ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – Strengthen the partnership of the more than 50,000 congregations that cooperate in the work of the Southern Baptist Convention, Willie McLaurin exhorted messengers to the SBC 2022 Annual Meeting in his Executive Committee report June 14.
Acknowledging a season that has damaged the “wall of trust” within the SBC and has had “a detrimental effect on our partnerships,” the Executive Committee interim president and CEO pointed to God’s work in using Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall.
“I believe the trust within our denomination can be rebuilt. It is a partnership effort. It takes all of us working together. It takes faith and a focus on God,” McLaurin said. “I find hope from Nehemiah. He was confronted with walls that were destroyed and needed rebuilding. Through faith, hard work and with a focus on God, God used Nehemiah to restore Jerusalem.”
To rebuild trust and strengthen the wide-ranging partnership in fulfilling the Great Commission, McLaurin encouraged Southern Baptists to be concerned with how we love God, how we love others and how we love a spiritually lost world. Southern Baptists must confess sin against others, confess neglecting to pursue and model the mind of Christ, and confess any lack of evangelistic fervor.
“Then, finally we must commit ourselves to action,” he said, “action in focused praying, action in moving forward in faith and with good works.”
McLaurin pointed to the historic partnership between Annie Armstrong, a stalwart in Southern Baptist missions, and Nannie Burroughs, a trailblazer in missions through the National Baptist Convention. With little in common, the two women partnered together to advance the Gospel near the end of the 19th Century.
“These women were opposites racially, geographically, generationally, socially and politically,” McLaurin said. “But despite their monumental differences, they rose beyond the cultural norms of their time for one common cause: to advance the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
McLaurin encouraged messengers to support the Cooperative Program that funds Southern Baptist missions and ministries, and commit to reverse a decline in giving to the CP that has spanned three decades.
“In 1992, our overall average percentage of giving through the Cooperative Program was 9.26 percent, but this past year that average percentage has now decreased to 4.68 percent,” he said. “In 2025, we will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cooperative Program, and for nearly a century it has proven to be a reliable model for funding our joint SBC missions and ministry efforts. If we are to forge a new path forward, we must commit together to reverse this decline.”
He thanked churches for an increase in CP giving in the short term, noting that CP giving is 8.89 percent above budget for the first eight months of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, representing $11.3 million over budget. In the history of the program, Southern Baptists have given a cumulative $20 billion.
The EC is working to strengthen stewardship in partnership with state conventions and associations. The Next Level Stewardship, a resource free to all churches, is designed to help churches develop a stewardship culture. The EC has edited and relaunched the Pastor’s Stewardship Handbook, which McLaurin described as an easy-to-use reference for pastors to support their church leaders in stewardship.
McLaurin elevated prayer in focusing on the EC’s seven ministry assignments found on page 203 of the 2022 Book of Reports.
“Our newest ministry assignment is elevating the ministry of prayer in local churches. In the coming year, we will launch pastor-friendly, church focused prayer initiatives,” McLaurin said. “If prayer is not our main business, we will be out of business.”
He encouraged Southern Baptists to pray expectantly, earnestly and eagerly, referencing Acts 4:31. Without prayer, power is limited to human capability, he said, but “if you depend on prayer, you get what God can do.”
McLaurin shared the good news of what Southern Baptists are doing.
Over the past 18 months, Southern Baptists have commissioned 566 missionaries through the International Mission Board, added 1018 congregations, enjoyed a 26 percent increase in baptisms.
“We are seeing people saved, baptized and set on the road to discipleship throughout our communities, in our states, across our country and around the world,” he said. “May we be desperate for God together so that Southern Baptists will be known around the globe as those who bring Good News.”
Known to number his days, McLaurin thanked Southern Baptists for allowing him to serve as interim president and CEO for the past 133 days.
“I have sought to lead with a basic philosophy that every decision will be Scripture fed and Spirit led,” he said. “Our staff team of 27 outstanding men and women has worked diligently to serve during a time of significant transition. These servant leaders have crossed every ‘t’ and dotted every ‘i’ on behalf of Southern Baptists.
“I’m grateful for the calling and commitment of these dedicated staff who serve the SBC Executive Committee.”