SBC leaders address Younger Leaders Summit II

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--Southern Baptists need the involvement and influence of young leaders in the convention, speakers declared at the Younger Leaders Summit II June 12 in Greensboro, N.C.

Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board, said he believes God “raised up this generation” to influence the future direction of the Southern Baptist Convention. At Greensboro’s War Memorial Auditorium on the eve of two-day SBC annual meeting, Rankin addressed fewer than 200 attendees.

“I’m grateful because you have the courage to speak out and challenge us, to hold our feet to the fire, to be accountable as leaders of God’s people,” Rankin said. “I’m grateful because you have the courage and the boldness to speak out and to challenge static structures or questionable methods or compromised integrity.”

The Great Commission won’t be finished during his term of leadership at the IMB, Rankin noted. “I pray that God will lead me to enable us to make advance and set the stage and lay the foundation that your generation can reach every people and tongue and nation -- and that God will give you a vision to fulfill that task.”

Rankin affirmed young leaders for their support of important Southern Baptist traditions.

“I’m thankful that you value our traditions, that we’re a people of the Book that value the authority of God’s inerrant Word,” Rankin said, likewise affirming young leaders’ belief in “the autonomy and the power of the local church. … You see the denomination as the servant to empower and serve the churches for our Kingdom purpose.”

Jimmy Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, encouraged the leaders to help change the SBC. Draper headlined the inaugural meeting last year.

“You can create a network; all it is, is another convention,” Draper observed. “You’ve got one. It’s your opportunity to change it. You have your opportunity. Do it. The world is counting on you. Some of us are counting on you. I know the Lord is pleased.”

Draper referenced the popularity of weblogs among many young Baptist leaders: “Keep blogging,” he said. “Be nice. Don’t judge motives. Celebrate the diversity that we have.”

Then Draper added, “If you’re not careful, you’ll be as narrow-minded as you think some of us are,” as the group responded with laughter.

Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., said young leaders can help the SBC clarify its priorities.

“The greatest contribution young leaders can make in the Southern Baptist Convention is to call us continually to prioritize our mission,” Iorg noted.

Young leaders can help the SBC avoid deemphasizing the Great Commission in favor of “other things [that] become equal to it in importance. … Never let other things ever supersede it in what we give our time and attention and devotion to.”

Iorg said young leaders should know their mission and pray and talk about it.

“One of my prayers is, ‘Lord, keep me from being distracted,’” Iorg said. “While we have to deal with a thousand things along the way, we [shouldn’t] let anything distract us or divide us from accomplishing the mission God has given us.”

John Avant, vice president for evangelization at the North American Mission Board, thanked the young leaders for helping change ways of relating to unsaved people.

“You’re teaching us how to not oppose lost people but to embrace lost people,” Avant said. “Jesus embraced lost people, and that’s what we have to do too.”

Ed Stetzer, research team director and resident missiologist for the North American Mission Board, was the moderator at this year’s summit.

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