As many of you know, back in June, I attended the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. Last month, I took a Wednesday bible study session to give a report about the Convention. Allow me to commend our Mid-Week Bible Study video on YouTube to you if you are interested in watching my report. Since that evening, I have received a number of questions regarding the Convention, and our denominational affiliations more broadly. I would bunch these questions into one of three “buckets”.
The first grouping would include the questions I have received about the mechanics of our denominational affiliation. Because Baptist churches are independent, our group dynamics are unique compared to all other kinds of denominations in the world. Nothing decided upon at the Convention is binding upon our church. We don’t owe any entity any money; anything we give is because we freely choose to do so. We are a member church of A) the Pilot Mountain Baptist Association, B) the Baptist State Convention, and C) the Southern Baptist Convention. We could opt out of any one or more of the three at any time. It’s confusing for some of us to understand; I know!
The second grouping of questions I have received, deal with critical theories (Critical Race Theory in particular). Some in our denomination are specifically concerned about these theories being taught in our seminaries. Let me echo a statement made by Dr. Daniel L. Akin, the head of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (shared alma mater of Luke and me). He made clear that no critical theories are being espoused or endorsed by any of our seminary professors or administrators. He highlighted the various ways in which students are being equipped as much as possible to deal with any and all world views in their evangelism, especially on the international mission field. He finally reminded us that all truth is God’s truth, and that even deeply flawed ways to think about the world, can rightly identify problems that ought grieve our souls. I am incredibly encouraged that our seminaries produce the quality of education that they do, and that we have the leaders like these in our institutions.
The third grouping of questions I have received, are of a socio-political nature. It should go without saying that words like “liberal”, “conservative”, “moderate”, and “fundamentalist” are loaded terms. Labels like these are not always helpful when discussing issues with clarity and nuance. It should also be said that “theological conservatism” and “political conservatism” are not the same thing at all. It is obvious that the Southern Baptist Convention is an unapologetically theologically conservative denomination. We have been, and will continue to be, pro-life. We are unequivocal in how we view the Word of God. This book affects all areas of life, but doesn’t limit us to specific political strategies. Nor does it dictate which candidate or party to endorse, or whether to endorse anyone. There is a [loud] minority within the Southern Baptist Convention that think anyone [including me] that doesn’t share their political views, has given up on the authority of scripture. This has caused labels to be unfairly thrown around, a secular press to question whether a denominational split is looming, and infighting to take our “eye off the ball” of missions. As Pastor Jim preached so well on July 18, we cannot afford to become married to the culture. This can occur in multiple directions, but may God have mercy upon us if we are known more for what our political opinions are instead of being who He has called us to be: a group of broken people, serving as a refuge for other broken people. I am not worried at all about the Southern Baptist Convention’s strength, because what binds us together is what has always bound us together: the Great Commission. Our International Mission Board and North American Mission Board are the two greatest ways to spend a dollar and see it used to proclaim the name of Jesus across this planet. I am greatly encouraged to know that we are working hard to produce together the greatest mission force in history. This is what our denomination is known for, and I hope this is what our church is known to be! May we all be the hands and feet He’s called us to be; may God keep us “unstained from the world” (James 1:27); and may God magnify our witness in Walnut Cove and beyond!
Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
back to the narrow way, patiently win them,
tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.
Rescue the perishing, care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save!