I serve on the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force for the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Our responsibility is to offer guidance as to how the cooperative efforts of like-minded churches can thrive in the next generation. People often note (correctly) that “denominations” are not in the Bible. That is true, but cooperation is biblical, and “conventions” are a way like-minded Christians can cooperate together. As Jesus taught, we can do much more when all the parts of the body is working together than we can do alone.
I was recently asked, in a discussion panel, what I hope the SBC looks like in 5 years. It was a good question, and here is what my answer is:
- I want to see a Convention where initiative is restored to the local churches. Good parachurch ministries FACILITATE the ministry of the church. BAD parachurch takes ministry from a local church and does it for her. Bad parachurch says, “Give us money and people and we’ll do ministry for you.” In my opinion, the SBC has, in many places, descended into a “bad parachurch” model (please note that this applies to some, but certainly not all). The perception is that local churches should give, send people, and allow the institutions to do the work. Many pastors, particularly younger ones, are no longer content with that model. They believe that the Great Commission was given to them, not to the denomination. They want to use cooperative networks to plant churches, but they don’t want the networks to do the work for them.
- I see a convention that is defined by, and known for, cooperation in international and domestic church planting, not boycotts or politics.I also want to see us give our time and energies mostly to things inside our ‘core competencies.’ Our church does not believe that everything we do has to have its genesis in a Southern Baptist church or institution. A lot of the “non-Baptist” body of Christ has produced helpful literature and ministry resource we should use and not attempt to re-invent. The one thing that we do best with other “Baptist” churches is plant churches. Whenever a “corporation” gets away from its core competencies, it turns into a hairball of inefficiency. Things that don’t propel the mission of the SBC, things that just don’t work, or things that are done just as well by other parts of the body of Christ ought to be carefully examined, and be open to re-engineering or elimination.
It’s not that any of these things are bad things, it’s just that they keep us from doing efficiently the ‘one’ thing that we come together for.
Obviously, that is not a full and exhaustive description, but these are at the core of what I hope to see in the SBC of the future.
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