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