Why I am an Obstacle to Cooperation and Potentially a GCR

cooperationI love cooperation and I am thankful for the cooperation that takes place among Southern Baptists. This has made so many things possible for me, and many others.

And it has certainly given us an opportunity to participate in the Great Commission together. I am so thankful for the hard work and the many hours that the GCRTF has put in trying to help us as Southern Baptists be more effective in the Great Commission. I am grateful for the recommendations that they have brought forth. So, I love the SBC and the GCR and I will vote in favor of it in Orlando, but I’ve struggled to fully embrace the SBC and the GCR for several reasons. And I suspect this feeling is not limited to me. I have been devastated lately confronting my own sinfulness in this area. For instance, when Ronnie Floyd delivered the Progress Report he said, “Our present culture represents 1 Corinthians 3 much more than 1 Corinthians 13.” This is how messed up I am, I immediately thought, yeah so many “other” people in the SBC need to heed this. The reality is I need to hear that, and I am saddened how I so quickly look to others as the problem. I am the problem. And it is possible that I am not the only one. It makes me skeptical that we will ever be able to cooperate for the “propagation of the gospel.” As I observe this I am fully aware that we will not be able to cooperate without the grace and mercy of God and the reason why is because I (we) am (are) so sinful. So here is why I am an obstacle to cooperation and even potentially to a GCR.

It was not my idea.  I wasn’t the one who imagined it and I didn’t make decisions about what we would change in the SBC.  As a prideful and arrogant man, I believe I know a better way than many of my elder brothers in the SBC. The only thing I can think of, and it saddens me, is that I want the “glory” that may result from this to go to me and recognized as my ideas. I want the validation from knowing I was right. In this same context, I struggle with cooperation because I think my way is best and it’s hard to lean on others. Again this is because I think I know better and I want the “glory” or praise that might come from a move of God, or seeming move of God. Yes, that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? That is why as I take stock of my life I am deeply dismayed by my sin and pride.

In addition, I really struggle to be charitable toward my brothers in Christ. I want to see myself as better, smarter, etc than others. I tend to distrust others. So, I struggle to give the benefit of the doubt to my brother, or I want to critique their theology. I know that not all disagreement is bad, but when I disagree often I do it without charity. And my instinct is to respond by ripping someone apart in my mind or on a blog because I want to lift myself up and put him or her down. I really struggle being charitable to others, probably because I want to exalt myself and not truth. I have an idol in my life and it is me. And so I struggle to cooperate.

Also, I am a territorial person. I want the seminaries/churches/ministries that my family and I are connected with to get ample resources and respect.

In addition, I tend to buck against cooperation and want to drill holes in the GCR because it is easier for me to be skeptical and a critic and not get my hopes up for better cooperation or a GCR. That way I will never be left looking silly if things don’t progress. Plus, it is easier for me to criticize and “poke holes” than it is to be a part of a solution that might fail.

So ultimately, what I am saddened over in my own life is that I love myself. I want to increase and not decrease. I want the glory and that makes me an obstacle to cooperation and change. I need to repent and I desperately need the grace and mercy of God in crucifying my flesh. I want to be a person of humility, charity, and Christlike character (Phil. 2 for example). And I want to be someone who cooperates with other brothers and sisters so that the fame of Christ would spread throughout the earth. My only problem is I want my fame attached with it.

Comments 0

  1. Nathan, don’t be so hard on yourself.

    While the prideful angst and self-loathing you’ve described in your struggle with denominational cooperation may in fact be responsible for some of the controversy regarding these initiatives, rest assured there exist a plethora of very logical reasons both to oppose and to favor this direction which are completely unrelated to any form of sinful pride or any kind of self-absorbed complex.

    I don’t mean to minimize the baggage you’ve shared. It’s obvious you’re struggling and I think it’s always healthy for one sincerely to examine the motives of his own heart. I’m just saying many people happen to disagree with each other on this matter but are not in any way bound by the deep-seated psychological issues you have described.

    As you vote in favor of the report while I vote against it, I do not believe that fact alone makes either one of us an “obstacle.” Rather, we are brothers in the Lord seeking God’s will together having looked at the same facts while drawing different conclusions.

    That’s not being an obstacle. It’s simply being a Baptist.

  2. Rick, I don’t think that Nathan was criticizing himself so much as he was trying to get all of us us to look deep within ourselves to locate and recognize our own selfish motives for the decisions we make and actions we take.

  3. One of the most troubling aspects about the task force recommendations, for me, is rhetoric of the supporters. For instance, I have heard many say, “If you vote against it you’re voting against the GC.” Now we hear in this post that if you vote against the recommendations it is because your sinful heart is full of pride? These tactics are a great source of discouragement to me and reek of a political struggle rather than a sincere desire to glorify our Savior. For the most part I believe we are dealing with ideological differences here. In Orlando both sides will state their case, we will vote, and then we MUST move on in unity. I’m afraid that the politics at play may do much more to harm our cooperation for His kingdom than either GCR or CPR(?) ever will.

  4. Mary,

    I agree with you that Nathan was really addressing all of us. He wants us all to examine our own selfish motives in the same way that he has examined his. But confession really doesn’t work that way. If he is personally convicted of his own impure motives for glory in this, then he can and should handle his own unfinished business.

    However, he does not really stop there, does he? With all of the “I (we) am (are) so sinful” talk, he begins to insinuate that others are sinning as prideful obstacles themselves. This narrative moves more quickly from private remorse to public accusation than anything I may have ever read, although it was handled with subtlety and skill.

    It was at this point that I, along with Bryant (I think) picked up on the idea that Nathan is actually pointing a finger at others here rather than bowing a knee in confession himself. I read the post several times to determine if his intent might have been some form of satire all along.

    Ultimately, I decided to take him at his word. If he really needs to repent of his selfish motives, that’s exactly what he should do. If he really wants those who oppose the report to repent of their selfish motives, then he must wrongly assume that their objections have to be based on the same selfish motives he confesses: “wanting the glory, being territorial, skeptically poking holes, etc.”

    What I was trying to point out is that many people, myself included, possess genuine, heartfelt, Christ honoring reservations about some of the GCR recommendations, but there is no “sin issue” involved, only a legitimate and principled difference of opinion among fellow Christians as to the best course of action going forward.

    To paraphrase a quote my best friend used to recite: “You can pick your friends, and you can confess your sins, but you can’t confess your friends’ sins.”

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    Rick and Bryant,

    I do not really want to engage in a back and forth on this, but I want to clear a few things up. In this post, I am only talking about me and I think the possibility remains that there are some out there that have similar struggles. I never once said a vote against the GCR was sinful/prideful or was a vote cast against the Great Commission. I talked about my struggles and mentioned that it was possible that others struggled with the same thing and that possibly others could identify with me.

    I get the inclination that you are questioning the sincerity of what I wrote and you are insinuating that I do not want Christ to be glorified, but that instead this is a political maneuver. That is a very disappointing accusation and I hope that is not what you’re saying. Also, at times the rhetoric on both sides has been unhelpful… lets not pin that just on the GCR side.

    Let me reiterate so that I am not misunderstood. This is a genuine struggle for me, and I don’t just mean for the GCR vote, I mean this a struggle for cooperation in a convention, as I stated. It is possible others can identify with this, maybe not, it has nothing to do with whether you vote for the GCR or not. Let me also reiterate, a vote against the GCR does not necessarily mean someone is prideful/sinful and it is not necessarily a vote against the Great Commission. That was never stated in this post and I have never said that. It is possible that sinful motives could keep someone from voting for the GCR, but I would not judge the motive of your heart in the casting of your vote, I would appreciate the same courtesy with this blog.


  6. Nathan,

    Thanks for clarifying that the post was indeed about you. When Mary wrote you were trying to get “all of us” to look deep within ourselves, her comment sort of resonated with me. It really did seem that way, so thanks for clearing up that this was about your sin alone.

    I do believe you sincerely want Christ to be glorified. I was not so much questioning the sincerity of your confession as I was wondering whether or not you were attributing to others the very same sins you had recognized in your own life. You have clearly disavowed this, and for that I am grateful.

    Apparently, Bryant and I both were under the misconception that you were linking the sins you named to the GCR issue, perhaps thrown off by the mere presence of the letters “GCR” in the headline. Sadly, in the midst of controversy, it is sometimes too easy to read something into a person’s remarks that they never intended at all.

    Please forgive me for any uncharitable construction I may have placed on the words or intentions of your post. Be blessed, brother, and may our hearts unite for the glory of God and the spread of His Word.

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  8. Nathan, I am also thankful for your explanation. There is so much satire in the blog world that I assumed. So please accept my apology. I do, however, feel that the political maneuvering in our convention, whether it be over this report or the three high profile vacancies that currently exist have the potential to do us great harm. We should all pray for unity and cooperation.

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    Thank you for your kind response, I certainly accept your apology.I pray as well that we could have a greater sense of unity, trust, and care for one another in the days ahead.


  10. Nathan,

    You have nailed the precise issue not just for yourself but all of us. Part of believing the gospel enough to risk all to carry it to the ends of the earth is understanding the depths of depravity and the corresponding heights of grace. Thank you my brother for a transparency and humility that hopefully fosters the same in others. I know it did me. Bless you.

    Chris Fowler

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