This coming Tuesday and Wednesday registered messengers from all over will join together in Nashville, Tennessee for the annual Southern (Great Commission) Baptist Convention. For those unfamiliar with Baptist polity, this will be a well-attended business meeting. Reports indicate that approximately “20,000 messengers and guests” will be in attendance. I will be in attendance as a guest not a messenger, but this does not mean that I am absolved to pray for unity.
SBC President and my pastor, J.D. Greear, believes this will be one of the most important annual meetings that “will determine the basis for SBC unity.” My goal for this post is to encourage all who read it to that end. To specifically, pray for unity at #SBC21.
In John 17:20-21, Jesus prayed, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20-21 ESV). This verse has been in my mind and on my heart leading up to this annual meeting. My prayer is that as we come together, we come with a spirit “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Think of it like this, that we pray to be an answer to Jesus’s prayer for us in the Gospel of John.
I would like to show you two ways to pray leading up to and during SBC21:
- Pray we would be one (John 17:21). Jesus was asking the Father as he prayed for not only the disciples with him that day, but also “for those who will believe in me through their word” (John 17:20). Did you see that? Jesus prayed in this prayer for future disciples, which includes those who have placed their faith in Jesus going to the annual meeting in 2021. What a humbling thought to know that Jesus prayed for our oneness. May we all pray with this type of fervency for oneness going into and coming out of this meeting. Yes, there will be disagreements on issues, but when these discussions arise, we will be in a better position to work them out if unity is our desired outcome.
- Pray the world will see Jesus in our meeting (John 17:21b). Look one more time with me at John 17:21. Jesus’s prayer states, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21b, emphasis added). Unity reaches a community for Christ. Many people will be watching this meeting with great interest, but in our prayer for unity, may they see Jesus who came to reconcile sinners to God. Jesus’s emphasis at the end of this prayer is missional. Jesus says it again, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:23). Pray that our unity (our witness) at this convention in 2021 would bring others into God’s Kingdom through the perfect life, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
As I stated earlier, my goal is that all who read this would take a moment to pray for unity at SBC21. May the world see the gospel in action during this time in Nashville, Tennessee. Thank you for joining in me in prayer over the next several days.
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