Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber is featured in the September issue of the Illinois Baptist. An hour-long interview focused on key issues including women in pastoral ministry and “friendly cooperation.” Editor Eric Reed asked Barber to look ahead to the 2024 SBC in Indianapolis. They discussed the role of social media in our Baptist debate. And the pastor-rancher also gave us an update on his herd, which includes Lottie Moooon, Bully Graham, and his recent addition, Yadier Moolina, honoring his favorite team, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Here’s an excerpt:
Illinois Baptist: Let’s start with the convention in New Orleans. You’ve talked about having meetings where everybody is heard and everybody has opportunity to speak. Did the convention produce what you hoped for in tenor and participation?
Bart Barber: Yes. You’ve accurately picked up on something there. It’s probably by this point, at 53 years old, it’s less the matter of being a conscious goal and more the matter of just being my nature. We have monthly business meetings here at Farmersville. Even before that, I was on a parliamentary procedure team in the FFA (Future Farmers of America) when I was in high school, and so did this competitively. And I believe in our polity. I’m a congregationalist by conviction, by way of biblical exposition, I think. I remember when we were coming into the last opportunity to introduce new motions. I was working so hard to let everybody who wanted to make a motion make a motion. I don’t know how to be any different than that coming into Indianapolis next year.
After the failure of Jared Wellman’s nomination to be CEO of the Executive Committee, there was discussion about the tendency of people to adhere to their own narrative instead of listening to the larger conversation. How do we rebuild the trust between the leadership and the pew?
Our fundamental problem with that is the advent of social media, which is really sort of in its adolescence. I think we’re still trying to figure out how to use it. There’s a fine line to walk there. I’m probably more engaged on social media than some of my predecessors in the office of president. Frankly, there are people who have criticized that and have said, Man, you ought to just stay off of social media entirely, or just post cow pictures. But the thing is, if you cede the battlefield completely to the worst actors then that doesn’t help anybody getting healthier.
And I think that some of the pressure for transparency that’s found in social media is healthy for us. Southern Baptists gossiped for sure before there was social media. And social media has amplified that sometimes in some of the worst ways. But social media is also an amazing blessing and you don’t hear enough about that.
This December, get on Twitter and tweet something about your church meeting your Lottie Moon Christmas Offering goal. Odds are good that an IMB missionary will reply and say thank you. Yeah, that’s happening a lot in the last couple of years. And that kind of immediate connection and feedback is unprecedented and beautifully healthy.
With 21,000 Twitter followers, you appear to be making it work.
This is one of those corny things I do: I made a video with my cow, Lottie Moooon, promoting the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I made the Lottie Moooon Seal of Approval. And every time the church said that they met their goal, I tweeted that back out.
We need that kind of positive encouragement about what we’re doing to cooperate with one another. I think there’s tremendous potential for good through social media.
Are you thinking about what you will do after the convention in Indianapolis?
I have a powerful love for the Southern Baptist Convention and a very strong sense of ambition. The people of the Southern Baptist Convention have given me the task of presiding well in the preceding year and this year. And my ambition is to do my duty. My ambition is to be able to look Southern Baptists in the eye when the final gavel falls in Indianapolis and to know that with integrity and honesty and fairness to everyone, I served our family of churches the way I was asked to serve. And I am content to do that and fade back into obscurity.
And tend to the herd.
And tend to the herd.
The full interview is featured in the September issue of the Illinois Baptist.