1 city, 2 yearnings grip SBC's Ronnie Floyd

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (BP) -- One city is central to everything Ronnie Floyd says and does as the Southern Baptist Convention's president.

Columbus.

Two overarching matters are tied to Floyd's focus on Ohio's capital, site of SBC's annual meeting in June:

-- prayer for spiritual awakening in America.

-- reaching the world for Christ.

SBC President Ronnie Floyd speaks of spiritual awakening and the Great Commission to state Baptist paper editors.
Photo by Art Toalston
"Hopefully and prayerfully we're going to see the Lord really impact us," Floyd told Baptist state paper editors during their Feb. 9-12 sessions in Orange Beach, Ala.

"Southern Baptists need to enter a time of clear agreement ... that the number one need in America is a mighty spiritual awakening," Floyd said. Apart from God's intervention, "I know of no hope apart from that."

Distinctive facets Floyd noted of the June 16-17 annual meeting include:

-- a Tuesday evening session to be permeated by prayer, building on the convention's "Great Awakening" theme.

-- a Wednesday morning "church and missionary sending celebration" of Southern Baptists' work toward fulfilling the Great Commission -- and a call to heighten their efforts even more to reach the nations for Christ.

"I think there's a general growing positive attitude about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention," Floyd said in listing several "great things I see today in Southern Baptist life."

"I firmly believe that people are believing more and more in who we are and what we are about," said Floyd, pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.

Pastors and leaders under 40 years of age accounted for nearly 25 percent of the messengers at last year's SBC annual meeting in Baltimore, up 4 percent from the previous year in Houston, Floyd reported from an assessment of messenger data.

The New Testament church, he noted, encompassed "people who were saved by the power of God's Spirit through the precious blood of Jesus Christ, who were called out to be a part of His church, baptized to His glory and baptized into the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit of God. And they formed local churches ... and they took the world for Christ.

"And that's who we are," Floyd said.

More than 10,000 multi-ethnic churches are among the 46,000-plus churches in the SBC, Floyd added.

"The Southern Baptist Convention is changing at every level. I think that's a good thing," Floyd said. "[Baptist] associations are changing, state conventions are changing, national SBC entities are changing, churches are changing."

The change may be slower than some might advocate, he said, "but we can be thankful today that at least there is a spirit of change that is being embraced by the convention [versus] a spirit of resistance."

Hotel registration for the Columbus annual meeting is about 5 percent ahead of last year, though a clearer picture of potential attendance will emerge in the next 30 to 60 days, Floyd said.

In addition to prayer for revival in America and a deepened commitment to the Great Commission, Floyd said another feature of the Columbus annual meeting will be a Wednesday afternoon panel discussion on "The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Preparing Our Churches for the Future."

The Supreme Court likely will render its monumental decision on marriage during the week of the convention or the week before or after, Floyd pointed out, so there is "a real need to prepare our churches for whatever happens."

The panel will include Russell Moore, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; and three others to be selected for the interview-type discussion that Floyd will lead.

The presidents of the SBC's six seminaries will give their reports during the convention's Tuesday morning session, Floyd also noted. "I want Southern Baptists to see what all of our seminaries are doing. It's really what our churches are doing through the ministries of our seminaries" by sending 18,000 students this year to prepare for service in and through Southern Baptist churches and entities.

But Columbus, spiritual awakening and the Great Commission regularly spring forth whenever Floyd speaks at a church, a state convention or a meeting such as the Association of State Baptist Publications.

"[A] mighty awakening ... has to be preceded with a strong movement of personal revival, church revival" that "requires us to operate in clear agreement, visible union and extraordinary prayer," Floyd said. "God has always blessed it. There has never been a great movement of God that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people, biblically or historically."

The Columbus annual meeting, he said, will be "a national gathering of Southern Baptists to pray for the next great move of God in America and to reach the world for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

"We're going to petition the God in heaven" to pray about things "we always wring our hands about," from baptisms and giving to America's moral decline and the world's lostness.

"Why don't we call on God?" Floyd said. "Why don't we just go on and pray about it? And ask the Lord God in heaven."

Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists' concerns nationally and globally.
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