I was just thinking about the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of you may not give that much thought and perhaps most of you don’t even care, but I happen to believe it’s important. The SBC is not irreplaceable. God accomplished His purposes before we came along and He will do just fine without us if we go the way of the dodo bird, but that doesn’t mean our future isn’t important.
Historically the SBC has been used by the Lord to have a significant kingdom impact all over the world. Pioneer missionaries answered the call to go to the hard places of the world. Saying goodbye to family, comfort, and often time’s safety. They were willing to pay the price because the kingdom of God was worth it to them and since 1925 and the invention of the Cooperative Program Southern Baptist churches have made it possible for them to go through providing the financial resources needed.
Currently over 10,000 missionaries serve the Lord in North America and throughout the world through the cooperative efforts of Southern Baptist churches. Each year thousands of churches are planted and hundreds of thousands are being baptized as a profession of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Over the last few years however, there seems to be a growing uncertainty among younger pastors as to whether they want to be a part of the cooperative efforts of the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s not that younger generations are opposed to cooperation you understand, but they want to know why they should. They want to know if the Cooperative Program is where they are going to get the most bang for their buck.
These questions aren’t in themselves a bad thing. We should be concerned about the best use of resources for the kingdom. It certainly isn’t wrong to question how those resources are being used and if there are changes that can be made that will make us more effective for the kingdom.
To be sure at least part of the reason for the skepticism is the overall deconstructive philosophy of post modernity. Generation X, Mosaics, and others seem to have a built in aversion to establishment, or at least establishment for establishment’s sake. Doing things just because we’ve always done them doesn’t fly in our current culture.
Among Southern Baptist though there appears to be reason to hope. There is a growing recognition that if our convention is to continue to be a viable and productive part of God’s kingdom work, younger generations need to be given their place at the table of leadership. The elephant in the room is finally being talked about and that has never been more evident than it was at this years Pastor’s Conference and SBC annual session.
What all the future holds for Southern Baptist is unclear, but one thing is certain, to borrow the words from Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, “We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.” Things are changing, maybe faster than some people want them to and more than some people want them to, but changing they are.
Individual Christians, churches, institutions, and even denominations need to take a hard look in the mirror of scripture to see if we are still reflecting the image of our Savior to the world. We need to take a hard look at what we are doing and ask the hard questions like, is it still working? Is it still needed? Or, is there a better way?
I think all of this is a good thing. I think our greatest days as a denomination may still be in front of us. I think people are beginning to stir and the devil is beginning to squirm because he knows what can happen when the people of God rise up in the power of God for the glory of God. As Dr. Danny Akin said in his closing remarks from his Axioms for a Great Commission Resurgence, “There is victory for the taking!” (p.33) The way I see it we’ve been in Kansas too long any way.
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