Recently 29 new pastors gathered in Fresno for an orientation about the ministries and resources of California Southern Baptist Convention.
Many of those who attended were new to California while others were new to the churches they serve. As I watched them interact and listen to the CSBC staff, my heart rejoiced because God had called each of them to reach the lost and make disciples in communities throughout our state.
For many, this was their first interaction with Southern Baptists. They were eager to learn of the power of unity, the strength of passion and the focus of California Southern Baptists.
Unity is an interesting word. At the SBC in June I was privileged to sign the Affirmation of Unity and Cooperation as a state Baptist convention executive director.
Southern Baptists are known for our strong desire to cooperate with each other. A Spanish phrase I learned in school, “En la unión esta la fuerza” translates, “There is strength in unity.” I believe that is true on many fronts, including evangelism, mission and ministry, all hallmarks of Southern Baptists.
Baptists for the most part are fiercely independent. As a result, many pastors, churches and groups process their mission and act as “lone rangers.” Sometimes that is good. But sometimes it is not to one’s advantage to go it alone when facing an incredible enemy such as our Adversary.
I believe cooperation is under attack in our society. We see it in government, business and other facets of our lives in only looking out for ourselves. Religious circles and Southern Baptists are not immune to such strategies. In many instances historical interdependence has been disregarded for an “every man for himself” mentality.
Divisions, isolationism and the like can weaken any organization. It certainly can weaken the unity of the faith. Paul the Apostle often called for unity in his letters. As a Christian, I know my brother is not the enemy, and my passion is to see California Southern Baptists united to reach the 33 million residents who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
The question in my heart is, “Am I a source of conflict or do I provide a spirit of unity in the battle?” In Psalm 133 David recorded, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” I believe we have a good spirit in our convention. My prayer is that we will continue to cooperate and depend on one another to reach California for Christ.