COMMENTARY | Meredith Flynn
“Great Awakening: Clear Agreement, Visible Union, Extraordinary Prayer.” The theme for the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention won’t fit easily on a T-shirt. But it’s a clear prescription for the kind of spiritual awakening Ronnie Floyd has been talking about since his election as SBC President.
The complex rallying cry also is a departure from the themes chosen over the past several years. While past presidents have certainly called Baptists to greater engagement in evangelism and missions, this is the first year in recent memory that a leader has set so direct a path to a common goal.
Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, is uniquely situated to call Baptists to prayer. He’s written books on prayer, fasting and revival. He gathered leaders for regional and national meetings devoted to praying together. He is also leading the SBC at a time when churches are baptizing fewer people and facing more pushback from the culture.
When asked in a recent media conference call what he’s learned in his first few months as president, Floyd said he has found that Southern Baptists are optimistic about the future of the denomination.
“I have also found that while we have our challenges, people are very hopeful that we’re gonna find a way to make things happen together.”
Perhaps that’s why “clear agreement” and “visible union” are two prongs in Floyd’s theme: He’s hearing that Southern Baptists want to move forward as a denomination, despite decline or differing theology. “Southern Baptists need to be together,” he told media, referencing why he wants as many people as possible to be at the SBC Annual Meeting next June.
The Call to Columbus might be a difficult sell—it’s an out-of-the-way convention city for many Baptists, it’s an election “off-year,” and there’s no Disney World or White House anywhere nearby.
But Floyd’s call to “extraordinary prayer”—something he has trumpeted since his election—is intriguing. He drew the phrase from a Jonathan Edwards sermon whose title rivals that of Floyd’s new e-book in length. In “Pleading with Southern Baptists…,” the SBC President lays out the need for a great awakening in our culture and our churches (see sidebar at right), and suggests five action items.
His plan is reminiscent of the Isaiah 6 cycle people prayed through at the IBSA Annual Meeting in November, not because of its content, but because Floyd’s list puts the priority on prayer as the jumping-off point for any great move of God.
“It’s time to pray,” he said shortly after he was elected in Baltimore. “Quite honestly, it’s past time to pray.”
Baptists have heard the call, clearly outlined. Now, the question is whether they’ll heed it.
Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.