About a year and a half ago, my friend Nathan Finn asked the question, “What are the most pressing issues facing the Southern Baptist Convention?” I revisited my answer yesterday and felt portions of it deserved a re-post. Prior to the push about a Great Commission Resurgence, there wasn’t a clear narrative about what to do or where to go in the future, and still with the current GCR Task Force, I wonder to what degree or role the gospel plays in the formation of the future. So in light of where Southern Baptists are today, I want to say it once again: our greatest problem and our greatest need is the gospel. Here’s what I wrote.
The most pressing issue facing the SBC in 2008 is the gospel. The one thing that precludes cooperation is (unfortunately) the gospel. Together, the biggest issue in the SBC is the “problem” of the gospel (no gospel consensus) as the leading cause for precluding cooperation. Now I know that may sound really simplistic, but we as Baptists have a way of complicating things and stressing peripherals and wandering from the center.
But more specifically, I’m talking about how the gospel relates to the way we evangelize, the way we preach, the way we structure our churches, the way we do mission work, why and with whom we cooperate, and on and on. Affinity-based cooperation that transcends denominational structures are growing because of the emphasis on the gospel, while the SBC is divided and disillusioned by controversy and “Baptist battles.”
If we are going to see a “Great Commission Resurgence” as Dr. Akin puts it, we must recover the gospel and its primacy in everything we do. It is the power of God unto salvation, and it ought to be the hub of the SBC wheel that moves us forward in this new century. And the thing I fear the most is how easy it is to tip our hats to a sentimental appreciation of the gospel in a comment like this but not be willing to pay the price to go anywhere beyond that.
I could talk about the $280+ million dollars fleeced each year in the SBC bureaucracy from the CP;
I could talk about the megachurches that have more “inactive members” than the entire population of most cities in the heartland;
I could talk about the arbitrary lines of “true conservatism” being promulgated around nonessentialism;
I could mention the fact that Southern Baptists are no different from the world in matters of divorce, materialism, infidelity, etc.;
I could provide for you 22+ pages of documentation of a conspiratorial, systematic assault on Reformed theology in the SBC over the past two decades;
I could talk about the extremely small percentage of churches who participate in denominational life;
I could talk about the Southern Baptist blogs that annoy me because they would rather go tit-for-tat about self-perpetuating controversies and denominational politics while never writing a thing about the great need for our churches and pulpits needing to return to faithfulness to Christ;
I could continue this thread of one problem after another, but the truth is, we are more interested in this list than the first thing I said about the gospel–and therein lies the heart of the problem.
I love the SBC, but I love the gospel more. There’s nothing I long to see in my lifetime than we present ourselves as a convention of churches before God in all humility and honesty that desires to take the mission and message of Christ seriously, leaving all else behind for the sake of His name. My confidence is found nowhere else than this, and despite all the flaws, faults, and failures, I am ever hopeful because I believe the gospel will change and transform an undeserving sinner like me to live as a dying man with an everlasting message.