I’ve been thinking for a while about some things in the SBC…. Recent conversations over the last several months and the discussion going on at large right now about our structure has led to this perhaps being the time to share a few thoughts….
Let me first say that as an ordained SBC minister, I became Southern Baptist by conviction not by birthright. That said, a few of my views are probably outsider. Please don’t tune me out though, lets have a conversation in the comments.
Been thinking about this so I’m just going to ramble by thoughts. The CP (cooperative program) is a point of pride right now in the SBC and perhaps has always been. That idol needs to come down. The Lord can bless us beyond measure with far fewer funds if we simply walk in obedience and faithfulness. And who knows, He may pour out lavishly if we would deal with our idols as a denomination and return to doctrinal integrity. Just calling it like I see it but we’ve hired someone to yell at us to give more to the CP. Personally, could care less.
What is going on in the convention is simply a reflection of what is going on in far too many of our churches.
We must return to faithfulness and prayer. Not every evangelism initiative is a good thing. Not every church planting initiative is a good thing. Are we not reaping the closures and plateau rate we are in now to some degree because of our haste to reach goals? Have we not sponsored church splits and those with an unsubmissive spirit to start their own thing at times because they are mad about their own church? I do not want to be too harsh here, I realize there is no foolproof plan. But their does seem to be some fruit along these lines. Church health, not church growth should be our focus. Denominationally and congregationally. Being the “largest denomination” is an idol that we need to quit spewing and be willing to be honest about. If each church updated their true membership lists and we booted a few doctrinally looney churches, we’d probably see a truer picture than we paint as a denomination. And we may not be the “biggest.”
If we are a cooperative fellowship and not a denomination then I think NAMB (North American Mission Board) and IMB (International Mission Board) need to be changed in terms of their process. More involvement by the local church, the entities becoming more of an administrative board to handle confidentiality and deployment of our missionaries. As it is right now, there is not much church involvement. Missionaries should be sent out from our churches even if we can’t fully support financially like our Missionary Baptist brothers and sisters, the local church should evaluate and “endorse” the call. Additionally, NAMB and the IMB need to have missionaries in line with our doctrine…we could potentially do far more focusing more on equipping indigenous pastors. Really appreciate getting to know Charles Brock shortly before he passed and many of the ideas he championed about indigenous church planting and simplicity in ministry. Excited about opportunities in missions to the US and Internationally that I personally know local SBC churches doing and in full support of continuing! Not sure to what degree if at all our entities are involved directly in their involvement. But supporting ABWE missionaries, VOM, Samaritan’s Purse, etc. is not a sacrilegious thing either. Because all of our CP giving is published as churches and, at times, a badge of pride from year to year, we must be careful not to think less of those who give less. We have no real idea how much ministry is being funded that is not “Southern Baptist manned.”
Our seminaries…as much respect as I have for many of our professors and our seminary presidents, we need more Bible institutes and local church mentorships, less academia and scholarship. In the future, I’m not sure seminaries will be the predominant method of training (Bonhoeffer underground ‘pastor training’ may be us one day). Even one-on-one of pastors mentoring associate Timothys (2 Tim 2:2). Jesus developed 12 disciples, and He didn’t found a college. Yes, He did use a workshop/retreat/intensive training format with the 70. The lesser known SBC Seminary Extension would be an excellent resource to develop further for accredited local church Bible institutes and lay training.
Lifeway lost my trust a long time ago, they are largely an unaccountable corporation that sells a number of doctrinally questionable resources. When I’ve pastored or consult with a church, I don’t recommend much of their material. Moody has a better grid, while no publisher will be prefect.
ERLC (Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), has had a number of issues recently. Not sure we really need a public theology/apologetics agency at all. State conventions can organize effectively associations of such ministries. My state convention does so.
Guidestone is a very helpful resource for our pastors. But again, its an administrative resource.
EC (Executive Committee) should be pretty much just an administrative board, not a “corporation board.” Unless we are going to develop some form of denominational presbytery like the AG, we are heading down a road of CEO and elitism…which will lead to politicking. And it will lead to 40 years in the wilderness rather than a Book of Acts church fellowship.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly affirmation of the BFAM 2000 (Baptist Faith and Message) should be the grid for cooperation, not simply CP giving. We have some large questionable churches part of the SBC right now that won’t likely get the boot because of their size even though doctrinally they are shaky at best and outright in disagreement with at worst.
P.S. I do not think we should be schismatic or splinter off into other denominations. A new denomination is not the answer. The SBC worts and all is still full of churches that I love. I know so many dear people in our churches. And the church is people, Christ’s people. We need to address some things honestly. It’s not time to run, it is time to get honest in prayer before the Lord about who we are and what our warts are.