As recently as six months ago, Stetzer said he considered stepping down from denominational leadership, frustrated by “some people who just want to keep bombing the rubble.” He said he longs for a time when enough theological clarity has been offered to put a greater focus on being “missional.”
Some of you might remember this situation with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC). If not go here for the details. Stetzer is not the only one frustrated and looking for the exit sign. Unfortunately, as the younger generation sees the SBC take its focus off the Great Commission, they will continue to look elsewhere for networking and associations outside the denominational structures. Stetzer asserts,
“If the focus is going to be elsewhere, then we’re going to depopulate this denomination. We’ve already driven off much of the young leaders.”
Earlier this summer, I wrote about the outsourcing of the SBC. In that article I stated,
You see, there are many and varied things that are attracting Southern Baptists, new and old alike, to find their identity and ministry elsewhere, and there is little reason to stay and hang around. When they read about the controversy of alcohol and the fact that you cannot attend a conference without being questioned about it, they are being pushed to the periphery. When they see the triumphalistic attitudes of those leading the Convention, they are quick to be removed from their shadow. When they are told that they have to jump to certain political and bureaucratic hoops to plant churches, go on the mission field, or pastor churches, they become weary of traditions of men. When other gospel-driven church planting networks are maligned by Executive Committee members, they prefer to be maligned with them.
In order to stop the bleeding and seek to turn the tide against the outsourcing (depopulating of our denomination), I suggested three things:
1. Labor to build new bridges in the SBC. I see men like Danny Akin and David Dockery leading the way in this regard.
2. Protect and defend the bridges that still exist. I don’t see anybody doing this at this point.
3. Call out those who are burning bridges in the SBC. I don’t see anybody doing this either.
One out of three is not bad. It’s a start. But I fear the latter two require a level of courage and sacrifice that is presently nonexistent in the SBC leadership. Whoever steps up and takes that challenge deserves all of our support. Organizations know that when they lose sight of their purpose for existing, shadow purposes will rise up and supplant the original purpose for existing. The SBC originally came together for the purpose of missions and evangelism. Twenty-five years after the Conservative Resurgence, we have not seen a Great Commission Resurgence (a term used by Dr. Danny Akin). Is it not a peculiar day when a denomination that increases in membership has 90% of churches in decline with future leaders looking elsewhere to minister? Could it be that we have lost our purpose for existing? Could it be that we have lost our Baptist identity? Could it be that we have lost the gospel during the same time we have recovered the inerrancy of Scripture?
Indeed, it could.