Reflections on the 2008 MBC annual meeting
The 2008 annual meeting of the Missouri Baptist Convention is in the books. This convention proved to be interesting, as they all are, but also less eventful than many have been in the past. That being said, it wasn't without its fascinating, surprising, exciting and even disappointing moments. I'll try to recap some of the most significant moments. We arrived on Sunday night and checked into our room. Now in the long run this isn't a huge issue, but after moving to a new room on Monday let me just say that if you ever stay at the Millenium Hotel in St. Louis, make sure your room is in the taller tower. Moving from one tower to the other was literally like changing from a Motel 6 to a Marriott. The difference was stunning. I'm very thankful that my wife talked me into moving.
Monday at the Pastor's Conference was enjoyable. I didn't get to attend all of it, though I was there for a few of the messages. Junior Hill was strong, as always. I think the thing that surprised me the most throughout the entire convention was the lack of exposition that seemed to occur during much of the preaching. There were many great stories, lots of scripture referred to, but not a whole lot of pure exposition. Now I'm not one who mandates that every sermon must be expositional, but I do think we need more expository preaching. I like the words of my old college preaching professor in this area. He used to say, "Men, don't preach purely expository messages. A couple times a year preach something else, repent, and then go back to exposition."
Monday evening brought the Peace Committee report. I won't go into detail too much about this report, but I will say that the Chairman's personal comments prior to the official report show a deep impasse that greatly concerns me. It seems to me that peace is going to be very difficult to achieve, if it is possible at all.
Tuesday and Wednesday brought a series of interesting events. 3 of the 4 elections were decided on run-off ballots. Two of those were decided by less than 50 votes. This shows evidence that the MBC may have as deep a divide as the US does between Democrats and Republicans. Of course this is not really a surprise.
There was very little public animosity or dissension this year which was a wonderful move, it seemed to me. There were also precious few business motions that made it to the floor for discussion and/or a vote. This seems to be a trend both nationally and locally. I'm guessing this reflects a satisfaction with the job the Executive Committee is doing as they run the business of the convention during the rest of the year or it reflects a general sense of apathy across the convention. I'm not sure which is more accurate.
I also noticed that less than 25% of MBC churches were represented at this year's meeting. This is disturbing. It think it is extremely important that we start seriously considering the possibility of mimicing the efforts of Oklahoma to webcast the meeting across the state which would allow messengers to attend the meeting without traveling across the state.
This was the first year that I had the privilege of addressing the convention from the platform. I was given the great honor of serving as Chairman of the Committee on Convention Committees. This meant that I had to present two reports to the convention. As I told a number of friends, I'm a big enough geek that getting to address the convention on my 30th birthday was a pretty good birthday present in my book. I've grown up attending meetings like this one and I've always looked forward to being involved in convention life. I know some of you are shaking your heads right now and I'm willing to admit that I'm slightly deranged, but unfortunately that's who I am. ;-)
I also was incredibly surprised, and undeniably excited, when I was contacted a couple of days before the convention and asked to consider being placed into nomination as the Convention Preacher for next year's meeting. The convention messengers graciously affirmed that nomination and I am looking forward, with great anticipation, to preaching during the annual meeting which will be hosted at FBC Raytown in October of 2009. After John Swadley's tremendous message at this year's convention, however, I am faced with a tough act to follow.
All in all this convention was a positive one I believe. Although there were a few squabbles, I believe they were relatively insignficant and this convention appears to be moving forward. We do need to see greater reconciliation and we need to see a renewed commitment to gospel partnership, but I think the convention has potential to get there. I can assure you that I am praying to that end.