I was not raised within a Southern Baptist church and for many years I was anything but a Baptist – I was a confused “non-denominational guy” to say the least. But after much prayer and study I came to the conclusion to embrace the Southern Baptist tradition about five years ago. For the past three years I’ve served as a SBC pastor. I was an outsider who was welcomed into the fold.By God’s grace this past week I had the opportunity to attend my first Southern Baptist Convention. As one who wasn’t raised within this tradition, I was eager to observe and participate within this meeting. Since 1845, Southern Baptists have gathered together each year to discuss business and seek unity among its churches. SBC churches in friendly cooperation can send messengers to attend the meeting. I had the honor of being the messenger from my church. Among the many things I observed and learned, I want to highlight four reflections from my first convention.A Time of Diverse Service – I was honored to serve on the Credentials Committee this year. I was able to witness the process “from the inside” as we checked the messenger’s “credentials.” But what impacted me the most about this opportunity was the diversity among the committee. I served with a seminary vice president, a seminary professor, a few pastors, lay people, a director of missions, a mother of three, and many more. Regardless of position, age, gender, or race we all served the convention. This idea of service was apparent throughout the entire meeting. From President Ronnie Floyd, to the exhibitors, down to each committee I was impressed with the diverse service of the convention.A Desire for Missions and Evangelism – I attended the International Mission Board dinner on Monday night. David Platt spoke on the need to take the gospel to the nations. The call was clear – Southern Baptists must engage the mission of God to take the gospel to unreached peoples around the world. During his presentation, Platt used the example of a 50-member church making an impact upon 3 billion unreached people. As the pastor of a small church that averages 50-60 each Sunday, I began to weep with joy knowing that we can reach the nations for Christ. Another focus of the convention was the need for our SBC churches to be more evangelistic. At the pastor’s conference, Platt spoke on G.O.S.P.E.L and the need for evangelism. If we get the gospel right this should lead us to share the gospel. Southern Baptists can engage the mission of God in our local communities and among the nations.A Call for Unity Among Change – It was clear within the convention that there was a clear call for unity. Ronnie Floyd spoke about this in his President’s address and this unity was sensed among various meetings I attended. But I’m convinced unity was demonstrated in the vote for president. After a tense two votes that were too close to call, J.D. Greear withdrew his name Wednesday morning from the race. In this act of humility and leadership, Greear (who had my vote) pledged his support for Pastor Steve Gaines. As a young pastor, I have great respect for both Greear and Gaines. This act of humility was important for me and I hope other young Baptists. We must respect the older generation who has gone before us. We stand upon their shoulders. But I also think this moment spoke to the evitable transition from the older generation to the younger. I believe we’ve already seen this transition in ERLC and IMB. The time will come when a younger president will be elected. In light of this my younger brothers need to be patient and humble. The opportunity to lead will come. And my older brothers must allow the younger generation to step up and take leadership risks. The baton will be passed from one generation to the next. We can’t be scared of differing theological issues or even different ideas concerning the Cooperative Program. We must unite with a common purpose around the gospel. I believe if J.D. is nominated in 2018, the messengers will cast their vote for him, marking the transition. Among this, Southern Baptists must remain unified in our change as a convention.A Need for Gospel Encouragement – SBC16 was more than just a large business meeting among Baptists. It was a time of encouragement for pastors, lay leaders, and churches. I experienced this encouragement a few ways. I serve in a small East Texas church so having the opportunity to connect with other Southern Baptists of Texas pastors brought a great sense of encouragement on Monday night. The Baptist21 lunch on Tuesday fueled my passion for the gospel. Having the opportunity to reconnect with friends that I haven’t seen in a while was a great joy. Also being able to put a real face to someones twitter avatar was wonderful. Even driving nine hours with two other pastors strengthened my heart! I needed the encouragement and renewal.I am thankful that Grace Community Church supported me as I made the trip to SBC16. I sensed their prayers and support the entire time. After being back a few days, I’ve already received emails and phone calls from members who are excited to hear about what took place. I am greatly encouraged about the future of the SBC and look forward to the opportunity to reconnect in Phoenix next year (God willing). Until then I pray for my fellow brothers as they lead their churches. I pray for SBC churches to unite around the gospel. And I pray for the SBC to seek the Lord and stand for Truth in our changing culture.