When asked to define conservatism, noted scholar Yuval Levin simply replied, “gratitude.” He explained that true conservatism is rooted in gratitude because it appreciates the institutions, procedures, and traditions that have been built up over the years by those who came before us.
That understanding of conservatism deeply resonates with me, both as a philosophical conservative and as a theological conservative. I continually find myself grateful for what previous generations have done. Even in the midst of a challenging cultural season, where so many are interested in tearing things down, I find myself grateful for the efforts of peers, colleagues, and others who continue to build.
I am grateful for my fellow Southern Baptists, as well. We have built, and continue to do so, upon the work done by countless pastors, missionaries, church planters, ministry leaders, and scholars. Whether it is the enduring strength of the Cooperative Program, the commitment to sending missionaries around the globe or the planting of churches across North America, there is much to be thankful for. Here are five things the Lord has laid on my heart that I am truly grateful for.
A cooperative spirit
Most of our state conventions have wrapped up their annual meetings. I was able to attend the Tennessee Baptist Convention just last week, and it was a true joy to be with pastors and church leaders from across our great state. People from various towns and different ministries came together to encourage one another and remind us of how much can be accomplished when we work together.
I know this was the takeaway for so many messengers at all of our state conventions as well. Our cooperation is what makes us unique. We really are so much better when we work together to serve our communities and reach the nations for the sake of the gospel.
I’m grateful for the cooperative spirit that resides at the heart of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Our theological fidelity
Another core component of the SBC is our commitment to the gospel. We believe that the Word of God is inerrant, and thus, we rightly hold a very high view of Scripture. If it weren’t for all six of our seminaries holding so fast to this truth, we would be foundering as a denomination. Each seminary continues to train men and women for gospel service. We must support our this integral work of our seminaries. They have excelled at teaching and equipping outstanding individuals we need to lead our churches and serve in this chaotic culture that is so desperate to hear a word of truth.
Our theological fidelity ensures our churches continue serving in their communities and keep sending their best to be missionaries overseas. And all of that guides our work at the ERLC, ensuring that we are speaking to a watching world based on the convictions of our convention.
I’m grateful for the theological fidelity our churches, associations, conventions, and entities hold to in our efforts to proclaim the gospel and reach the lost.
A commitment to church planting
I’m always saddened when I learn of an old church building that has been converted into something else. While I know a church building is only a structure of wood, brick, and other materials, it also represents lives and ministries where God has been at work. To think about that space no longer being used for these purposes grieves my heart, which is why I’m thankful for the important work our sister entity, the North American Mission Board, is doing to plant new churches in communities all across the country. Some are replants in those old, forgotten church buildings, and others are new plants meeting in movie theaters or strip malls. Regardless, the fact that our convention of churches continues to prioritize church planting is a natural outflow of our commitment to obey Christ’s commandment to go into all the world.
I’m thankful for NAMB and the faithful church planters who seek to take the gospel into new and forgotten corners of our country.
A commitment to international missions
In September, Staples Mill Road Baptist Church held a commissioning service for 34 International Mission Board missionaries being sent to the four corners of the globe. Around that same time, members of our ERLC life team traveled to Northern Ireland to place our very first Psalm 139 project ultrasound machine overseas. I see the same spirit in both of these events — Southern Baptists, motivated by the gospel, being sent out to save lives. It reminds me that the SBC views gospel proclamation around the globe as one of the main objectives, if not the main objective, that brings us together, and that’s a very, very good thing.
I’m thankful for the IMB and our convention’s commitment to taking the gospel to the ends of the earth.
A commitment to life
You would be hard pressed to find a Southern Baptist who doesn’t think the protection of preborn lives is not a matter of utmost importance. As a true conservative network of churches that actually believes every aspect of the Bible is true, we are resolute in our commitment to advocating for the rights of God’s image-bearers in the womb, and this requires a cooperation unlike no other. And Southern Baptists have risen to the task.
In the past year alone, the ERLC has placed 24 ultrasound machines. In December, we will place our 25th. This is not an accident. We have committed to placing 50 machines by the 50-year mark of the disastrous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. When I think about how Southern Baptists have rallied around the Psalm 139 Project already, I’m confident we will be able to place the other 25 life-saving machines in pregnancy resource centers around the country. The SBC cares about life because we know how precious each life is to God.
I’m thankful for our convention’s commitment to taking a stand for life.
A grateful people
I was recently visiting with a pastor of an SBC church, and he was reflecting on the last year. He admitted it has been uniquely challenging at times, but he was still appreciative of all the ways the Lord has blessed his congregation and ministry. Unfortunately, these stories of gratitude can get lost in the midst of all the noise. But I cannot tell you how many times I have had this same conversation with other pastors. I think that reveals a fundamental truth about Southern Baptists: We’re a people of gratitude. We know we are the recipients of an unearned grace, saved from death, and have been raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4). And that’s why I’m thankful for a convention that cooperates to tell the world about the One who is the reason for the gratitude we have.