I had a great time in Orlando at the Southern Baptist Convention this past Sunday-Thursday…(after a brief stop on Sunday seeing 120 Summit college students at their Campus Outreach project in Orlando… pretty awesome).
Re: the SBC, there’s a lot to process, but here’s a few quick thoughts:
- The preaching at the Pastor’s Conference was some of the best we’ve ever had. The messages, for the most part, had a new depth in both Gospel and Scripture. This is a profoundly good development for the SBC… as we have often, despite our creed, not been a people who reflected Gospel-depth and Scripture-centrality in our preaching.
- The passing of the Great Commission Resurgence resolutions signals a new day in the SBC. Frankly, the majority of the 7 resolutions are only “symbolic”, but they are important symbols nonetheless. For example, even before the passing of these resolutions there was nothing stopping churches from giving to Southern Baptist causes rather than through the Cooperative Program. In other words, you could always give your money directly to the IMB or to a seminary and still have that counted as “Southern Baptist giving,” thus making you eligible for participation in Southern Baptist mission efforts and a recipient of the privileges of membership. But passing these resolutions is a symbolic statement that we recognize that local churches are going to exercise increasing discretion in how and where they give, and that Convention structures are going to have to adjust to that new reality. Please note that our passing of this resolution did not create that kind of “independent” giving, we simply recognized it. The reality is that in the flat world we live in, churches are going to increasingly give to things they know about and can be more personally involved in. If the SBC refuses to recognize that, we will find that the amount of churches engaging in the Convention is going to rapidly decrease. We’ll spend every Convention hearing various institutions argue about how to get larger pieces of a shrinking pie. Some (who were well-meaning) tried to argue that sanctioning this type of designated giving will destroy the SBC, which is built on cooperative, undesignated giving. Quite the contrary, I believe. Not sanctioning this type of giving will destroy it. As I noted, this type of giving is the new reality, and will only increase in the days to come. Thus, if you draw a line that pushes churches that give this way out, then a lot of them are just going to leave. So, if you’re going to draw a line, draw one that brings these churches in, not pushes them out. Embrace the future, don’t guard the past. And the argument that it is morally wrong for churches to designate where there gifts go in the Convention because no pastor would want his members designating where their offering goes is not a good one for one simple reason: the SBC is not a church. The local church is a body of people that covenant together and submit to one another. That is not true of the Convention. The local church is sovereign in the New Testament (under Scripture and Jesus), not the Convention. In other words, we as local churches don’t “submit” to the SBC, we utilize the structures of the SBC to more effectively accomplish our mission. Thus, we have a right (even a responsibility) to carefully evaluate where our missions money will get the greatest return. We, as a local church, want to give to the overall structure of the SBC because we do love and trust our leaders (i.e., giving through the Cooperative Program), but we also want to give to special things God has laid particularly on our hearts.
- This “new movement” is substantiated by the election of Vance Pitmann as Pastor’s Conference President and Bryant Wright as Southern Baptist Convention president. Both Vance and Bryant are not your typical “Conventionites.” While both exhibit classic, orthodox “Southern Baptist values,” such as zeal for mission and love for the Gospel, both are also innovative and independent thinkers. They are the kind of men I believe that most younger pastors will be happy to follow.
- One of my favorite moments was when Summit Church planter @JoshShank rapped (literally, a rap) a resolution calling on the SBC to quit hatin’ on other like-minded movements, like Acts 29, who differ with some of us on minor things but agree with us on major things. It was a hoot. May our movement be characterized by love for the Gospel and charity toward all, especially those who love the Gospel like we do.
All in all, I was very encouraged this year. God blessed us and answered our faith… and I think good days are ahead.
The SBC is built on the principle that churches can do more together than they can alone. When it comes to things like international church planting and theological education, joining together with other like-minded churches is much more effective than flying solo… And so, for that reason, our church will remain in this network, and because of the positive momentum in Orlando, we are excited about the days ahead. It’s a great organization to accomplish overseas church planting through. Currently, we have about 65 of our members supported through the IMB, a force that would cost us millions if we had to do it alone. This network has also enabled us to have a number of our students getting a world-class education in an accredited seminary (like SEBTS in Wake Forest) at a greatly reduced cost. We are grateful and excited about the days ahead.