Panel Discussion Addresses the Southern Baptist Convention’s Future Ministry and Mission

Jason Allen (far right), president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, leads a panel discussion titled “For the Church” June 11 in Birmingham. Panelists include (left to right) Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board; H.B. Charles, pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Orange Park, Fla.; Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee; and Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board. Photo by Marc Ira Hooks

The Southern Baptist Convention’s future ministry and mission was the topic of a For the Church panel discussion hosted by Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary during the SBC annual meeting.

Moderated by MBTS President Jason Allen, the discussion featured Paul Chitwood, H.B. Charles Jr., Ronnie Floyd, Kevin Ezell and Jamie Dew, filling the room with nearly 1,000 attendees Tuesday, June 11, at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

In light of “an inflection point” in Southern Baptist history with several new entity heads taking office in the past year, Allen queried the panelists on how Southern Baptists can “keep the main thing the main thing” — winning souls to Jesus Christ through the convention’s mission and ministry.

“It’s time for people in this great denomination to rally together and to renew our commitment to this great work,” Allen, Midwestern Seminary’s president, said. “Ultimately, it’s about the ministry — what we’re doing through our entities and the churches — and then most importantly about the mission of reaching the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Allen asked the panelists questions about the health of the denomination; how to emphasize the importance of being called to full-time ministry, growth in the SBC’s missionary-sending entities; the viability of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000; and what each panelist loves about/is most encouraged about in the SBC.

In response to the question about reinvigorating the number of men being called to ministry service, Charles said, “It begins with us praying to the end that God would raise up missionaries, raise up pastors, raise up men and women to serve the church, to serve the next generation of the church.”

Charles said there must be “pastoral intentionality of calling out the called and challenging those who have a burden for the Lord … to take seriously the call of God on their lives. Then there must be the building of a culture within the church that prays for, supports, encourages and raises up those who are called to do the work of the Lord.”

Chitwood, discussing the current status of the missionary pipeline, said the number had shrunk to historic levels due to a number of factors. However, now that financial issues have been addressed, he said the number is on the increase again.

“We’re in a position financially to begin growing the field headcount again,” Chitwood said. “Our team has worked really hard, and we’ve tried to create a new narrative to show the denomination that there’s an opportunity to go again through the IMB. There are now 270 candidates in the process, so that’s a threefold plus increase, and we want to show the denomination the need now is to rebuild the missionary force overseas.”

On the topic of the BF&M 2000, Allen suggested he would not change a thing in the statement of Southern Baptist beliefs because it “speaks to all the right issues while maintaining conservative, Bible-believing, evangelical Southern Baptist thought.”

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Source: Baptist Press