It is often times easy to take “swings” at the SBC and in many cases rightly so. A convention of imperfect churches will always be imperfect. Yes, we have many warts, and this causes many to focus attention on the blemishes. Sadly, those imperfections often blind us to the really good things that Southern Baptists are doing. Not only are these negatives leading to criticism, they are also leading many to question whether or not they should remain (or ever become in the first place) Southern Baptist. The logic is that “I have one life to live for Jesus, and I need to make the most of my time in ministering for him, so I’d rather go somewhere that is flourishing and less ‘politically embattled.'” This logic is not without wisdom. We do indeed have one life (a short one) to minister in the tasks assigned by the King. So, the question that we need to ask ourselves is, “Why am I a Southern Baptist (or why should I become a Southern Baptist)?”
Honestly, we became Southern Baptists by birth (not that we were members at birth!). Many generations of Akins have been Southern Baptist, and we were born into the home of a Southern Baptist minister. While this is NOT the main reason that we remain Southern Baptist, it should not be overlooked because it is significant. Obviously the answer to the posed question should never be, “I am Southern Baptist because my momma and daddy were.” BUT, the faithful lives and effective service of believing moms, dads, and grandparents should play a role. The younger generation is quick to dismiss tradition (and many times rightfully so!). But, there is a trail of blood, sweat, and tears of faithful men and women (including especially faithful, lay family members) that led up to where we are. In our past, men and women have taken great pains to get the Gospel to us. There were people faithfully witnessing, discipling, educating, raising families to know Jesus, etc. before we were born. They were trying to be “missional” in culture before we (or they) ever heard that word (not that there were not times of withdrawal and fundamentalist sectarianism). This is significant because we are connected to something. More than that we are connected to “someones,” a people! Why we are Southern Baptist now will be answered differently than the question, “How did you become a Southern Baptist?” But, the answer to the latter question drives the answer to the first. As far as we can trace it back, we became Southern Baptist because our Southern Baptist minister dad led us to faith in Jesus when we started asking questions about the Bible. We started asking questions about the Bible because we were attending a Southern Baptist church where a Southern Baptist Pastor, raised in a Southern Baptist Church by Southern Baptist parents and trained in a Southern Baptist school, preached the Gospel to us. We were at that church because our dad was reared by Southern Baptist parents who led him to Jesus, and our mom was reared and saved in a Baptist Children’s Home because of the faithful giving of Southern Baptist men and women. Before that, we had Southern Baptist grandparents who faithfully shared Jesus with their children because their Southern Baptist parents had done the same with them. That’s why we became Southern Baptist. Tradition may not be everything, but we have been saved by Jesus because we are connected with a people.
We remain committed Baptists because we think that Baptist distinctives above any other denomination’s theological distinctives, are the most biblically faithful. This is a conviction based on reading and studying the New Testament. We are strong advocates of Regenerate Church Membership, which John Hammett, a professor of theology at SEBTS (and others) calls “The” Baptist Mark of the Church. This mark then flows into all the others such as Believer’s Baptism, Congregational Government, Local Church Autonomy, and the Priesthood of the Believers. So we choose to be Baptist because we think Baptist distinctives are the most biblical (and we will point to this in our vision series).
But why do we choose to be Southern Baptist? Given that we believe Baptist distinctives most accurately reflect the New Testament Church we believe the following reasons warrant, with all of the imperfections of the SBC and need for reform, being Southern Baptist. Not only do we think being SBC is warranted, we believe it is the best place to cooperate together to do ALL that King Jesus commands in the world! So, “Why are we and why do we think you should be a part of the SBC?”
- Theological Fidelity: The SBC is a denomination that stemmed the tide of liberalism in “The Conservative Resurgence.” We have fought and won a battle for the Bible. By “won” we do not mean to imply a final victory in a war never to be fought again, but rather the return of our seminaries to biblical fidelity and the adoption of an updated confession of faith (BF&M 2000). I (Nathan) heard Ed Stetzer, when asked recently about some of the positive aspects of the SBC, articulate that evangelicalism is adrift when it comes to theology. In the Southern Baptist Convention, Stetzer articulated that you find a people that are anchored in their belief. This is not the case in most circles of evangelicalism and the accountability that a denomination offers for orthodoxy at least should raise caution for non-denominational churches (not that they cannot remain steadfast, but we all need accountability). Our being known as “people of the book” is something we should never get over and it should be a compelling reason to make the SBC your home.
- The Largest Protestant Mission Force in History: Bruce Ashford said in a chapel sermon delivered at SEBTS, “It has never been easier to get the gospel to the ends of the world than it is right now with the IMB and the Southern Baptist Convention.” Think about that statement! The Southern Baptist Churches support through cooperative giving over 5,000 missionaries worldwide. 40% of them serve in frontier lands where there is little to NO gospel witness. If that does not give you a compelling reason to be a Southern Baptist, I do not know what will. There are many other great options out there, especially in the area of church planting and it is our prayer that we will improve there, but there is no option out there for international missions on the scale that we provide. The cooperation that your church can enter into will help support this army of missionaries, and this is worth being a part of.
a second part to this blog will be posted in the coming days…
Jon and Nathan Akin
Yo, homie, that post title was funky, funky fresh. Word.
I agree with you about being the convention that stood and stands against liberalism for the most most. However, hearing some people talk and some of the stuff I read leads me to a sick feeling that there is a Mainstream Resurrgence [(c) 2008 Joe Blackmon] on the rise who have doctrinal convictions that can be summed up in three words “It’s all good”. I hope I’m wrong. I would love to be wrong. However, I’m afraid I’m not wrong.
Awesome stuff….I grew up Southern Baptist and was lead to Christ in a Southern Baptist church. But as I got older I drifted away and started attending another denomination….after a few years I realized that the message I was hearing was not true biblical doctrine. I am now attending a Southern Baptist church again and ever since I came back to the SBC my walk with Christ has grown a lot. I am proud to say that I am a Southern Baptist.
I didn’t grow up Southern Baptist but became Southern Baptist by conviction for the same reasons you mentioned: theology and missions. When I read the Baptist Faith and Message for the first time I felt like theologically I had found a home. When I learned about the CP and how the SBC funded missions I realized that no one else does missions like this and I wanted to be a part.
Y I AM and Y U should B A Friend 2 FINN
I modified it a bit Nathan.
Great word guys…looking forward to part 2.
Benji Ramsaur is a sick puppy. If I were you guys, I would not allow him to leave comments in the future.
Thanks Akin brothers!
Love it! I too come from a long line of Jesus-loving, Jesus-serving, and perhaps most important – Jesus-hearted Southern Baptists. I share many of the same thoughts and feelings (mostly warm ones) regarding our denomination and its history, priorities, and focus. Everything from RA’s to Lottie Moon and the Baptist Faith & Message to the good ol’ Baptist Book Store (sorry Lifeway). Thanks for sharing & I look forward to reading Part II.
– I’ve looked around, but I just never could get over the Cooperative Program. Such a simple idea, such a phenomenal impact. 🙂
Good stuff. It’s an exciting time to see what the Lord is doing with the SBC. I look forward to reading the next post.
There are things to appreciate about the SBC.
Personally, I appreciate the local church I grew up in, Missions, my education at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and especially professor Nathan Finn.
In fact, I made up a wonderful slogan for Finn in a newsletter article I wrote (he gave a four out of five star rating).
P.S. just kidding–he said I should have been excommunicated for it:)
I also appreciate the Southeastern professors who have come and spoken in the Neuse Baptist Association context that I belong to.
I was introduced to the Christian gospel at a Southern Baptist Church. I was saved a (Indiana Baptist Convention) State Sponsored Youth Rally in Indianapolis. I was called into ministry in a Southern Baptist Church. I recieved my education at a Southern Baptist institution at 50 % reduced price because of the CP. Now I am called to minister to Southern Baptist’s who have so greatly enriched my life. I’m convinced.
Great post, guys. I just returned from an IMB/SBC Seminaries Consortium and over 60% of our m’s serve in level 3 or frontier areas. The push is to see this percentage raised even higher in the forthcoming years. Just a positive update to your numbers.
I left the SBC and came back, but I’m still not comfortable. About a year ago I started to be more proactive about the SBC and how the “3rd gen conservatives” could be involved.
I’m really excited about the B21! And, I was wondering if you could express in a couple of articles or interviews;
1) Practical ways for 3rd Gen to be positively involved. (Like, is it worthwhile for me to serve on the Baptist History Committee for the State of Louisiana. Because, the lack of involvement in the SBC means there is a lot of positions the 1st and 2nd gen cannot fill and are plugging anyone who raises their hand into these lower positions.
2) An article on how to deal with the friction between the SBC and personal feelings about the SBC in a pro-active way. (I was given advice by 2 big 2nd gen leaders and I quote, “Wait until the others die, and you guys can do what you want.” I don’t want to wait 20 years for the EC, NAMB, and other agencies to reflect the desires of the 3rd gen. So, what do we do until change occurs?)
Sorry for the delay in getting back with you. Thank you for kind words about b21, we are hoping to cover the topics you bring up at some point in the near future.