors. Everything is open for all Southern Baptists to see. All you have to do is read their respective blogs. One statement made last night was this: "If you don't want all Southern Baptists to hear or read what you intend to say, then don't say it, because it shouldn't be said." How refreshing is that?
All in all the first day of being in Greensboro reminded me of why I am a Southern Baptist. There are thousands of sharp, dedicated, evangelical Christians who are committed to the Great Commission and identify themselves as Southern Baptists. I enjoy being identified with them! Today I spent time with some wonderful individuals and I go to bed tonight with the thunder echoing outside the hotel window thankful for the friends I have in the SBC.
In His Grace,
P.S. You MUST read SBC Outpost today. What an example of courageous leadership from the IMB.