Messengers vote on an amendment to Resolution 6, "On Lament and Repentance for Sexual Abuse." Photo by Karen McCutcheon

As my plane touched down in Louisville earlier this week, there were many thoughts I brought back from California with me. I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim and would like to offer seven observations and how we can move forward.

1. Trust is low in the SBC: From the very first motions coming from the floor, it became quickly evident the SBC has a trust problem. Motions ranging from a request for a forensic audit of a national entity, an investigation into an SBC seminary, and the abolition of one of our entities made it plain that we have a trust issue. Since ministry runs at the speed of trust, this is a sizeable matter and we must address it.

2. Accountability is needed: The messengers seemed to be saying to entity leadership that they expect the entities to be accountable to them, the messengers, and the churches of the SBC. Since the local church is the headquarters of the SBC, this seems like a reasonable request. Entity leaders must take the initiative in assuring they are providing the level of accountability needed to restore trust with the messengers and the churches.

3. Trustees can be bridge builders: Bridges go both ways and trustees can build bridges between the national entities and local churches by providing accountability in both directions. Trustees are to be cheerleaders for the entities, but they must also represent the churches that send them. In other words, the trustees must speak to the messengers about the entity they represent but they must also speak to the entity about the concerns of the churches that send them. If the entity leadership fails to listen, then the messengers must demand a change.

4. We have guardrails: Our system of cooperative ministry is unlike any other in the nation. We send messengers to a convention to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down on issues impacting our cooperative work. We do not cooperate in ministry and mission together as a convention of churches because we agree in lockstep on every theological or methodological matter, but because we believe we can have a greater gospel impact by working together than any of us can have alone.

5. We can solve problems: Much prayer and arduous work was carried out between the SBC gathering in Nashville last year and the one in Anaheim last week. As a result, we were able to hear a report on sexual abuse and then take overwhelmingly affirmed next steps toward securing church attendees from sexual predators. We also made it clear that we are not prepared to abolish one of our long-standing entities because we disagree with some of its past actions.

6. Our mission matters: There were few dry eyes in the room as we heard the testimonies of fifty-two of our missionaries and their call to the nations with the gospel. One of our entity leaders reminded us that the world’s greatest problem is lostness and the gospel is the only solution – and that we originally came together, and need to stay together, to address the world’s greatest problem. We must remember that our mission is too important for us to let it be derailed. We must continue to learn to solve our trust and accountability problems while at the same time addressing the world’s greatest problem: lostness.

7. I love the SBC: As I sat next to a couple of Kentucky Baptist pastors, had conversations with others from other states, interacted with entity heads and ministry leaders, shook hands with people I have only met on social media, saw a pastor of eight people nominate himself for an SBC office, and saw another pastor of a mega-church come to the same microphones as others, I was reminded once again that – although we do have problems and we do need to address them ­– I love being Southern Baptist.

Thank you, Kentucky Baptists, for allowing me to serve you and for sending me to the SBC in Anaheim. May the Lord Himself give us the courage, conviction and compassion to address our problems and move forward with our mission in a cooperative way until Jesus comes or calls us home.