The last year has revealed areas of weakness in our beloved convention of churches. Fissures and failures and fleshly idolatries. COVID-19 didn’t produce these crises, but it did expose them.
Discipline is never pleasant in the moment, but painful. However, we know that God is up to something good, because “whom the Lord loves he chastens” (Hebrews 12:6). God only tears down in order to build us up.
In 2018, when I allowed my good friend Ken Whitten to put my name in nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention, we both saw the SBC coming to a point of decision where we would have to decide who we were, what we were about, and what the basis of our unity would be.
We knew change was coming. We didn’t need to change our doctrine. Neither did we need to change our mission.
No, what needed to change was our culture.
Gospel doctrine and Gospel mission without Gospel culture are sterile, weak, and even, according to Scripture, deadly. The question the Holy Spirit put on my heart for the SBC when I began as president was (and remains), “Are we truly a Gospel people if evaluated by culture in our churches?”
In the 1980s, we repudiated the leaven of the liberals, a leaven that threatened to poison the Gospel. Are we now going to repudiate the leaven of the Pharisees, which can choke out the Gospel just as easily? Most of you know that almost immediately after I began to lead our Convention, the character assassinations, false accusations, innuendos and exaggerations began.
For example, it was said I was going to turn us all into Calvinists and that I didn’t care about baptisms – even though I don’t call myself a Calvinist and our church (The Summit Church) has led our state convention for many years in baptisms, baptizing more than 7,000 in the last 10 years. In 2017, we launched an enormous evangelism initiative (Who’s Your One?), which I then passed on to the Convention, and in the last decade, we (the Summit Church) have sent out more than 1,300 members to plant nearly 400 autonomous churches in North America and around the world.
Then people said I was going to gut state conventions. But the Summit has been the top CP giving church in our state for years.
It was then said I was going to soften our stance on biblical sexuality – even though I publicly affirmed the Danvers Statement and helped edit the Nashville Statement. In fact, my clarity about the sinfulness of homosexuality has resulted in my being targeted in malicious ways by LGBT advocates in my community.
Some bloggers said I was privately funded by George Soros with the agenda of steering the SBC toward political liberalism – even though Al Mohler’s podcast is the only one I listen to every day, I regularly read the Federalist, First Things and National Review, and I consider the invitation by a Republican senator to pray over the Senate on the day they confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to be one of the greatest honors of my life. As for George Soros, I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup, and if he has ever sent a check, trust me, I haven’t seen it.
My office has gotten calls from people who say they’ve heard that I am friends with Nancy Pelosi, that I am a Marxist, or that I’m a card-carrying member of Black Lives Matter.
I expected a lot of this. After all, I realize that slander often comes with the position.
But look at what our convention’s culture has become. Having these kinds of slanderous accusations made against our leaders has become the norm. The result has been a breakdown of partnerships and, as a result, whole segments of our convention feel unwelcomed.
I’m not as worried about how it affects me personally. I am concerned for our future. When I talk with next-generation leaders, as well as Latino and African American pastors and leaders who see these things, they understandably want no part of it.
Sadly, they often do not feel at home in our convention.
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Source: Baptist Press