Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"As I See It" Part 3

After a great comment posted by PreachRwife on my last article I decided to make my response the focus of this article. One of the biggest problems of the Southern Baptist Convention is a lack of connection between SBC leadership and the people who sit in the pews every Sunday. The SBC brags about being the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, but when most of the people who make up that denomination don’t know what’s going on, there is a problem. The consequence of this disconnection is ignorance or even worse apathy on the part of the average member. How do we start building the bridge of connection?

The first step in building that bridge is to make our message clear and our voice heard. Here is the problem, how many answers would there be if we asked every Southern Baptist, “What is the main focus of the Southern Baptist Convention?” There would probably be millions of different answers, but I bet the number one answer would be, “I don’t know.” Whether it be missions, the Bible, Baptist Faith and Message, God, Christ, Church, Worship, Ministry, or fellowship the SBC needs to communicate a central core value that denominates and demonstrates everything Southern Baptist are about.

Then the role of the pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention is to take that core value and promote it to the individual member. If the individual member commits themselves to the same core value then a connection is made. So the first rule for the SBC core value is it has to be something that every Christian can commit themselves to. For example, if the Southern Baptist Convention were to make a statement that their main value and focus is evangelizing the world. Pastors, then must promote missions in their church and to their individual members. Each member should realize that missions is more than what we do with out tithe in December, April, and September. If each member doesn’t see their life through missions then a disconnection carries on. The life focus of each Baptist should be the same as the key focus of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Where to begin? As a Convention we need to simplify our message. What are we really about? We need to decide. Then we need to show the average member that their life will have meaning if they will live by these same values. I will tell you why I believe the conservative resurgence happened. It was simple and focused. It was over the Bible and most Christians understand the importance of the Bible.

We need to simplify again and begin to communicate with one clear voice what it means to be a Southern Baptist.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

As I See It, Part Two

The Southern Baptist Convention and conflict go hand in hand. I am over thirty years old and I have never known a time when there was peace and harmony in our convention. The battle of the conservative resurgence, to changing the SBC structure, to signing the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, to boycotting Disney, and to disqualifying anyone from serving as a missionary who has a private prayer language shows that we as Southern Baptists maintain conflict.

As I see it something is happening with many Southern Baptists. They are tired of all the fighting. The same thing is true in our secular world. Last November, the republicans lost seats in Congress over the war in Iraq. Most Americans want to pull out of Iraq, they are tired of fighting a battle that in their view was meaningless. Unless the war ends soon, there will probably be a democrat serving as our next president. The American people are tired of war and want change. The same is true of many Southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptists are tired of battles over meaningless things and are calling for change. We are tired of all the name calling and back-biting. If the battles continue, I would expect to see changes in SBC leadership or huge drops in membership.

My solution to the problem is for Southern Baptist Leadership and pastors to lead the way in fighting the good fight. Building God’s Kingdom and spreading the message of Christ, this must be our unifying battle cry.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

"As I See It" Part One

It has been awhile since I posted and the reason is I had nothing to say. Over the last several weeks as I have been listening and watching events take place in the Southern Baptist Convention, I have felt compelled to write. I want to start with answering the question of what kind of change is needed to propel Southern Baptists to reaching more people, planting more churches, and sending more missionaries. I have read that many godly men in our convention believe that the problem is a lack of Baptist identity. If we become the type of Baptists people were in the 1700’s, 1800’s, and early 1900’s then the world would be fine. As I see it, the problem isn’t a lack of Baptist identity, but a lack of Christian identity. It is true that many people don’t understand what it means to be a Baptist, but there are a whole lot more who don’t understand what it means to be a Christian.

I believe the change needed is one that only happens in the heart of men and women as they realize what it means to be a Christian. People don’t need to be more conservative, but more Christian. Southern Baptists don’t need a reformation, but a revival of authentic Christianity. Once I asked Dr. Tanner, former president of the Home Mission Board/NAMB, “How did you survive the conservative resurgence without getting in the middle of it? I haven't read anything that talk about you in any controversy.” Dr. Tanner said, “I believed I could be Christian and conservative at the same time.” As I see it, we as Southern Baptist need to start asking some different questions. How do we show the world authentic Christianity? How do we build our denomination while staying true to the Kingdom of God? How do we change the focus from being Baptist to being Christians who are also Baptist? As I see it, every Southern Baptist needs to take responsibility for becoming more like Christ and building their own Christian identity in their home, church, and world.