HEARTLAND | Nate Adams
I am writing this just a day after returning from the 2015 Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, and four days before my wife, Beth, and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. So, as unromantic as it may sound, I find myself reflecting today on both the past three days with more than 5,000 other church messengers, and the past 30 years with the one woman God gave me for life.
They’re not entirely dissimilar. To both my wife and to the Southern Baptist Convention, I have made deep commitments that, by God’s grace, are standing the test of time. With both I share important beliefs and values. And with both I share purpose and direction that allow us to walk together joyfully.
That’s not to say we agree a hundred percent of the time on a hundred percent of the questions or issues we face. There were times this past week in Columbus when I read or heard something and thought to myself, “Why on earth would we want to do that?” or “Don’t you see what needs to be done over here?” or “I’m not sure he’s the best person to entrust with that.”
But the truth is Beth and I have both asked those kinds of questions of one another over the past 30 years too. In fact, a few years ago when James Merritt was President of the SBC, I remember him saying that he and his wife had agreed long ago that he would make all the major decisions in their marriage, and that she could make all the minor decisions. Then he quipped, “And I’m proud to report that in 25 years of marriage we’ve never actually had a major decision.”
There’s quite a thread of truth in that silly exaggeration. When you share a deep commitment to someone over time, you simply don’t allow relatively minor disagreements to threaten either your relationship or the overall purpose you’ve embraced, whether it’s raising a healthy family or obeying the Great Commission. You defer to one another whenever possible, and you reserve strong words for truly important subjects. Then, most of the time, you move forward by consensus rather than casting ballots, or stones.
That’s why I was able to spend at least as much of my SBC time out in the hallways, or exhibit area, or in collaborative meetings, as I did in the voting sessions, most of which went forward smoothly and without dissent. And I noticed I was not alone. As important as the main sessions were to those attending, it was the hallways, restaurants, and hotels that were the settings for countless informal reunions and meetings, for prayer, for collaboration, for counseling, or simply for much needed encouragement.
There certainly are occasions during our long commitments over time when we need to gather in big meetings to confront big things. And there are times when we need to come together for celebrations and worship, or for special efforts like the Tuesday night session in Columbus when thousands of us gathered to pray for awakening and revival in our land.
But most of our long commitments over time are lived out between big anniversaries and annual sessions. We believe the Bible together, we serve our churches together, we send missionaries and support missions projects together, and we worship together. And so my deep commitment over time to the imperfect yet wonderful Southern Baptist Convention continues.
And as Beth and I continue to make the bed together, raise the kids together, pray together, serve churches together, and face the challenges of life together, my deep commitment over time to her continues as well, now for 30 years and counting. May the Lord bless you as He has me, with a life of deep commitments over time.
Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association.