When Young, Southern Baptist…And Irrelevant? was first published in the Baptist Courier in late February, I didn’t anticipate the response and conversation that it has generated across the Southern Baptist Convention. In fact, I have been amazed at how the simple, personal reflection that was first drafted in October of 2010 out of concern for our vision and mission as a denomination has struck such a deep chord with so many Southern Baptists.
As I write this update, I understand that Young, Southern Baptist…And Irrelevant? has been printed in at least seven state convention papers in the Southeast, Northeast, Midwest and Western United States.
Admittedly, I have been criticized for my statements and sincerely respect their opinions. At the same time, I have been commended by numerous pastors, members and convention leaders from California to Michigan and from Florida to Missouri.
I am tremendously humbled and honored by the prayers and words of support and I share their deep concern for our convention. That is why I am strengthened in my resolve by the pleas to continue to “stand up” and “speak out.” Almost every commendation letter, email or phone call began with “I’ve been feeling the same way for years. . .”
The truth is that our denomination stands at a critical crossroads. The road we choose will determine the success or failure of our fellowship. Some will deny or decry that truth. Some will lament the tone of the discussion and express personal offense to it. Others will spin the issue into simply coats and ties versus jeans and t-shirts.
However, it will be doctrine, not dress; structure, not style; commitment, not contemporary music that will prove to be our convention’s greatest challenge. To suggest otherwise is to deny the existence of or divert our attention from the 2000lb elephant in the room.
So, what is the challenge we face as a denomination? I believe that it is our cooperation and identification as Southern Baptists. Some perceive the SBC as just another small part of the movement of God in the world. However, I believe that local churches partnering together for the Great Commission through the Cooperative Program make Southern Baptists the most powerful and Scriptural mission force in the world. If I did not believe that to be true, I would move post haste to find and join one that I believed fit that description.
As a son of the Conservative Resurgence, I vividly remember sitting with my father through long days in hot, crowded, and contentious convention halls. I recall him enduring the late night phone calls and nasty letters of those who were indignant at his stand on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture.
Therefore, I have difficulty believing that those courageous Christians from across our nation who sacrificed so greatly during the Conservative Resurgence anticipated that the convention would be at this crossroads so soon afterward. I pray that the Lord will raise up some bold, believing Baptist men and women of God to lead us to once again be the mighty missionary force that He has in His heart that we would be.