Published on February 14, 2024 by Neal Embry  

Current Southern Baptist Convention President Bart Barber spent time with Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School students and members of the greater Birmingham community Feb. 12, encouraging them to pursue unity within their churches.

During a lunchtime visit, Barber, who wraps up his presidency this June, talked with students about both challenges and opportunities present in SBC life.

While many Americans have indicated no connection to a Christian church or to historic evangelical belief, Barber said those outside of Christ are experiencing a dissatisfaction in life without Christ. There is a lack of deeper meaning to life, and they are learning the sexual revolution is not serving them well, he said.

“This is a moment of opportunity for the gospel and for spiritual awakening in the cultural context we live in,” Barber said.

Within the convention, there are plenty of job opportunities, but hiring pastors has proven difficult, Barber said, as the average-size SBC church cannot afford more than one staff member.

In the wake of sex abuse scandals that have affected the SBC, Barber said it is vital churches learn quickly how to prevent abuse from happening. Speaking to students preparing for ministry, Barber also said they must be prepared to fight their own sinful flesh.

“If you are not prepared to fight that battle and fight it hard, please do something else,” Barber said.

After visiting with Samford University leadership, Barber preached a message of striving for unity from Romans 15:1-7 in Beeson’s historic Hodges Chapel.

“Pursuing unity is not an elective,” Barber said. “It is part of the core curriculum.”

While it is easier to get in fights and win with those who cause pain or stress, the command given by God in Romans 15 is to bear with them, Barber said, and to build them up.

“If you’re going to take care of the flock, you’re going to have to do things that are uncomfortable for you,” Barber said.

Discipleship and helping church members grow in their faith is the hallmark of good pastoral leadership, Barber said.

“Your church is not going to survive very long without you if you don’t do the work of taking some people who are weaker, and even though it’s not pleasant, building them up to be the strong people that you hand off to the pastor who comes behind you,” Barber said. “That’s the mark of your ministry. Not how memorable your sermons are, not how the budget came in under your leadership, not the buildings that you built. It’s the saints you sent out.”

Barber pointed listeners to the cross, showing what Jesus did to save His people and bring them together.

Barber finished his sermon by encouraging God’s people to welcome each other, as God commands in Romans 15:7.

“Welcomes are powerful because the Spirit of God is powerful,” Barber said.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.