It has been 28 years since the start of the Conservative Resurgence. Many valiant men found a hill on a which to die and fought for the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. For as long as I have been alive, I have been a beneficiary of the sacrifice and courage of such men.
During the past three decades, much has changed. The Bible is unapologetically held as God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word. Seminaries which taught liberal theology are all soundly conservative. The liberals (“moderates”) have left to form their own Baptist organization (CBF). In 2007, one would be led to believe that all is well with the SBC. The second generation of Southern Baptists after the Conservative Resurgence (of which I am a part) is on the SBC cruiseliner and enjoying the victories that the first generation fought for.
Yet all is not okay.
In a day where we are not fighting liberals, we have become known for fighting ourselves. Wrangling about nonessential matters, we have arbitrarily created litmus tests for cooperation and without warrant made for ourselves definitions for what is a “true conservative.” We have gone from a wartime mentality to domestic infighting, like little kids in the back seat of the SBC shouting, “I know you are, but what am I?”
Necessary fights we aren’t fighting. Unnecessary fights are front page news. We not only don’t know who to fight, but we don’t know when to fight, why to fight, and how to fight. In this SBC cruiseliner, we are debating the style of the musician on stage while neglecting the hole that is sinking the ship. How did we come to this?
I don’t think I have the answer to that question. But somehow by God’s grace, we must turn this cruiseliner into a battleship. We must develop a wartime mentality and once again come together on a united front. You know, there are some things that just don’t matter in a time of war. And in this war, it is not over who is conservative and who is not (according to your own criteria), but the state of our churches, the recovery of the gospel, and mission which we have been entrusted by our Commander in Chief.
It was that faithful soldier Paul who said that no soldier of Christ entangles himself in the civilian affairs of this life because he wants to please his commanding officer (2 Tim. 2:4). So what will it take to move from the SBC cruiseliner to the SBC battleship?
It will require that we take a wartime budget and sacrifice for the mission. Churches who are spending 75% of their budget on their staffs and building projects could spend half that and invest in planting other churches and supporting missionaries around the world. It will require wartime perspective on everyday life with a conscious awareness that we have been given a mission to accomplish, and this mission is for everyone, not just those overseas. All personal agendas and investments are subservient to this larger mission. It will require that we be willing to personally pay the price. There will be some who will be on the front lines, likely to become casualties in the cause of advance.
These are just a few areas that I see change needing to take place if the SBC is going to keep from turning itself into the Titanic. Do we have men who are willing to sacrifice personal prestige, political friendships, and financial gain for the sake of the mission? Will there be churches who reevaluate their investments and spending to reflect a wartime, mission-driven focus? Will all believers in the Southern Baptist churches embrace the mission handed down to us by Jesus?
Let me tell you one easy place to begin. Take that 16.3 million that make up Southern Baptists today and ask them to count the cost. I can tell you that at least eight million won’t because they don’t even show up on Sunday. The SBC battleship will look greatly different than the SBC cruiseliner because we are not counting heads at a party but recruiting soldiers for war. The weight of incredulity in church membership today is a noose around our necks, not an anchor for the cruiseliner. If we don’t figure out who we are and make it clear what is means to be a member of a local church, then we are fooling ourselves to think when the enemy comes on our turf that we will find soldiers ready to fight.
God help us find soldiers who will endure hardship for the sake of Christ.
God help us find Southern Baptists who will endure hardship for the sake of the gospel and the church.