As messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2013 Annual Meeting convened last week, there had never been a better time to be a Southern Baptist. How could I say that in the face of so many significant challenges?
The growing list of today’s challenges includes America’s acceptance of same-sex “marriage,” a new ease of access to prescription-induced abortions, an increasingly secular culture and the persecution of Christians throughout the world, as well as an overall decline in the number of SBC churches and membership within the SBC?
Before I explain, let me admit up front that I am not an optimist by nature. Whether it’s a ballgame or a public policy battle, I lean toward the glass-is-half-empty expectations.
Many say Southern Baptists are a dying breed, and that it is only a matter of time before we are extinct or at least irrelevant. They point to unpopular convictions we hold, such as our beliefs on marriage. They point to our aging membership and its alleged disconnect with emerging generations, as well as our decline in charitable giving.
We, ourselves, know the score on challenges like these, as well as other looming in-house divisions on doctrinal issues that could further divide us. Like the Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor. 4:8-9).
We Okies know what it is like to be knocked down. In fact, our state is known for bouncing back. Whether it was the Murrah building bombing in 1995 to the tornadoes of last month, the Oklahoma way is to rise from the ashes. Our unofficial state symbol is the survivor tree.
Mere survival, however, for Southern Baptists will not suffice. We are in an age in which we must be an aggressive, growing force for the Gospel worldwide and at home. The reason we are so well-positioned is because of our people.
With capable leaders, practically at every level of the denomination, who are a reflection of the strength of our congregations, we will be that force for God and for good. What will revival look like in our modern setting?
Certainly, it begins with people coming to Jesus and following Him in Believer’s Baptism, as we reach new parts of society. That will begin to transform whole households, where divorce will become unthinkable and pornography will lose its clutches on fathers
Mission trips will become the new activity in place of trips to the mall, and people will spend more time with the Scriptures than their smart phones. As Southern Baptists, we will experience a recommitment to stewardship, giving through the Cooperative Program to minister to the lost and the least in society.
Next, we will remember and take in the widows and orphans society has left behind. Unlike the world, we will not “only love those who love us,” but will reach out to castaways.
Further, we will experience a baby boom in which godly couples are fruitful and multiply so our quivers are full of children who will be fired into a dark world. These are the types of changes that can be seen among our denomination.
I mentioned a moment ago that our strength lies in our people. That is not really the case. Our true strength lies in a person, The Person.
“’For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, Who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:5-6)
May these days as Southern Baptists become our best days, and may those who come after us be even more faithful then we. God help us.