Connecting the Dots in an Unconnected World

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Repainting the Baskets

This past week the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee heard a report from a study committee appointed, by Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright, to examine the issue of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. You can find the transcript of the report here

I am blessed to have people whom I trust implicitly who served on this task force. They have faithfully performed the task they were assigned to fulfill. I am grateful for their effort. However, the entire process is akin to a physician who diagnoses a patient with cancer and after significant consultation prescribes cosmetic surgery as the course of treatment. Southern Baptists seem to mistakenly think that some level of rebranding by using the descriptor "Great Commission Baptists" is going to change the evangelistic decline in which we find our convention. Allow me some observations.

First, the real issue that is creating the decline in missions support and evangelism is the backslidden condition of those individuals who comprise the membership of Southern Baptist Convention churches. We have pursued a top down approach by attempting restructuring (GCR), now we are attempting rebranding (adding a descriptor to our name), when what we need is local church revival. We need a grassroots movement of God in our churches. A movement that changes the hearts of members, teachers, deacons, staff members and pastors in our local churches. This will not happen with a once a year "solemn assembly" approach. It will only happen when church members are regularly called to repentance and renewal for the task of the Great Commission.

Second, this recommendation is described as a "win-win" by task force chairman Jimmy Draper. The only possible way to arrive at a "win-win" solution is for both sides to compromise. In my experience when I attempt to please everyone I end up pleasing no one. Leadership is not about finding a middle ground compromise, it is about finding God's direction and following it. Who are we attempting to please? Is it possible that a fringe minority is wielding an disproportional influence on the work of the Southern Baptist Convention? While some may view this as a recommendation that will bring us together, it has the very real potential of creating an even greater divide. If our theology and mission does not cause us to walk together then a descriptor added to the name will not bring about greater cooperation.

Third, it seems possible that the Great Commission has become a tool to move our convention through the process of a planned redirecting. For the second time in three years we will be voting on a significant change with a branding title that includes the appellation of Great Commission. The Great Commission is not a title it is a task. We need less talking and more doing.

Fourth, the report indicates:
"We deeply believe that if the phrase "Great Commission Baptists" is regularly used in publications and promotions of the Southern Baptist Convention, as well as in state conventions, associations and churches, that it would provide an identification that not only tells who we are, but what our mission as Southern Baptists is -- the fulfillment of the Great Commission"
I have always identified the name Southern Baptist Convention with a group of people who were committed to the Great Commission. I find myself wondering how long it will be before we find ourselves branding ourselves as "The Southern Baptist Convention - Great Commission Baptists" to becoming "Great Commission Baptists - The Southern Baptist Convention" to becoming simply "Great Commission Baptists." I confess this may not be a bad process, however, this is a process that, in our Southern Baptists polity, should be approved by the Southern Baptist Convention in annual session. It should not simply evolve as new leaders with a new agenda arise.

Fifth, The name Southern Baptist Convention has always stood for missions, evangelism and Biblical conservatism. It has well identified who we are and what we stand for. We as Southern Baptists are a family. We are not perfect. As any family our history has things of which we are not proud. Where we have identified wrong in our past (i.e. the slavery issue) we have publicly repented. Much like family, we have our share of odd family members and an identifiable level of diversity. As we research our history, there have been family squabbles which we have had to work through. Our family name has helped to identify not only who we are but what we stand for. It should not be something for which we apologize, it speaks to a heritage, while not perfect, of missional fervor, evangelistic zeal and Biblical authority. These are not new concepts that need publication but historic principles that need reaffirmation and new commitment.

Finally, when a farmer is experiencing a crop failure it does him no good to repaint his baskets. We do not need a new name, we need we need a rewed zeal for winning a lost and dying world to our Savior.

Attempting to Connect the Dots....


Anonymous Ron Fullerton said...

As always your have gone direct to the heart of the problem ... which is ... the need for cleansing of the vessel that carries the message of the Gospel ... it really doesn't matter if the vessel is made of silver, gold, platinum, or in our case clay if the pot is blemished and contaminated the message is not accepted ... I would not eat from a cracked and filthy food container would you? Thanks for your efforts, bringing to light our need for repentence and renewal.

February 25, 2012 at 11:44 AM  

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