When Ronnie Floyd was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the denomination was coming to grips with the truth. After several years of describing many churches as “plateaued or declining,” leaders started speaking in frank terms about why, year after year, key measures like church membership, worship attendance, and baptisms were down denomination-wide.
“We are clearly losing our evangelistic effectiveness,” one Baptist leader said in 2014, the year Floyd was elected to his first term.
Things looked bleak, and for the first time in a while, the pressure wasn’t coming from outside opposition or controversy. Rather, the SBC seemed to be at an impasse.
Before his presidency, Floyd was already established as someone who could provide direction. As the pastor of a Southern megachurch, he led his congregation to a regional, multi-campus strategy and a new name—from First Baptist, Springdale, to Cross Church of Northwest Arkansas.
That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility.
As chairman of the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, Floyd helped lead Baptists to renewed commitment to a unified purpose—albeit with some difficult adjustments and plenty of debate over proposed funding changes between national agencies and state conventions.
But when Floyd was elected as SBC president, he looked not to drastic measures or sweeping changes—but to prayer. Unified, solidified, corporate prayer. Prayer that asked Baptists of all stripes to set aside differences for something greater than themselves: pleading with God for a great spiritual awakening.
Putting greater emphasis on the SBC annual meeting, Floyd called Baptists to Columbus, Ohio, in June of 2015 for a special prayer meeting to together confess sin—like racism and evangelism apathy—and to move forward as a humbled Convention that prioritized the work and mission of God.
In advance of the prayer meeting, which will happen again this summer in St. Louis, Floyd kept everyone in the loop through regular blog posts and columns distributed via Baptist Press and state Baptist newspapers. Throughout his presidency, he hasn’t hesitated to use the power of the pen (and keyboard) to inform, encourage, and challenge Baptists about the state of the SBC and our desperate need for spiritual awakening.
At the Southern Baptist Convention next weeek in St. Louis, the Tuesday evening session of the meeting will again be devoted to prayer. That is perhaps Floyd’s greatest legacy: He has reminded us that revival starts with prayer, and prayer starts with humility. For calling us together for that purpose, he deserves our thanks.