Recently someone said that perhaps it would be best for local churches to give the Southern Baptist Convention “the boot” while going on to live in harmony with one another. Naturally, as a church planter’s wife in a state that is less than 3% evangelical Christian and whose family depends heavily on financial support we raise from several SBC churches as well as financial support given to us by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), this struck a nerve.
Do away with the SBC? And what then, of all those missionaries and their families serving across the world, making disciples and baptizing them? What then, of those church planters and their families serving and starting new churches in all the SEND cities in North America now? What then, of those future pastors in training, sacrificing countless hours studying the word of God so that they might go out to teach and disciple those in the local church? And what then, of the local church members who need the resources provided by the SBC, the training and education provided, the financial, emotional, and spiritual support provided by the entities some would see given “the boot?”
The SBC is more than just some men making decisions that people constantly complain about, and it’s more than the local church. The SBC is made up of eight total entities, two of which are large scale mission boards (International Missions Board and NAMB), Southern Baptist seminaries, as well as church resources. According to the SBC’s website, the Convention exists as:
“…a multi-faceted set of ministries created, designed, and supported by cooperating Baptist churches that agree and identify with the mission and purposes of the Convention.
At the national level, these ministries fall into seven general categories:
• International missions;
• North American missions;
• Theological education;
• Advocacy for religious liberty;
• Production of church resources;
• Insurance and retirement services for pastors and other church workers; and
• Day-to-day facilitation to keep these cooperative efforts operational between the annual two-day meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Forgive me if this seems personal, but it very much is. It’s easy to say the local church can send missionaries out and fund them but what do you do about a state like Utah without enough churches to seat even the extremely small percentage of professing Christians here should they all decide to gather on Sunday? To add insult to injury, there are just not enough tithes. Many Utahn converts come from Mormon backgrounds and tithing is something done to get into the highest level of (Mormon) heaven. When those believers are saved and leave the Mormon faith, it often takes many more years of faithful discipleship before they understand and obey a conviction to give to their local church without being compelled out of fear. My family depends on the tithes, service, and prayers of more Southern Baptists than you can count. We, as a small church plant in the heart of the Salt Lake Valley, exist here to serve the Lord in the spread of His good news, and the SBC has been essential to almost every aspect of living and working here.
So when someone makes an offhand remark concerning giving the SBC “the boot,” it’s pertinent to then ask that person if he or she is okay with and willing to take responsibility for the missionaries, church planters, the future and in training pastors, and the employees of resource entities caught up as collateral damage just because we are too lazy or impatient to solve the problems in front of us.
Is reform in order? I think we all know the answer to that. There is division and contention trickling down from the top because of progressive tactics and resolutions becoming more common and the SBC as a whole will have to answer to one another for restitution. But we have more at stake here than petty nuances and disagreements. Souls are at stake here and I for one am not yet willing to throw the baby out with the bath water when the purpose and mission of the SBC is still that the name and good news of Jesus Christ is given to every nation, tribe, and tongue. When that purpose changes, or the SBC adopts a different gospel than that of Christ’s, the SBC should and hopefully will dissolve. Until then, I suggest those so willing to dissolve it now get involved in serving at their local church, give generously to local and foreign mission funds, and pray that God would give wisdom to their local Christian pastors and elders as they govern their church bodies under the stewardship of the SBC.