This week, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention met on the campus of Southwestern Seminary. Earlier this month, I was able to participate in the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists. These experiences have got me thinking: what is the purpose of the state conventions? The purpose of these meetings was two-fold. They met to do some administrative work, and to allow the entire body of the convention to shape issues that were important to them and give the convention some leadership.
The other dynamic at play is the mutual encouragement of the body. We heard from preachers and musicians specifically selected to encourage the body of Christ.
From my generation, there is an unspoken question that hangs in the air: why do we need state conventions? After these two experiences, my response is crystalizing in my mind in the form of a question: why would we not have state conventions? The future will bring a new shape to all denominational life, but cooperation in work and a desire for mutual accountability is simply an expression of Scripture. For example, we are to bear one another up to protect ourselves against sin (Gal. 2:20); we need to be encouraged on how to protect revealed truth (I Tim 6:20); and we need to strive for unity as an expression of the work of the Spirit within us (Phil. 2:1-3). The biblical pattern seems to be cooperation toward fulfilling the Great Commission (Acts 13:1-3). A state convention that does this is worth getting behind. Those who leave a convention to do something else can only be justified if they are a part of something that is even more effective.
As long as the above verses are true, and they always will be, churches will seek each other out to help each other conform to the Lord’s call on their lives. This is a natural expression of a Christian who embraces the sobering humility of his need for others to help carry out the mission. Models on how to do this will change, and they should, but not for the sake of a new conference. God save us from another conference. These models should only change for the sake of being a more explicit expression of Scriptural commands.
Perhaps there is nothing more predictable to a Baptist than annual state conventions. While not perfect, the surprise in this predictability is how effective some conventions are at tangible expressions of the biblical commands toward unity and mission. And for that, we are grateful.