There’s an idea among Baptists that if you want people to show up to business meetings, you need a good controversy.
We don’t need a good controversy—or a bad one, for that matter. We need a good party—as in a celebration.
Baptists are known for fighting
Baptists are strange people. We are as turned off as anyone else by a nasty church fight … until we’re upset about something, and then we’re all in. This is not a commendation.
Baptists actually are stranger than that. We care very little for business meetings … unless there’s the promise of a good fight. This is not a commendation either.
The more peaceful and quiet church business meetings are—and convention business sessions—the fewer people tend to show up. With every peaceful business meeting that goes by, the less interest people have in showing up. Everything seems to be running smoothly. Why bother? Apparently, everything’s being taken care of.
Baptists are stranger still. If things are peaceful too long, there must be something wrong. Surely, things are too quiet. When things are quiet, we tend to fill the void with our own imaginations—our very active imaginations. We all could be screenwriters.
Shouldn’t we be concerned when things are going smoothly? Don’t we need to be worried?
Baptists would like to be known for not fighting
How about celebrating how smoothly things are going?
How about getting busy with mission and ministry, so busy that there isn’t time to worry about how smoothly things are going?
How about getting so busy communicating the good news about Jesus and teaching people how to follow Jesus and being the hands and feet of Jesus that the only problems we have are the natural obstacles to getting things done in this world?
What if we were so consumed with acting out our faith in Jesus Christ that we didn’t have enough energy left to find ways to disagree with our fellow Christians, that we didn’t have time or strength to allow those disagreements to fester into picking fights with one another over things we will be embarrassed to admit to Jesus?
What if—this may be going too far—what if we spent so much of ourselves doing what Jesus told us to do that when we stop to rest, our rest involves coming together to celebrate the fruit of our labor and to gear up for going back to work?
After all, we were not created to sit around and bicker and worry and fight. We were called to more than fault-finding and nitpicking. We were created and called to work the garden. Working the garden is supposed to occupy us. It is supposed to be a joy—our joy and God’s—and God still wants to celebrate that work with us.
I am using “working the garden” as a metaphor, a wonderful picture of making God’s good creation flourish, of multiplying God’s joyful intent for the world.
Baptists can be known for celebrating
I am grateful for an “uneventful” annual meeting of the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
I’m thankful we did such boring things as:
• re-elect leaders who did so much good the previous year and promise to do more good;
• launch a new ministry effort to do real good in Jesus’ name for foster children in Texas; and
• celebrate 100 years of ministry with college students from all over the world.
In the quiet of an “uneventful” convention, God’s creation seems to be flourishing. Oh, it’s not without its problems. Even the best gardens need a weed pulled here and there. Some plants need training, pruning and fertilizing, but that’s the normal work toward flourishing.
The best gardens are not a monoculture. They do not consist of one type of plant. They are made of numerous kinds of plants that leaf out, bloom and go to seed at different times for different reasons, and each has its place in the garden. The best gardens are anything but uneventful, however quiet they may appear.
I’m glad Texas Baptists are not a monoculture. I’m glad and celebrate that we are not all cut from the same cookie cutter. I’m glad we bring—among other differences—so many different perspectives, nationalities and skin colors together to do one thing, the work Jesus gave us to do, which is to making God’s good creation flourish in and by Jesus Christ, multiplying through him God’s joyful intent for the world.
Let’s give so much of ourselves to that work this year that when we get together again next year we won’t have anything left in us but to celebrate the joy of the good work God gave us.
Eric Black is the executive director, publisher and editor of the Baptist Standard. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @EricBlackBSP. The views expressed are those solely of the author.