Convention Reflections: Women's Role in Ministry
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The last few conferences I have been to have included something called a panel, and can I just say they have all impacted me in some way. If you have never seen a panel, it is a group of individuals being led by someone asking them particular questions on a particular topic. The Southern Baptist Convention was no different (see image above).

Over the few days of the Convention, they had multiple panels on different topics. One of these topics was complementarianism. Now don’t be scared away by the use of this word. Complementarianism is the view that men and women equally bear the image of God but that God formed men and women to perform different roles and assignments in the marriage, church leadership, etc. We are all equally God’s children, but God created men to do some things that women can’t and vice versa.

So, you may be asking what is the big deal and why am I taking the time to write a blog post about this? It is because there are different ways that people view complementarianism. Some would take the side that only men can teach in a mixed group setting. They would say men should be the only ones addressing the church and would close the door to any teaching role for women. Others allow women to address the church in a teaching role but not in an authoritative role, such as a pastor. This would be how Slater Baptist believes. Our church allows women on praise team to read Scripture during the services and even allows women to teach multi-gender classes, such as Crossroads.  

One of the biggest problems when it comes to complementarianism is how people respond. Many think of this idea in a fearful manner. They don’t really know how to react, so to be safe many will close the door to ministry for women. This is something that I realized and experienced 10 years ago when I felt called to the ministry. I didn’t know, at the time, what that would entail, but I knew that in some way God wanted me to intentionally serve him in some form or fashion. Then God led me to North Greenville University into a degree program that was predominately male students. I remember having multiple conversations about how I was going to college for a Christian Ministry degree and hearing the response, “What are you going to do with that? You can’t be a pastor.”

But this is not how we should look at complementarianism. We as a body of believers must remind ourselves that we all bear God’s image and must look at complementarianism with a tone of love. Don’t hear me saying women have the power to do whatever they want because this is not the case. We still must be wary to follow scripture, but we can’t minimize women as not being able to participate in serving Christ. There are many ways women can serve in the church.

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 12:12 that, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” We as the church all have different roles to play and ways to serve. God has gifted us all in some way, shape, or form and we should use these gifts to bring honor to his name.

There are always ministry opportunities available. I would challenge you that if you are not serving in some way, speak to one of the leaders at Slater Baptist and we would love to help you meaningfully serve our congregation.

Savannah Watson
Convention Reflections: "For His name's sake, we will go!"
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One of the most encouraging things about being a Southern Baptist is knowing the SBC’s desire and passion to send missionaries all over the world. Not only do we have the North American Mission Board (NAMB) but also the International Mission Board (IMB). This blog post is going to focus mostly on the IMB.

The IMB president, Paul Chitwood, said that the International Mission Board has served the nations for 174 years. That means for 174 years, missionaries have been sent to proclaim the gospel to all peoples, tribes, and tongues. Chitwood said, “Every church, regardless of size and resources, has a role to play in every nation hearing the gospel. And the nations are waiting.” One way, as a local church, that we can play a role in this endeavor is through the Annie Armstrong (NAMB) and Lottie Moon offerings (IMB).  All the money raised from these two offerings goes straight to sending people out with the gospel.

But our giving of money is not the only way we can support missions through our convention. One of the main ways we can support missions is through sending people out and then praying for and over their ministry. We as a church have this amazing opportunity! Heather Tolbert has accepted God’s call on her life to serve in Argentina and we have the amazing task and mission to support her through our prayers.

As believers, we all know the importance of missions and that God calls us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). Paul Chitwood said, “The gospel is being preached among the nations, and we are privileged to be a part of it.” Even after typing these thing though I fear that, even with this knowledge, we are quick to lose sight of this command or forget about it all together. There are missionaries all over the world living out this call and how quick are we to forget them in our prayers. We are quick to say that we will stay in touch and intentionally pray, but we are often quick to let the distance drive us apart.

I know this firsthand from my service in West Africa, and, even though I served for the IMB for 2 years, I am still guilty of allowing myself to get so busy that I forget to lift my brothers and sisters in Christ up to the Lord. I plead with you. We cannot say we are sending a missionary out without committing to pray regularly for them and their ministry. We may still be in the comforts of the United States, but we must stand by our missionaries.

This was definitely a conviction I experienced during the International Mission Board Commissioning service at the Southern Baptist Convention. We were able to take part in commissioning 26 missionaries who are accepting the call of missions on their lives all over the world. There were people from all over the US and they were all going out with the same goal, to make Christ known. What a sobering thought and moment. To hear the hearts of all of these people and their longing to go to a culture that is not their own. But even with this in mind, God’s call to share the gospel with the lost far outweighs the comforts of home. Paul Chitwood challenged us as we heard these stories to do 3 things: Listen, Pray, and Consider. Listen to how God is at work in these people’s lives, pray for the missionaries/the people they are going to serve, and consider how we as the local church can be a part of God’s global mission.

Heather actually had the opportunity to share about her passion and why she was going to serve in Argentina. I loved how she worded it. She said, “Throughout my life God has filled me with joy in my salvation… He has called me to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard so they might know that same joy.” What a beautiful way to describe the precious gift of salvation that Christ has given us.

One of the really cool parts of the commissioning service was when each missionary being sent out carried a flag with the name of the overarching people group that they will serve. So for example, Heather will be serving in South America, so she carried a flag for the Americas. They had music going and we could see how people were going all over the world. It was a beautiful picture of seeing fellow Southern Baptists/believers displaying their willingness to go to the nations.

Another interesting aspect of the commissioning service was that they had the lights off. Why, you may ask? Well, as I’m sure you already know, not everywhere in our world is open to allowing Christians into their countries. This means missionaries go in under particular job titles to protect their identity. For example, someone going to the Middle East as a missionary may have a cover job of a photographer or maybe even a businessman. This is the IMB’s way of enabling these individuals to get into the country without signing their death warrant. Having the lights out was their way of protecting the people who are going to difficult and unreached locations which are hostile to the gospel.

I have to admit, I got choked up during this part of the convention. Serving with the IMB firsthand, I had a small glimpse into what they must have been feeling during that moment. The excitement, the unknown that awaits, the sadness of leaving family/friends. Let’s just say, a big mix of all the emotions at one time. But in the midst of my emotions, Paul Chitwood charged us as Southern Baptist churches and, more importantly, as believers to go alongside these missionaries through our prayers. He called us to not look on these people as untouchables but to remember that they are just like us.

This is why it is so important to pray and stay connected with our missionaries. We must find meaningful ways to keep these individuals, particularly Heather, in our prayers. One way that David and I have found helpful is a weekly prayer calendar on our fridge. Each day of the week, we have a particular missionary or church that we intentionally pray for. Other ways are to keep prayer cards in your Bible or around your house in places that you see on a regular basis. It does not matter what method you choose just as long as we are praying for our missionaries.

The mission field is hard. You are in the midst of a culture, and usually a language, that is difficult to understand and Satan is trying everything that he can to hinder your ministry. But our Father is good and he called these individuals to go. We cannot take that lightly.

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Savannah Watson
Convention Reflections: What is The Southern Baptist Convention?
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On June 11 and 12, my wife and I were sent as messengers from Slater Baptist Church to the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Alabama.

Unless you are very familiar with the way Southern Baptists operate, the sentence above probably does not make a lot of sense to you. Don’t worry, there are a multitude of members of Southern Baptist churches that would not understand what I mean by “messenger” or why I went to Birmingham, so you are in good company. To be honest, I’ve been a Southern Baptist for years (even went to a Southern Baptist Seminary) and I didn’t really understand what being a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention would mean until I was one.

Over the coming weeks, Savannah and I would like to share what we learned from our experiences at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention, but I thought it would be helpful to start by giving a picture of what the Southern Baptist Convention is.

One of the things that makes this discussion confusing is that there are two ways to define “Southern Baptist Convention.” Most of the time, when people talk about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC for short), they mean “a network of like-minded, autonomous churches that cooperate together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission.” The word “autonomous” is super important to that definition and I’ll explain why in a later blog. Southern Baptists are known for holding The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 as a statement of their beliefs as well as giving to the Cooperative Program to support mission efforts. The Cooperative Program supports 11 Southern Baptist entities, including seminaries, the International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, and the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission.

But there is another definition of “Southern Baptist Convention.” The second definition goes something like this: “the annual meeting of representatives from Southern Baptist Churches that come together to conduct the business of the Convention and hear reports concerning issues affecting all Southern Baptists.” When using this definition, the technical name is “Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting,” but I’ve never actually heard anyone say that. Everyone just says “Southern Baptist Convention.”

These representatives from Southern Baptist Churches are called “messengers.” The Southern Baptist Convention meets together once a year (during the month of June) for two days. During these two days, Southern Baptists vote on all of the business facing their network of churches for the entire year. Yes, you read that correctly. Southern Baptists only come together to vote on SBC business once a year, so they have to handle all the important matters facing the convention in just two days.

You might be asking, how does this work? Well, think about your church’s business meetings. At Slater Baptist, we hold business meetings about once every three months. At those meetings, members hear reports on what has happened in the past few months, share ideas on what the church should do in the future, elect church officers like pastors or deacons, and vote on any relevant items of business. In the time leading up to those meetings, a lot of work is done by the leadership of Slater Baptist Church to prepare proposals and update the church on what is happening. In many ways, the decisions made at our business meetings affect how the church is run after those meetings.

The Southern Baptist Convention is like a church business meeting on a grand scale. During the two day meeting, every institution that receives Cooperative Program funding gives a report to the messengers. Messengers have the opportunity to make motions and share their thoughts about what the SBC should do. Messengers vote for officers within the SBC, like president, vice president, etc. The leaders of various Southern Baptist entities discuss what they believe the Southern Baptist Convention should do in the future. And, lastly, messengers vote on items of business related to this particular network of churches.

The elected officers and items of business that are voted on can have a huge impact on the way the SBC operates year round. As an example, the election of officers and the voting of messengers over a number of years actually pulled the SBC out of liberalism in the 1980s and 1990s. Without the actions of the messengers at the Southern Baptist Conventions during those years, the SBC would not be the conservative denomination that it is today.

So, essentially, the Southern Baptist Convention is a business meeting for all the churches within the network of churches known as the Southern Baptist Convention.

So, let’s try this again. On June 11 and 12, my wife and I were sent as messengers from Slater Baptist Church to the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham, Alabama. And we are excited to share our experiences with you in the coming weeks!

David Watson