Sometimes the truth hurts, Bart Barber shared during his president’s address June 13 during the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
For the SBC president, who is a loyal St. Louis Cardinals fan, that means acknowledging his team is “having a really bad year so far.”
“I can’t dispute the truth,” he said. “I don’t like it, but I can’t dispute the truth of that.”
Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church Farmersville, Texas, noted during his 30-plus minute address, it is important to acknowledge the difficult realities of life. But he also challenged Southern Baptists to not miss the beauty around us. Preaching from Phil. 4:8–9, he focused on the things we are to dwell on as followers of Christ.
Being a follower of Christ, he said, is going to impact the things that we see as true, beautiful and worth dwelling on.
He also noted that Christianity changes our view of what is true and beautiful.
“God is calling us to dwell on the right things,” he said. “He’s calling us to dwell on things with a distinctively Christian sense of taste.”
‘Tainted by the fall’
He acknowledged that as humans our taste has been “tainted by the fall,” and said we are fallen people — “your fallen sense of taste needs to be cultivated and trained just like mine.”
“There are going to be truths that the world doesn’t like,” Barber said. “There are going to be truths that I don’t like, or that you don’t like, but they’re no less true. They’re no less beautiful.”
“Here are some true statements — indisputably true,” he noted. “Boys can’t become girls. That’s true, but it’s controversial to some people. Some people don’t like it. Marriage is between a man and a woman. That’s true, but there are people in the world who don’t like it. Local autonomous churches that want to prevent sexual abuse could benefit from some help. That’s true. That’s something that we’re trying to address and help with.”
Southern Baptists should have a taste for and embrace truth, not condemn it, he emphasized.
“We have to realize that even when truths are controversial or painful or difficult, the lies with which we would replace the truth are always uglier — and far more damaging,” he said. “When we speak truths that the world does not want to hear, we don’t do it in order to debase the conversation or make the world uglier, we do it because we have a taste for the beauty of truth.”
Barber also addressed how Southern Baptists can become so critical of each other that they miss the beautiful things that are happening in the convention, things like missionaries being sent around the globe and new church plants being started. Southern Baptists should be able to celebrate these things, he said, even though these successes are often met with challenges.
Evaluating the state of our hearts
Southern Baptists need to look at the state of their hearts, he urged.
“If you’re not sure about the state of your heart, Google knows. Facebook knows. Twitter knows. The algorithm knows,” he said. “It watches you every time you click ‘Like.’
“Santa Claus ain’t got nothing on Facebook,” he said. “It knows when you’re sleeping. It knows when you are awake. And it knows when you like bad or good, and if your wall or your feed, if it constantly brings you a steady barrage of fear and criticism and anger, you are being shown a mirror image of your aesthetic, of your sense of taste, of your theory about what is beautiful.”
Barber noted, “In this passage Jesus is calling us to rise up and to be better than this world. What if we did that? What if we obeyed His command?”
Barber closed by sharing what Southern Baptists should be about.
“This convention exists to proclaim and serve Jesus as Lord,” he said. “And this convention exists to serve others for Jesus’ sake.”
Don’t miss the beauty around us
And Southern Baptists should be able to see the beauty in that.
“My dad taught me to see the beauty in God’s Word, but it was my momma who taught me to see the beauty in people,” said Barber, who noted his mother passed away on Sunday, June 11.
“My mom saw the beauty in people,” he said. “She learned to see the beauty in people around her, and because of that she changed people’s lives.”
Barber encouraged Southern Baptists to “have the courage to call a spade a spade when you need to do that, but also have the good sense to call a masterpiece God’s masterpiece when you encounter it.”
“There is so much beauty around us,” he said. “Keep looking, Southern Baptists, keep looking.”