From our Purpose Statement: Baptist 21 is grateful for a Southern Baptist heritage where the Gospel has been faithfully passed down and effective Great Commission ministry has been undertaken. Many believe there is a crisis ahead for Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, in the 21st century. Our commitment is to work diligently in the present by honoring the Gospel faithfulness of the past, contending for the Gospel, engaging current cultures with the Gospel, and cooperating toward future Kingdom effectiveness among Southern Baptists in the 21st century and beyond.
Baptist21 was honored to sit down with Dr. James Merritt. He is one of the most powerful preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. He weds strong expositional preaching and a zeal for personal evangelism that is seldom matched in SBC life. He is a former president of the SBC and is a denominational statesman. In addition, he has broken from some of the more traditional modes of many in his generation, while still embracing the truths for which they fight. He addresses some of the main ideas that spurred us toward beginning this blog. This is why it is a great blessing that he allowed me time to ask him some questions. Dr. Merritt is the pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Ga. He has some wonderful insights for older and younger Southern Baptists. He also is a long time family friend and there are few people in this world I look forward to seeing more than Dr. Merritt. It is my hope that you will listen to these insights as we all seek to understand what the church and the convention should look like moving into the 21st century. (I apologize that my voice is so much louder than his is, just be aware of that.)
Some Questions and Quotes from Dr. Merritt’s Interview:
“I don’t read a lot blogs but this will be one that I will keep up with religiously because I think you guys bring a real wonderful insight into what is going on both from a religious side and cultural side”
- Whom do you read and listen to these days?
“Mark Driscoll, I listen to Andy Stanley… so many fresh voices out there… I love Tim Keller”
- What makes you happy to be a part of the Southern Baptist Convention?
“Our stance on the authority and inspiration of scripture coupled with at least a verbal commitment to the great commission… a true Baptist church is probably as close to the New Testament church as any I know of… any church that truly desires to become a New Testament church, I say this humbly I hope this will not come across the wrong way will probably look like a Baptist church”
- What do we need to focus on to be Baptist in the 21st Century?
“if we are going to take great commission seriously… common sense will tell you alone we have to focus on reaching the next generation… and not just say or pay lip service to it but to do it… (Also we ought) not to be so tradition laden… thirdly, a return to expository preaching”
- What is the benefit of being SBC, especially for those that are thinking about leaving?
“We become known sometimes more for what we are against than what we’re for… (but having said that) we are the vanguard of the most conservative evangelical bible-believing group of believers on this planet, so you know you are going to get good housekeeping seal of approval theologically… we are the denomination that sends more missionaries around the world than any other two or three or four or five denominations in the world… I think the future for us if we make some changes as I said early is brighter than it has ever been, and I will tell you the flip side of that is not only do I believe we can be good for young people… we need young people, we need your fresh thinking, we need your new blood, we need your creativity”
- What are final words for those studying for ministry?
“Preach the word… Major on the majors and minor on the minors… there is a lot of debate going on that is meaningless”
Some of the issues that convinced us to start this blog this interview addresses. Though we think there needs to be some sense of renewal in SBC life and we think Merritt has provided insight into some of those issues, we also believe there is much to celebrate and fight for in SBC life. Merritt has embodied in this interview some of our thoughts toward what we ought to celebrate and what we ought to address in our convention. In the short time we had to talk he is only addressing principles and the surface of what this will look like, but he lays down some helpful insight that will help continue this conversation as we seek to be the most effective gospel-faithful men and hopefully denomination we can be.
If you have questions, you would like ask or people you would like to hear interviewed in the SBC please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org