In his message to the Alabama Baptist State Convention, Willie McLaurin urged those gathered to not lose sight of all the Lord has done for them and through them in their efforts to reach their state — and the world —for Christ.
In keeping with the annual meeting theme, “Celebrate,” the interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee shared a long list of reasons Alabama Baptists have to be thankful as they kick off the celebration of 200 years of cooperative ministry and missions work.
“When you and I look at the long-cherished history of Southern Baptists, we have so much to celebrate,” he said. “When we tell and celebrate what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing among us, it builds our faith. It builds belief that God is able to do anything, anywhere, anytime — with anyone.”
So what do Southern Baptists have to celebrate? An incredible story, McLaurin said, noting the SBC started from humble beginnings in 1845 with just 293 messengers, representing nine Baptist state conventions, gathered in Augusta, Georgia. Today, some 14 million members and 50,000 churches make up the SBC, the “largest evangelical network in the United States.”
Other highlights McLaurin listed:
— Today, 3, 600 missionaries are serving overseas with their families to reach unreached people groups around the globe with the gospel. Through the support of Southern Baptists, McLaurin noted, those missionaries are fully funded. “Together you and I are pushing back darkness around the globe.”
— Churches are being started “from Alabama to Alaska, from Maryland to Montana,” he said. “We can celebrate the fact that God is raising up a generation of leaders who are willing to leave their comfort zone to reach the unreached people right in their own Jerusalem.”
— Southern Baptists display a wide variety of skills and talents, McLaurin noted.
“We have politicians, medical professionals, educators, legal professionals, engineers, CEOs, athletes and some of the sharpest domestic engineers on the planet,” he said. “When all of these people are mobilized, they make up the largest missions force that is mobilized to reach our missions field.”
— The SBC Disaster Relief volunteer network is another area to be thankful for, McLaurin said, noting there are more than 70,000 trained DR volunteers.
“Across the world, Southern Baptists are known as those who show up when there are disasters,” he said. “We are known as ‘those people who wear those yellow shirts.’ Today, we can celebrate the fact that we have the largest volunteer Disaster Relief agency in the world.”
— The Cooperative Program, which combines the resources of Southern Baptist churches, is also worth celebrating, he said.
“The Cooperative Program is the financial fuel for reaching every person for Jesus Christ in every town and every state, in every city and every nation,” he said. “And right here in the great state of Alabama, every dollar that is given through the Cooperative Program goes toward lifting high the name and the fame of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
— While Alabama is not the largest state convention in terms of the number of people, McLaurin said, Southern Baptists in the state have continued to make missions giving a priority. In the 97-year history of the Cooperative Program, Southern Baptists have given $20 billion. Of that amount, Alabama is the top state in giving through CP with $1.5 billion.
Through the years, the churches of Alabama have consistently led the country in giving. Last year, Alabama led in giving to both the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
Alabama also gave $1.5 million to its own state missions offering to help spread the gospel in the state, McLaurin said.
— Missions giving goes hand-in-hand with missions living, and McLaurin said Alabama Baptists have shown a “laser-sharp focus on winning people to Christ.” Last year 7,800 people in the state made a commitment to follow Christ as their Savior, he said.
“What about those churches that only baptized one person last year? Well, what if that one person was your son?” he asked. “That one person matters. The reality is this, the Lord used one person to reach Billy Graham, and God used Billy Graham to reach millions. May we be faithful to reach one person for the glory of God.”
—McLaurin also noted diversity within the convention. The SBC is the most racially and ethnically diverse network of churches — 23% of SBC churches are non-Anglo, he said.
“Every day, God is diversifying our network,” he said. “Just a few days ago, North Carolina Baptists elected their first African American state convention president. … And 287 days ago, this beloved convention entrusted me, an African American, to serve as the interim president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
‘God is at work’
“God is at work, and what God is doing is bigger than all of us,” he said. “Brothers and sisters, I’m simply trying to say we’ve got a whole lot to be thankful for. … I’m convinced and I’m convicted that there is so much more God wants to do in us and through us.”
Turning his focus to God’s grace and mercy on our lives, McLaurin said, “We can praise God for His goodness. … We can praise God for His grace because His mercy is everlasting.”