The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) faces some challenges. We have slowly declined in recent years. We have less members and attenders. The decline in evangelistic effectiveness is especially troubling. But there is opportunity.
Our fellowship has not always been stellar. We can be cantankerous towards each other and our disagreements are not always handled as agreeably as they should be. Sometimes we find ourselves unnecessarily snarky. But there is opportunity.
We have vacancies at the leadership of two major agencies– the International Mission Board and the Executive Committee. These are critical roles and there are no perfect people to lead them. But there is opportunity.
God provides opportunities for us in difficult times. Perhaps this is a time of great opportunity for the SBC. Maybe the Lord has great things in store for us as we consider our future.
What if our decline in attendance and baptisms leads us to less pride in our abilities and more dependence upon the Lord? What if it leads us to greater passion for lost people and a renewed emphasis upon obeying the Lord in sharing the gospel with others? Might not God pour out his blessings on a group of people who depend upon him deeply and care about others more compassionately?
And what if our animosities could be seen as a poor witness and feeble testimony? What if we decided to express sincere disagreements with kindness and understanding instead of rancor and derision? Might not this be a beacon of hope to what seems to be a hopelessly divided nation? Might not our love for each other be evidence of the Lord’s work to heal our broken condition? Might not the Lord pour out his blessings on a group that disagrees respectfully and loves unconditionally?
And what if our open leadership positions remind us that we are dependent upon God and not on man? What if we recognize that there are no perfect men– but we do have a perfect Savior who accomplishes his work through frail, fallen humanity? What if those chosen to lead in these areas are prayed for, encouraged and supported as none before? Might not God pour out his blessings on a group that seeks such blessing?
This is a time of great opportunity for the Southern Baptist Convention. I’m praying God uses us to do great things for his glory and honor in the days ahead. Will you join me in that prayer?
If I had to guess, I’d observe that the things you listed seem to be, to you, the problems in the SBC. Perhaps the causes for our current state and trends. If that is the case, I disagree.
We are now and always have been zealous for evangelism. But God’s response to that has been to send us great numbers of people. For many years. But where we have failed is not in evangelism, but in discipleship. In affirming 16 million, or so, people who seem to attend our worship services and Bible studies about 1/3 of the time.
We also have lost sight of the fact that the people God sends us are His doing …. not a simple result of our efforts. And in the face of the command to make disciples … not converts … we have failed with most of the Great Commission, and the people He has sent us to disciple.
I cannot understand why this goes without attention, other than the time-worn rationalizations that “It’s not my fault”.
I agree that we need a greater emphasis on discipleship. I’ve written on that subject often. Deeper discipleship will certainly be a blessing, thanks!
Amen. Some good ole gospel unity can drive the snarky out of our churches. Essentials unity!!
Instead of asking so many “what ifs” we should be looking to see “what goes?” or in the words of Henry Blackaby: “What is God actually already doing-locally, nationally and internationally so that we can join Him in His work of Redemption wherever His Spirit is working. Paul predicted two centuries ago in the third chapter of his 2nd epistle to Timothy that there would be a great falling away in the last days. While it is indeed sad that that falling away is reflected in our own denomination it seems to be even worse in other “mainline denominations.” Nonetheless, we cannot just point fingers or ask what if questions when all He requires of us is to remain faithful to His calling and continue to preach the full gospel to any and all who have ears to hear.
The great Scotish Presbyterian preacher of two centuries ago the late James Stewart said it better than I ever could when he proclaimed: “if we can but show the world today the Christian life is no tame, humdrum sheltered monotony, than those standing outside the church, looking askance at Christ, will come crowding in to pay their allegiance, and we might well expect the greatest revival since Pentacost. Such is the zeal we need to day to complete our unfinished task of reaching the 2.4 billion who still have not heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. So let us keep going into the fields and marketplace.
Good words, all. BTW, if I have the right man in mind, James Stewart was born in the 19th century (so it’s two centuries ago in a sense), but he lived in the 20th century, and I got to meet him in his church after hearing him preach in 1966. My dad (a Carson-Newman, Belmont, Ouachita prof) did his PhD at Edinburgh, where he had contact with Stewart. When we returned with dad to Edinburgh, he took us to hear and meet this fabled preacher, and we spent time with him in his study.
I never met James, but I watch Jimmy each Christmas! 🙂