This series will be divided into three sections with many posts in each section. Each section will be offered with biblical, theological consideration. The first section will touch on our past. There are many things from our SBC history and heritage that we are grateful for and have learned much from. We are indebted to godly men and women who preceded us. These men and women made difficult decisions in difficult times. Our forefathers fought for missions and denominationalism, and they blazed new trails for cooperation in the cause of the Great Commission. We have learned from them, and we need to continue to learn from them. They laid a solid foundation for their children and grandchildren that does not need to be re-laid. Baptist 21 simply proposes to build on the foundation godly men and women already established for us and our children. We believe their vision for the SBC is what the SBC needs now, and we need to refocus on “propagating” the gospel!
Part of that foundation was laid in “The Battle for the Bible.” The heroes who fought that battle were men like Paige Patterson, Judge Pressler, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, many other leaders and thousands of grassroots Baptists who continued to show up because they held a conviction that theological orthodoxy should be restored. We are grateful for these men and women, and much of what will be said in every part of this series will come from what we have learned from the godly 1st and 2nd generations of the Conservative Resurgence. In the Conservative Resurgence men fought to return the convention to the inerrancy of the Bible and theological conservatism. In part the battle was won in that our institutions returned to orthodoxy, and our convention produced a solid confession of faith around which Baptists can agree and partner together (the BF&M 2000). The importance of the BF&M 2000 cannot be understated. We have a biblical and theological consensus around which to cooperate that says who is “inside” and “outside” the tent. However, the battle over God’s Word will continue in every generation, and that is why we must continue to be characterized by solid theology. Therefore, this section of the series will attempt to underline and explain the distinctives that characterize Baptists, distinctives handed down in our heritage by faithful exegesis, theological reflection and perseverance. These distinctives, and not extra external criteria, should determine our faith and practice as Baptists in the 21st century. Some of these will include: the inerrancy/authority of the Bible, recovery of the gospel, recovery of expository preaching, the priesthood of the believer, the right practice and importance of the ordinances, church polity and autonomy, regenerate church membership, church discipline, confessionalism, our historic commitment to mission, and theological education among others.
The second section will deal with the dangers of the present hour (see previous post). It will attempt to analyze what the dangers are, where they come from, how they threaten us, and how we can respond. These dangers will include: cultural compromise, traditionalism versus relevance, lack of discipleship, watered down preaching, arrogance, whining, mission strategies and methodologies, bureaucracy, etc.
The third section will deal with a future path that might set us in the right direction. We want to walk this path within our theological consensus. This future calls for a refocus on the primacy of the local church. We need to recapture a vision of the local church as the body Christ commissioned to raise up ministers, train them, use them to plant churches, and send them to the edges of the globe. The SBC entities do not replace the church; rather they come alongside the church. This refocus on the local church will hopefully mean greater and more strategic partnerships between healthy local churches and SBC entities. This future calls for some reform of the bureaucracy of the SBC. It will focus on things like the future of preaching, fellowship and discipleship, engaging our communities with the gospel, domestic church planting and SBC entities, foreign missions and SBC entities, reform of the Cooperative Program, theological education, and battles over methodology among others.
We offer this series in humility, realizing we do not have all of the answers. We offer this series hoping to be sharpened in our thinking in these areas by dialogue with other Southern Baptists. We pray that God will allow greater cooperation among a greater number of churches that are theologically grounded in God’s Word and on fire to win the world to Jesus through the planting of churches locally, nationally and internationally.
We offer this series recognizing that this is a dangerous time for the SBC. Mark Driscoll explained in a recent message the 4-fold process of a movement. A movement is when God does what he always does (i.e. salvations, churches planted, ministers trained, etc.) but in greater numbers and at a quicker pace. The second step in the process is organization because the movement can get out of control, so some organization is necessary. The third step is institution. The movement moves from organization to institution. The institution exists, unfortunately, NOT to sustain the movement but rather to preserve the institution. That process finally leads to the fourth step, which is museum. A museum is where people talk about the “good ol’ days” and how much Jesus used to do here. It would seem that the SBC is in danger of moving from institution (which we are now) to museum. We offer this series with the greatest of excitement, expectant that the SBC can be reinvigorated to reach many with gospel now and in the future. That is quite simply all we hope for. Dr. Danny Akin concluded a paper entitled “Answering the Call to a Great Commission Resurgence” by saying, “I believe our Baptist Fellowship is big enough, in all the right ways, to have room for William Carey, Andrew Fuller, Luther Rice, Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, John L. Dagg, Basil Manly Sr. and Jr., Lottie Moon, and Annie Armstrong. I believe it is big enough to include Al Mohler and Paige Patterson, Voddie Bauchman and J.D. Greear, Adrian Rogers and Timothy George, Jerry Vines and Mark Dever, W.A. Criswell and Hershel Hobbs, Buddy Gray and Johnny Hunt, Andy Davis and Steve Gaines, Danny Akin and Tom Ascol.” Baptist 21 hopes that the SBC will be big enough for and celebrate those who agree on the gospel and seek to make the King known in the 21st century and beyond.