Assimilating younger pastors into Southern Baptist life and explaining the Cooperative Program were among top concerns voiced at the Young Leaders Advisory Council’s organizational meeting.
Revitalizing dying churches, equipping for personal evangelism, battling negative perceptions of what it means to be “Southern Baptist,” and explaining the structure and functionality of the SBC in relation to regional associations and state conventions were among other topics addressed by the council appointed by Frank S. Page, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
Page told council members he is looking to them for suggestions to help Southern Baptist entities, state convention leaders, and associational networks “better connect with millennials.”
When asked “Who are Southern Baptists?” Page told the group his honest answer is, “I don’t know; it depends on who I am with.”
Noting “an astounding array of subsets” within the SBC’s network of churches, Page outlined the Convention’s increasingly diverse composition—including church size, racial and ethnic make-up of the congregation, dominant language in worship, soteriological perspective, age of the church, age of pastoral and lay leadership, and how individuals congregations “do” church—during his introductory remarks at the group’s January 19–20 meeting in Atlanta.
In a devotional based on Matthew 16, Jordan Easley, senior pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, focused on the setting of Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi.
It is a “beautiful place” that “looks like a national park,” Easley, who chairs the diverse twenty-two-member council, said.
But during the time of Jesus, it was “the hub of pagan worship” with “seven pagan altars,” a place where “people threw their newborn babies into the pool as sacrifices.”
In this place where false deities such as Pan and Nymph were worshiped, Easley said Jesus was asking His disciples, “Are you going to be loyal to Me, just Me? Or are you going to be seduced by the world?”
Various members echoed that this passion for absolute loyalty to Christ—living holy lives fully committed to the Lord in the midst of a morally crumbling society—is what excites and attracts millennial believers.
Participants interspersed their discussion with periods of concentrated prayer for the Southern Baptist Convention, for one another’s ministries and personal prayer requests, and for the advance of the Gospel at home and abroad.
Council members also heard comments from Ken Weathersby and Ashley Clayton about the importance of the Cooperative Program.Weathersby, EC vice president for Convention advancement, serves as EC liaison for the group, and is assisted by Clayton, EC vice president for Cooperative Program and stewardship development.
“The council is working to provide concrete ways for young leaders to actively be involved in the life of the Convention,” Weathersby said. “We want to know what steps we need to take to make sure their voices are heard and that they are providing leadership in every aspect of the Convention.”
The advisory group hopes to draft recommendations to foster vibrant participation within Southern Baptist life among young leaders, including both pastors and denominational servants, and present a comprehensive report to Page by next spring (2018).
In order to meet this goal, council members are seeking input from other millennial leaders through a twenty-one question online CP survey. The 2017 SBC EC Young Leaders Advisory Council Survey can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/r/1bpress.
Young Leaders Advisory Council Members:
- Jordan Easley, chairman, pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tennessee
- Daniel Atkins, pastor of Taylor Road Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama
- Devon Bartholomew, campus minister at Syracuse University and member of Northside Baptist Church in Syracuse, New York
- Davin Benavidez, pastor of Cross Point Church in Bonaire, Georgia
- Victor Chayasirisobhon, lead pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Anaheim, California
- Donald Choi, homeschooling director at Antioch Baptist Church in Boston, Massachusetts
- Joshua Clayton, executive assistant to the vice president for strategic initiatives and communications at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas
- David Evans, evangelism specialist, young adult specialist, and Harvest 3 coordinator of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board and member of Epiphany Baptist Church in Springfield, Tennessee
- Barry Fields, pastor of Hawesville Baptist Church in Hawesville, Kentucky
- John “Free” Freeman, pastor of H2O University Church and City Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Nick Floyd, campus pastor at Cross Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas
- Noe Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix, Arizona
- John Green, pastor of Schindler Drive Baptist Church in Middleburg, Florida
- Steven Harris, director of advocacy with the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and member of Anacostia River Church in Washington, DC
- John Mark Harrison, pastor of Apex Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina
- Andrew Hebert, pastor of Paramount Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas
- Jeremy Roberts, senior pastor of Church of the Highlands in Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Adam Sewell, lead pastor of The Well Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Andrew Spradlin, executive pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Bakersfield, California
- Walter Strickland II, theology instructor and special advisor to the president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and member of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina
- Jean Ward, pastor of East Atlanta Church in Atlanta, Georgia
- Michael Wood, pastor of First Baptist Church in West Monroe, Louisiana
Diana Chandler is general assignment writer/editor for Baptist Press and is a member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Roger S. Oldham is vice president for Convention communications and relations for the SBC Executive Committee and is a member of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee. An earlier version of this article was published in Baptist Press.