Compiled from Baptist Press
NASHVILLE — Willie McLaurin expresses a difference between working “in the business” and working “on the business.”
“So many leaders, they’re working in the business. They’re putting out fires. They’re crossing the Ts and dotting the Is. That’s working in the business,” McLaurin said. “But I’ve learned how to work on the business.
“That just simply means that on a regular basis, I have to constantly plan (for) the future. I need to be thinking strategically about the future, vision casting and just thinking futuristically about our work together. So somebody has to be thinking and working on the business.”
With 20 years of service in Southern Baptist leadership, much of it with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, McLaurin is approaching 100 days into his post as interim president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee.
Between much travel and many meetings in serving an increasingly diverse body of Southern Baptists, he sat down with Baptist Press to reflect on issues related to his job and Southern Baptist life.
McLaurin spoke of his appreciation for being warmly received by Southern Baptists, and the joys and challenges of leadership at this particular time in history. The importance and health of the local church, committed pastors, entities he described as Christ-centered and a diligent Executive Committee staff were among topics.
He addressed unity in the SBC, as opposed to uniformity. He views the challenge of restoring unity across the SBC as among the most important faced.
“No network of churches is without its challenges. And I think if you would ask any number of Southern Baptists what the challenges are, that they will articulate those challenges from their culture, from their context or from their point of view,” he said. “We just need to make sure that as a network of churches, a network of Great Commission Baptists, that we are unified around the core issues.
“We’re unified around the gospel. We’re unified around the fact that there are people that are lost and they’re on their way to hell and they need Jesus, and that we’re unified around the fact that we’ve got to get the gospel to our nations and our neighborhood.”
At the time of his interview, Southern Baptists were weeks away from the SBC annual meeting and its subsidiary events June 12-15 in Anaheim, Calif.
Uplifting and promoting the Cooperative Program around which Southern Baptists have united for nearly a century, churches from around the U.S. renewing friendships and fellowshiping onsite, and new relationships that will last a lifetime are among exciting things he describes as awaiting Southern Baptists in Anaheim.
Also in Anaheim, messengers will respond to the Sexual Abuse Task Force report delving into the past 20 years of the Executive Committee’s handling of any complaints of sexual abuse that might have come before the EC. McLaurin has prayed for task force leaders and pastors Bruce Frank and Marshall Blalock, and SBC President Ed Litton, offering the EC’s support in making their work in leading the investigation as efficient and effective as possible.
Following the report on May 22, McLaurin and Roland Slade, chair of the SBC Executive Committee, released the following statement:
“To the members of the survivor community, we are grieved by the findings of this investigation. We are committed to doing all we can to prevent future instances of sexual abuse in churches, to improve our response and our care, to remove reporting roadblocks and to respond to the will of the messengers in Anaheim next month.
“This is the beginning of a season of listening, lamenting and learning how to address sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention.
“God has blessed the Sexual Abuse Task Force and Guidepost with His wisdom in developing this report and offering insight into how we all can take steps to eliminate sexual abuse within the Convention. In striving for this goal, we recognize there are no shortcuts. We must all meet this challenge through prudent and prayerful application, and we must do so with Christ-like compassion.”
McLaurin is the first African American ever to lead an SBC entity, even in an interim capacity. He has expressed gratitude for the warm reception extended to him by entity leaders, pastors and Southern Baptists across the nation, and the EC’s unanimous affirmation of his appointment by EC officers.
“That unanimous affirmation by our trustees is a representation of a wide network of churches that are in the Southern Baptist Convention. Here’s what I’ve learned about Southern Baptists in this short time. They love Jesus, they love the church, they love each other, they have a heart to see lost people won to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Humbling for McLaurin is the ability to serve as interim EC CEO in a convention birthed in the era of slavery. “Even though we are a diverse convention, the vast majority of our brothers and sisters are Anglo,” he said. “I’ve been kissed by nature’s sun. And we are a convention that, for the 177 years of its history, was started out of slavery, if you would. So now, to have a descendant of a slave to lead in the convention, and to see just the openness and receptivity of all kinds of people has just been absolutely humbling.
“And it really is a direct reflection of what I see in the local church.” B&R