LAKELAND—“It’s easy to get together. It’s a little tricky to stay together,” said Erik Cummings, bringing the President’s Message at the 2021 Florida Baptist State Convention annual meeting.
“It’s important in our context as a family of churches to stay together,” he said.
Focusing on Ephesians 4:1-7, Cummings said, “The reality is we’ve dealt with some bad … tough … sad times. These have been some interesting days in our lives individually and collectively.
“We have seen our Baptist battles play out on national media. We have seen ugliness spill out on social media where the casualties of friendly fire have been great … all while it seems our purpose and mission have taken a back seat, sadly.”
Cummings, who has served as the FBSC president for the past three years due to the cancellation of the 2020 meeting, added, “If you and I do not learn how to walk properly, we will never learn how to run or stand in the battles that we face. There is a cultural war going on, and our God is in charge and we need to stop letting culture dictate to the body of Christ and take our rightful position serving Him.
“God expects us as a body of believers to walk together in unity,” he said, describing unity as “a divine mandate.”
The tie that binds
Acknowledging the diversity among God’s people, in terms of backgrounds, cultures, economic situations and experiences, Cummings, lead pastor of New Life Baptist Church in Carol City said, “Your past may explain you, but it doesn’t exclude you from what God is calling you do do as a follower of Jesus Christ.”
Diversity of spiritual gifts within the church strengthens the body of believers, he said.
“Unity,” he said, “can be found in our shared creed–who we are.”
In John 17, the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed for unity among His people.
“Whatever our issue is, the God we serve is greater and the mission He has for us is bigger, but we’ve got to stay together.”
“We’ve got issues,” Cummings stated, “but we’ve got a graceful God.”
Believers are not called to “create unity,” but to “maintain what God has already provided in His church,” he explained, urging attendees “to walk worthy” of their calling and “cultivate right conduct.”
The Holy Spirit, he said, is “our bad decision blocker.”
“When we let Him have His way, we won’t make the bad decisions. He added, “Some of us have tweeted … posted … said some stuff, and the Lord didn’t tell you that—it was those eight-day old collard greens.
“If Jesus can pull you out of addiction … brokenness … a whole lot of issues or sins, He can help you not tweet some of this foolishness that’s dividing the body of Christ.”
He called on attendees to humble themselves and to be motivated by love in all that they do.
“Passionately pursue unity. The body of Christ is fragile, and it needs protection. It must be protected and guarded.”
The essentials we need
The “product of our unity,” he said, is growth and maturity in Christ.
Cummings expressed love for the diversity and multi-ethnicity of his Florida Baptist family and encouraged ongoing unity within the convention.
Unity in Christ, he said, “means we are marked by a common purpose, led by a common Savior.”
When Cummings was a child, his father told him that everything he saw on television—even professional wrestling–is not true. “I need to remind you,” he said, “that everything you see on social media is not true.”
Believers, he said, are on a winning team. “When you get to the end of Revelation, in the end we win. It’s important that we stay together.
“Let’s stay with God’s plan for his church. Let’s stay together, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, let’s stay together.”