Our team spent last week with our long-lost Generation Send brothers and sisters in Houston, attending the fabled and somewhat infamous Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. Basically, it’s one giant church business meeting. Which makes me really confused by the fact that I’ve always kind of wanted to attend– I loathe church business meetings. Mainly because of unpleasant memories, but also because, well, let’s face it– they’re pretty boring.
And while there were some eh… not-so-great parts, I was able to be part of some cool moments and take advantage of some opportunities for edifying conversation and learning. And I had a lot of fun continuing to get to know my fellow interns.
While we didn’t spend much time in the meeting itself, there were other things that came along with it– the NAMB luncheon, in which we each held a sign with the name of one of the 32 Send Cities in North America (cities with the highest populations of unreached people), while luncheon attendees came up to drop a yellow sticker in our basket if they were supporting church planting there or were interested in doing so. It was illuminating to see both the great spiritual need and the willingness of people to help meet that need.
And I got to high-five the LifeWay robot (a cool marketing tool, though now I’m having mixed feelings about it), so that was a highlight.
I also decided that the SBC meeting is one of the best opportunities for people-watching. Thus, as I stuck my head in the meeting, worked the NAMB exhibit, or walked back and forth from the hotel, I determined there are four categories most SBC attendees fall into. So, behold…
The 4 People You’ll See at the SBC
Note: This portion of the post is purely satirical. Please don’t take it seriously.
1. Old School HCSBs. No, not the version of the Bible, but its alterna-acronym: Hard Core Southern Baptist. These are the precious, white-haired pastors and their wives who come to every day of the meeting in suits and dresses. They still think Michael W. Smith is contemporary and call Danny Akin and Page Patterson “nice young men.” You can spot them in the very back or front row in all the meetings; snoring in front of the loudest TV in the hotel lobby; and in line at the Chick-fil-A stand.
2. PKs and MKs. Rebels without a cause, these kids of pastors, missionaries, church planters, and other SBC luminaries, are there to… well, we don’t really know why their parents dragged them along. The best options seem to be: free manual labor at their organization’s booth; to compare their progeny with those of all the other pastors in some kind of secret America’s PKs Got Talent show; or to pass this off as a “vacation” and promise the kids they’ll drive to the beach for a day after the conference. These youths are dressed either homeschool-style or rebellion-style. You can spot them sneaking out of meetings to “go to the bathroom” (aka text their friends); clumped in groups in the hotel lobby; and in line at the Chick-fil-A stand (with Dad’s credit card).
3. Church Planters (I owe the idea for this category to a few of my fellow interns). Some of them look like older versions of the rebellious PKs. They sport V-necks, skinny jeans, hipster glasses, Toms, and/or fauxhawks. They always have a cup of coffee in hand and almost always have at least 2 kids under the age of 4 in tow. They spend most of their time looking spiritually contemplative, but are actually secretly plotting how to steal the LifeWay robot and sell it on eBay to get extra funds for their church plant. You can spot them tweeting during meetings; watching Duck Dynasty in the hotel lobby; and steathily sneaking into the Chick-fil-A line when no one else is looking.
4. Swag Seekers. This is the Michael Scott definition of swag: Stuff We All Get! A largely female category, Swag Seekers come prepared. They find out which booths in the exhibit hall provide the biggest bags and go there first, before hitting up every single booth in the convention center multiple times for pens, pins, T-shirts, and all the other free (or sign-up contingent) stuff the carefully selected SBC merchants have to offer. You an spot them in the exhibit hall at all times; carrying bags from six different universities up the escalator in the hotel lobby; and stuffing twenty packets of ketchup into their bags in the Chick-fil-A line.
In all seriousness, I appreciate all the people who attend this SBC fest, whether they somewhat fit these caricatures or not (they’re just for fun– we could also add NAMB intern to the list). And though I’m not proud of the actions of every person in the SBC or every moment in the history of the SBC, I’m proud to be part of what it is today.
As David Platt pointed out once this weekend, it’s really beneficial to take a step back and look at the big picture of this event and the SBC in general. Though now in decline numerically, we are still the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. We have an international mission board, a North American mission board, and a publishing company that all serve and are cooperatively served by the churches in our convention. We have so many churches, manpower, and resources. And a handful of us also have the resolve needed to put all we’ve got going for us to work. Namely, the resolve to trust and obey God.
There is so much opportunity to reach the world for Christ. We would be fools not to take advantage. This is our moment.
This is not to say that the SBC is better than other denominations. Most have their own merits and grand opportunities, and we would do well to knock down barriers and learn from one another. The SBC has made its share of mistakes. It was founded on the atrocity of slavery, first of all. And that’s not the last of all. But I find it utterly amazing that God can take something that is so broken, that consists of so many broken people and past mistakes, and make it one of the most potentially effective means to extend his kingdom in these days.
God is good, creative, and overwhelmingly redemptive.
COMMENT: How are encouraged for the future of the Church? If you were at the meeting (or ever have been), what other types of people did you notice? Please be kind…