During the Conservative Resurgence, I heard several people say, “I don’t care who wins this battle, I am going with the Annuity Board.” That comment always rang hollow. Now, don’t get me wrong, the older I get, the more I understand the need to protect retirement funds. But, that doesn’t seem like a reason to stay part of a denomination. In the face of current SBC conflict and crisis, people are asking questions about staying.
Should we stay with the Southern Baptist Convention?
Several years ago, I was in South Asia talking with a SEBTS colleague. We were lamenting the tendency of younger Southern Baptists who were allowing their frustration to lure them away from the SBC. In the end, we agreed, if everyone left the SBC one of us would turn off the lights, and the other could lock the door. In other words, we were going to stick it out and stay with the SBC.
What makes us choose to stay part of the SBC in the face of conflict, crisis, and embarrassment?
As I think about it, there are three reasons I will choose to stay in the SBC.
1. The Family
Southern Baptists are my people.
We speak the same language. We laugh at the same jokes. We share the same stories. When I think about the best friends I have, the deepest ministry partners I work with, and the greatest people I know — they are Southern Baptists.
Without question, there are some Southern Baptists that I struggle to identify with. People say things I don’t like. People do things I disagree with. Sometimes I click my tongue on the roof of my mouth and shake my head. But Southern Baptists are my immediate Christian family.
When people complain and talk about leaving the SBC, I sympathize with many of their concerns. But I ask, “Where can we go? This is home.”
2. The Heritage
In the introduction of my book, Together on God’s Mission, I write:
I am a life-long Southern Baptist. Through the “cradle roll” program, my name was on the roll of a Southern Baptist church months before I was born. I am a product of the Southern Baptist Convention. I was saved, mentored, and called to ministry in a Southern Baptist church. I received my education through Southern Baptist schools. I have been honored to serve on the staff of several Southern Baptist churches and as part of the administration and faculty of a Southern Baptist seminary. My passion for missions and my missionary experience is a result of the Southern Baptist Convention’s work. The greatest commandment is to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Southern Baptists have helped me to love God in all of these areas. The Lord has used this convention to make me who I am.
There is plenty in the history of the SBC that we should be ashamed of. We have worked to rectify some of these. We still have work to do on others. I am praying we will have the courage to keep moving forward on these. But, my personal heritage, my spiritual heritage, is anchored in the Southern Baptist Convention. How can we walk away from the people who birthed us?
3. The Mission
The mission of the SBC gets me out of bed in the morning and keeps me laboring through the night. The mission to take the gospel to the unreached and unevangelized people of this world. The mission to strengthen and empower the local churches to pursue God’s mission in their neighborhoods and through their people. The mission to raise up a new generation of leaders who will preach with clarity, evangelize with courage, and challenge the establishments with prophetic zeal. When I look at the visible mission of other denominations and Christian organizations, none of them fire me up like the mission of the SBC.
JD Greear has written an excellent post on SBC cooperation and the value of mission (Cooperating Together). Take a few minutes and read it. I am not asking you to read JDs blog because you agree with him. The post is a good summary of the work of the SBC and how it supports the ministry of the local church. We should all consider how the mission of the SBC can compel you and your church to embrace more fully God’s mission.
Let's not forget, the SBC is not a twitter handle:
- We are teams serving in hurricane-ravaged areas, bringing hope to desperate people
- We are hundreds of young men and women who will graduate and go bravely into difficult areas of ministry and mission.
- We are missionary teams from hundreds of local churches partnering with long-term missionaries around the world, bringing the light of the gospel into the darkness
- We are churches across this country that, week after week, labor in our communities to spread the healing balm of Jesus to families, neighborhoods, and individuals.
- We are preachers who study, pray, and preach.
- We are missionaries who are struggling to live in foreign countries, but who do so with joy because of the gospel.
- We are regular men and women, teenagers, boys, and girls who struggle to live for Jesus in a world that desperately needs to know him.
- The list could go on, but I think we get the point.
I can’t imagine a future without an influential Southern Baptist Convention. Scratch that — I don’t want to imagine a future without an influential Southern Baptist Convention. Current headlines showcase our internal problems, but they miss so much else that we are.