President’s Perspective: Changing Times

They say that nothing is as certain as death and taxes. I would add change to the list of life’s certainties. Sometimes we choose change, and sometimes it chooses us. Sometimes it’s a combination of the two. I’ve seen a lot of change in my 45 short years of life. A lot of that change was beyond my control.

For instance, I remember listening to eight-track cassettes in the car with my dad when I was a child. During my teenage years, I listened to regular cassette tapes. By the time I hit college, compact discs were popular. There’s no telling how many songs my daughter downloaded from iTunes during her lifetime. Now my son says that iTunes is going away and everything is streaming.

Throughout all of this change in how we listen, it’s still music that is at the heart of the matter. People want to hear music, and they are looking for more efficient ways to listen. I’ve even downloaded a streaming service on my phone, with the help of my teenage son — and I like it!

There are other changes that I’ve played a bigger role in. Over the last 23 years, I’ve gone from single, to husband, to father, and before I know it, I’ll be an empty nester. Yikes!

Every change has brought opportunities for growth. My prayer is that every change will enhance my ability to fulfill God’s purpose for my life — that, ultimately, He would receive glory in the way I navigate every type of change that I encounter or encourage.

The 2019 annual meeting of South Carolina Baptists will see some significant changes. Everything from the dates and times to the format of our meeting will look and feel a little different. I’ve been concerned, for almost 10 years now, decreasing messenger participation and declining Cooperative Program giving in the life of our faith family. I’ve been studying other state conventions, as well as characteristics of the generations of leaders coming behind me, to see how we can better “ENGAGE” South Carolina Baptists.

I made the decision to propose several changes in our schedule and format to hopefully help us accomplish this enhanced engagement. To begin with, I asked for permission to change our schedule. This proposed change was unanimously approved by messengers in Charleston last November. The 2019 annual meeting will start on Monday evening and end on Tuesday evening. I believe this change will make it easier for a growing number of bivocational pastors to attend. Most will only have to miss a day of work if they want to “engage” with the rest of us during this time. I also believe this change will make it easier for staffs and students to make it to this year’s meeting.

The second change that I’ve proposed is to introduce a guest preacher to every session of the annual meeting. We need as much encouragement and motivation as we can get in our current ministry context. I’ve invited some incredible, nationally known speakers to the 2019 meeting. I’m still working with the Order of Business Committee to finalize the schedule. By the next edition of The Courier, I should be able to share all of this with you.

I believe that our business is important because it’s God’s business. I also believe that we can make it more meaningful by reminding us from God’s Word why we do what we do. My prayer is that more folks will stay engaged in our gathering because of powerful preaching and teaching being intermingled with our necessary business.

Why do I care so much about all of this? I’m glad you asked. You see, I believe we’re better together! I also believe that an informative, inspirational, engaging annual meeting is necessary for us to turn the tide in Cooperative Program giving, missional intentionality, and denominational identity. Will you join me in engaging others to join us this November? Regardless of the changes in schedule and format, it’s still about His gospel. And if we’re going to advance the gospel, we’ve got to engage the troops!