To my Southern Baptist friends and family. Some may ask: Do you see a way forward for the SBC? Yes, I do. The way forward leads us to filter all decisions and direction through Scripture while lovingly refusing to devour one another.
We have a mission. We must not get off the wall of mission. Consider Nehemiah and his work on restoring the wall of protection for the people of Jerusalem. Through the onslaught of false information, scare tactics, and evil motives, Nehemiah kept the people focused on the mission of completing the wall. Clearly, we must acknowledge that those we differ with in the SBC ARE NOT OUR ENEMIES. Our enemy does not come from flesh and blood, but from an evil one who seeks to devour us and he wants us to devour ourselves.
We have a mission much greater than the wall of Nehemiah. Jesus indicated early in His ministry our mission: “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’” (Mt 4:19, ESV). One expositor noted that Jesus indicated that a disciple was one who follows Jesus, is changed by Jesus, and is on the mission of Jesus. Let us be found following Jesus, allowing Him to change us, and get on with His mission of reflecting His kingdom and reaching others by making the gospel known.
In the midst of the mission, Jesus called disciples to himself. Scripture indicates that the disciples were not always in agreement, but He chose and used them anyway. If we have repented and believed in Christ, we are of the family of God.
As family, we do not always agree, but we must remain tightly woven as family. We may want to muzzle some family members and encourage others to speak, but we are family nonetheless. I choose to love my brothers who want to muzzle or encourage me. I ask you to do the same.
We cannot stoop to misrepresentations, half-truths, or lies about our brothers. The same Jesus who stated, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (Jn 17:17, ESV)” also prayed “that they may all be one, just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (Jn 17:21, ESV). By our unity, we show our sanctification. In simple terms, if we cannot love one another, we cannot stand in truth.
Now, we as Southern Baptists have already answered the question amongst ourselves as to what is truth; however, let me ask it again: What is truth? Truth is no more than the Word of God. God’s Word, the Bible, is truth without error or equivocation. The Scripture is sufficient. We have no higher expression of truth that reflects the living Word, Jesus.
Southern Baptists, can we acknowledge that we are people that hold dearly to the sufficiency of Scripture? I hold that belief and seek to live my life reflecting that truth. Everything else is filtered through the lens of Scripture.
We have our issues. Every family does. We cannot sweep those issues under the rug of denial nor do we need to become one-issue focused. Just in the last two years, we have struggled with several issues: Critical race theory, racial tensions, a failure to properly hear and support those who have suffered sexual predation, protecting the vulnerable in our churches, disagreements about processes, and many others. I will not have capacity to list all of our challenges.
What I do know is that we must be just like the leaders and elders in the early church who gathered in Acts 15 to deal with a significant issue in their midst. They talked, prayed and acted. All of us, including me, need to remove our fingers from the computer keyboards and our thumbs from the cellular devices and look one another in the eyes, and communicate. Let us communicate warmly, lovingly, and truthfully. Let us acknowledge that we often see differing facets of the same diamond with refractive light that confuses our view. I need to hear you and I hope you want to hear me. We are family. We challenge one another, hold one another accountable, and love one another.
To remain a family that honors one another with truth, loves one another as family, holds diligently to the sacred Scriptures, and stretches our energies and resources toward the fulfillment of our mission, we must make significant commitments to one another and our Lord.
Let’s commit to hold to the sufficiency of Scripture.
Let’s commit to hold to the unity of the faith together.
Let’s commit to the primacy of sharing the gospel.
Let’s commit to live a life reflective of a disciple of Jesus.
I personally commit to reaching out to my family of faith to resolve any broken relationships and differences of opinion as we each seek to be obedient to Christ and press forward in mission.
OUR PATHWAY FORWARD
How do we resolve the fault lines in our SBC relationships? We need to talk with one another. We need to seek to show care for one another. It is past time for those with significant concerns and differences to get together without phones, recorders, or keyboards to simply seek to understand one another and forge a direction together that reflects the truth of Scripture. I dream of a time when we can settle our differences in the room, face to face, instead of in the parameters of social media or blogs.
Whoever wins the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention will have my prayers and my willingness to strive toward a cohesive partnership together for the gospel. I simply ask our new SBC President to commit to lead with the Scriptures as the foundation and the unity of the family of God as a key value.
If we can protect the unity of our faith together that is founded on the Scriptures and if we can move forward together on the mission Jesus has given us, we can see a strong future together. Our future is not for us, but for the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
If we cannot protect the unity of our faith and continue to talk at one another instead to one another, we will continue to decline in influence for the gospel and be able to fit in the dingy that is deployed from a larger ship. If we splinter, we can only hope for survival and not thriving in the mission we are called to pursue and accomplish.
I do not know about you, but I am ready for a future committed to the sufficiency of Scripture and the unity of the faith together with our family. Let’s get to our mission. I believe God will be glorified with or without the Southern Baptist Convention because He is God. I for one want to experience his blessing on our denomination as we fulfill His calling on our lives.