Life is more than just football games and weather forecasts. God made us spiritual beings and therefore spiritual discussions matter, said Taylor Sandlin, pastor of Southland Baptist Church in San Angelo, during the annual sermon for the 2015 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting.
At the Monday morning worship session held at the Dr Pepper Arena in Frisco, the Grand Chorus, a choir of college students from Dallas Baptist University, commenced the service with joyous singing, which echoed across the concrete walls of the arena.
Sandlin followed with the annual sermon and directed the audience's attention to Mark 12:28-34, where Jesus, after having debated with Pharisees and Sadducees, engaged in a discussion with a teacher of the law about the greatest commandments–to love God and to love your neighbors.
"[Baptists] are known on occasion for having lively debates," Sandlin said, joking about a few examples such as discussions over carpet colors and similar affairs. "But as Baptists, we have debates about spiritual matters because we believe the spiritual life matters."
Sandlin identified a few key historical figures who now stand as heroes simply because they chose to stand for what they believed in. William Carey, Lottie Moon and Martin Luther King, Jr. are only a few prime examples of leaders who used their dissenting voices to lead great movements.
"In a world as complex as ours, Baptists must continue to cherish and even encourage dissenting voices as we seek to obey Jesus' command to love our neighbors as ourselves," he said.
Oftentimes dissenting voices are belittled or ignored because they invite people to change their routines.
"Dissenting voices are those voices that often press us into new ways of living out the kingdom of God," Sandlin explained. "Our world is changing beneath our feet. It still remains in desperate need of the Gospel, but we have to be open to all of God's people, to all of the various places where the spirit of God might pop up."
Sandlin shared about his love for his children and how, though he loves them just the same, his expression of love is constantly changing. As they grow older, he must show them love in different ways.
Similarly, in order to love God and to love others, just as Jesus proclaimed as the two greatest commandments, Christians have to be open to changing the ways they express that love.
"If we can learn to love one another even in our disagreements," Sandlin said, "then Jesus just might say to us what he said to this man [in Mark 12:34]. 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'"
Sandlin concluded the sermon by applauding Baptists for traditionally valuing dissention and discussion, because it is what is needed to reach this rapidly changing world.