Briefly, I want to mention some areas where I see a real disconnect in the SBC. These disconnects reflect the areas were reform has yet to take root and much work can and should be done to bridge the gaps. Here are some that come to my mind:
1. Formal principle and material principle – The formal principle of the recovery of inerrancy sets the structure for the emphasis of the material principle, the sufficiency of Scripture and recovery of the gospel. While we should rejoice in the former, we should lament that the latter has not yet occurred. Holding to the belief that the Bible is true and authoritative, we must now look at what it says about the gospel, the church and mission as well as not presuming upon the Bible with our preferences or culturally acquired predispositions. If the Scriptures are sufficient, we should let them speak, and if they are authoritative, we should obey.
2. 1st generation and 2nd generation of Conservative Resurgence – There are two conversations taking place in the SBC in two different generations. The elder generation thinks the younger doesn’t appreciate their efforts, trying to redo what they fought for. The younger generation thinks the older generation is just looking for another fight in the advance of their political dominance. There must be a way to get past each other’s stereotypes and start a genuine transgenerational conversation. Jimmy Draper did it in 2004-2005, and I applaud him for that effort. The younger generation looks to men outside of the SBC for heroes and mentors, such as Piper, MacArthur, and Keller; the older generation looks within the SBC to such men as Hobbs, Rogers, and Criswell. The younger generation will be found at conferences such as T4G, Gospel Coalition, Passion, Shepherds Conference, and DGCON, while the older generation will be found at various state convention pastor’s conferences, state evangelism conferences, and of course, the annual meeting of the SBC. A couple of anomalies to this trend, however, has been the Baptist Identity Conferences under the direction of Dr. David Dockery and the Convergent Conference led by Dr. Danny Akin–both which have engendered ministers from both generations. If there are no meaningful ties between the first and second generations of the Conservative Resurgence, then there is no guarantee it will continue in the future. Just look at some of the flagship mega-churches and the problems they are having today. Succession is a great challenge before us that we cannot overlook.
3. Academia and local churches – In my short tenure as a Southern Baptist minister, I have spent equal time in both–four years in seminary, and four years ministering in a local church. I can speak from personal experience that the gap between what students experience in seminary and what students-turned-pastors experience in local churches is vast, which speaks to some of the problem with young ministers trying to apply a philosophy of ministry and theological vision foreign to many churches today. For instance, most Baptist history professors in our seminaries argue for plurality of elders (which I agree), but how many churches have that form of church government? Most systematic theology classes teach Reformed theology, but how many churches believe in the doctrines of grace? Most seminaries teach in homiletic classes that a preach should preach expository messages, but how many churches have pastors currently preaching expository messages through books of the Bible? Young ministers often receive rebuke and chided for ministerial failure in their pastorates. But are they the only ones who bear culpability?
4. Theology and methodology – There are some in the SBC who want to emphasize methodology for the sake of church growth. They are usually in the pragmatic wing, developing new and innovative programs and techniques to grow SBC churches. On the other hand, there are others in the SBC who want to emphasize truth and biblical theology for the sake of church health. The former is looking to size; the latter is looking to soundness. I am of the conviction that ones methodology flows out of ones theology and that the two cannot be divorced from one another. However, we come to the day where theological emphasis in the church is considered taboo, divisive, and counter-productive to church growth. The disconnect between theology and methodology has produced an ecclesiological landscape with massive structures without any foundations.
These are just a few of the areas of disconnect that come to mind my mind. Perhaps you can think of others. I just thought it might be helpful to point out some problem areas where attention could be given. More to come . . .