Why We Believe the GCRTF Report is Good for the Future of the SBC (2c): Making Our Values Transparent (Trust, Future)

By: Danny Akin & Steven McKinion

The Great Commission Resurgence Task Force has proposed the adoption of eight Core Values. We wrote about why we believe the first four of those are important in an earlier post. In this article we want to demonstrate why the next two Core Values are key to ensuring that the churches, agencies and institutions of the Southern Baptist Convention will be more effective in fulfilling the Great Commission.

Value 5: Trust. We tell each other the truth in love and do what we say we will do

If Southern Baptists are to cooperate in the work of the Gospel, we must be able to trust one another. Trust is rooted in our shared faith and commitment to the Truth of Scripture. (John 17:17) Practicing truthfulness in our words and deeds leads to an environment of trust. We earn the trust of other Southern Baptists by acting in a trustworthy manner. Telling the truth is an essential part of living the Truth.

Dishonest speech is perilous in our relationships, and equally perilous in our Gospel proclamation. If we cannot trust one another to deal honestly and with integrity in our partnerships, how can we act deferentially for a common purpose? Just as important, how can we claim to represent the One who Himself is Truth when we cannot be trusted to speak honestly?

Trusting and being trustworthy are inseparable. If we are not trustworthy, we will never foster an environment of trust. Marriages that have been scarred through the infidelity of one party can be healed, but as long as there is no trust, there will be an inadequacy of relationship. We agree with the Task Force that Southern Baptists need to value an environment of trust that is created through trustworthiness. For us to cooperate in the Great Commission we must be able to trust each other. We must learn to give one another “the benefit of the doubt.” And to trust each other, we must act with integrity in ALL of our dealings.

Moreover, a massive barrier to the hearing of the Gospel is the sometimes scandalous behavior of those claiming to be Christians. Our unsaved friends must be able to trust us to speak honestly and deal with them honestly if they are to be open to hearing the Gospel. The nations will always be skeptical of our message of Truth if we cannot be believed.

Value 6: Future. We value Southern Baptists of all generations and embrace our responsibility to pass this charge to a rising generation in every age, faithful until Jesus comes

Disciple-making involves older Christians helping teach younger Christians the implications of the Faith in their lives (Titus 2:1-15). Every generation in the church is essential to the inward progress of the Gospel in the lives of believers and the outward progress of the gospel to the nations. Christians in every generation are valuable as Christ is formed in them. The wisdom that comes from a lifetime of following Jesus is to be passed on to the next generation of Christian whose passion and energy are needed (2 Timothy 2:2). We agree with the GCRTF that for Southern Baptists to participate in the Great Commission we must value every generation. Older Southern Baptists are to be valued not just because of the legacy they have left, but, more importantly, for the role they continue to play in shaping the convention and its member churches. Older Southern Baptists are essential for us to be “the church.”

Younger Southern Baptists are also to be valued, as they are both the present and the future of the convention. Southern Baptist churches that do not reproduce by passing along the faith to the next generation are like mules, whose work is valuable for a time but when they are gone have left no one to carry on the work. For Southern Baptists to refuse to both value the younger generation and to dedicate ourselves to their formation is unconscionable. The Great Commission is of necessity a task of spiritual reproduction. We must be fervent in producing and teaching the next generation of Southern Baptists.

Good parents are those who sacrifice for their children. Good children are those who honor their parents. Parents leave an inheritance to their children so it will be passed on, not so it will be consumed and squandered. For the SBC to accomplish effectively the Great Commission we must be churches that sacrifice for the next generation and that honor the previous generation by continuing their work.

Younger generations cannot be like adolescents who “know everything,” and reject the wisdom of their elders. Longevity in ministry can expose younger Christians to pitfalls that may not easily be seen. It is for this reason that the Bible says a novice should not be appointed as an elder. Older generations cannot simply rely on how things have always been done. What is the best strategy in one generation may not necessarily be the best strategy in the next. My father (Steve) grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing. They took baths in a tub in the kitchen. I am glad that what “worked” for his family was not what he passed on to me!

Can Southern Baptists trust one another to speak the truth in love? Can we be trusted to do what we say, both in our dealings with one another and with the world? Can we be trusted to pass along the Faith to the next generation, even when that involves self-denial and self-sacrifice? If not, then we will never be effective in the work of the Gospel. A GCR will only be a dream that never comes to fruition.

Time Magazine Speaks to Evangelicals

Note: Chuck Lawless is Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and President of the Lawless Group, a church consulting firm. The article below was originally published earlier today at his personal blog. Dr. Lawless has graciously given us permission to republish his excellent article at Between the Times.

I don’t recall fearing writing a blog, but this one scares me.

This week, Time magazine published its annual special issue, “10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years.”[i] Trend number 9-“The Twilight of the Elites”-caught my attention not because of its title, but because of its subtitle: “Why we have entered the post-trust era.”

The article starts ominously enough:

In the past decade, nearly every pillar institution in American society-whether it’s General Motors, Congress, Wall Street, Major League Baseball, the Catholic Church or the mainstream media-has revealed itself to be corrupt, incompetent, or both. And at the root of these failures are the people who run these institutions, the bright and industrious minds who occupy the commanding heights of our meritocratic order. In exchange for their power, status and remuneration, they are supposed to make sure everything operates smoothly. But after a cascade of scandals and catastrophes, that implicit social contract lies in ruins, replaced by mass skepticism, contempt and disillusionment.

From there, author Christopher Hayes, the Washington editor of the Nation, critically evaluates why it is that “so much of the country’s leadership in so many different walks of life performed so terribly over this decade.” While recognizing that no single theory can explain this failure, he nevertheless finds these themes to be recurrent in the failures: the concentration of power in a single person and the erosion of transparency and accountability in the system.

Hayes finds this problem evident in various walks of life, including the Catholic Church. Citing the work of Terry McKiernan, who founded Bishop Accountability in the wake of sexual abuse allegations in the Church, he concludes that obsessive secrecy and the hierarchical nature of the Church contributed to the crisis. McKiernan is even more direct: “I’m not surprised that people doing unexamined things do bad things.”

The problem is larger, though, than distrust of leaders, says Hayes. We live in a complicated society that rightly demands expertise and leadership and elites at times – but if a culture cannot trust its leaders, the result is a loss of authority even when that authority is desperately needed. That is, all leaders pay a price when other leaders fall.

There is so much here for the evangelical church. First, we ignore this trend only to our peril. How many agonizing stories do we know-the evangelist whose immorality cost him his ministry, the pastor whose financial dealings cast a web that entangled him, the church leader whose unchecked arrogance led to corrupt living-that were marked by secrecy and no accountability?

Perhaps more alarming, how many stories do we not know yet? How many leaders, invested in building their own kingdoms, believe that their success has inoculated them against failure? The evil one who tempted Jesus still offers us a kingdom if we bow to the altar of self.

Second, the accountability inherent in the Body of Christ is non-negotiable, even for leaders-in fact, especially for leaders. The qualifications for elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 3 not only assume examination and accountability; they demand it. Moreover, those qualifications are not simply a checklist to examine a pastoral candidate. They are stated expectations for the leader as he lives today, tomorrow, and the future.

I am not one who believes that the Scriptures require a plurality of elders as the single model of a NT church, but the wisdom of shared leadership is clear here. Power centered in a single person breeds demonized independence that is nothing short of idolatry of the self. There are good reasons that the Body of Christ is “not one part, but many” (1 Cor. 12:14) – one of which is accountability. Or, as Hayes concludes in his article about trend #9, “The elites’ failures of the past decade should teach us that institutions of all kinds need input from below.”

Third, the attitude of “we trust him just because he’s our leader” no longer works. Indeed, if Hayes is right, the more common attitude today is, “We cannot trust him just because he’s our leader.” From a secular perspective, unearned “trust” has fostered the failures that are the source of Hayes’ article. From a Christian perspective, the issue is even more basic. “Trust” separated from open vulnerability and intentional accountability is hardly Christian at all; rather, it is an open door for an enemy who himself sought to dethrone the One to whom we are all accountable (Isa. 14:13-14). Sin crouches at the door (Gen. 4:7) when leaders are permitted to live unexamined lives.

So, what frightens me about writing this blog? Fear that I have misread the Time article? No. Fear that a reader will not like what I’ve said? Absolutely not. Fear that I will be perceived as attacking a person? Not at all, as I know my motives. Fear that leaders who need to see themselves in this mirror will mess the needed reflection? Perhaps, but that’s not my primary fear.

What I fear is that I will not see my own tendencies to lead without accountability and responsibility. I fear that I will see the speck in others’ eyes but not see the log of elitism in my own (Matt. 7:1-5). God help me.

[i] Christopher Hayes, “The Twilight of the Elite,” Time (22 March 2010), 56-58.