Matt Rogers: Why engage in the Southern Baptist Church?

Yesterday, my friend Jeremy Westbrook shared two compelling reasons why many pastors should partner with the Southern Baptist Convention—confession and cooperation. Today, I’ll add two more to this list.

Let’s imagine the following not-so-fictitious scenario. A young pastor is compelled to plant a church an urban center in the Northeast. Not only is the mission overwhelming, but the costs associated with moving a family to such a city are massive. He is scared—or at least he is if he’s normal.

He grew up in a Southern Baptist church and ultimately came to faith through the ministry of this church. Now, as a prospective church planter, he’s heard that Southern Baptists are leading the charge to plant churches throughout North America. He also understands if he walks through the process, the SBC might help fund his work. He’s sold. Once on the ground in the new city, he receives his first check from the SBC. At this point, he’s ready to be the poster-child for Southern Baptists.

But something happens in the months that follow. His loyalty begins to fade. At first, it’s not intentional—he’s just got a lot going on and has little margin to connect with the broader SBC work. Then, he convinces himself that the denomination has flaws (shocking, I know). By the time he receives his last support check, he takes his ball and goes home, never to associate with Southern Baptists again.

The implications of this process—repeated in church after church—produce pain, frustration, suspicion and doubt on the part of established pastors and denominational leaders. And it should.

In contrast to this process, church planters must learn the value of long-term partnerships for two primary reasons.

     1. Honor Many young guys are deeply indebted to the love, care, support and training we’ve received as a result of Southern Baptists. Even though we may now question certain aspects of denominational life or the programs of our youth, God used these structures to introduce many of us to the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not only that, but giants of the faith left us a legacy of biblical fidelity that resulted from battles we may never have to fight. We’ve been trained in Southern Baptist seminaries and discipled by pastors in Southern Baptist churches. And, saints who have long sense seen Jesus face-to-face, generously gave of their money and time to build churches, pay pastors, send mission teams and scores and scores of other actions that were a conduit of God’s grace to younger pastors—whether we realize it or not.

For these reasons, and many others, it is not only foolish, it’s disrespectful for church planters to partner at the outset and then bail on the denomination once they get up and running. And, even if they never get a dime, church planters have a responsibility to honor those who have gone before us, even when we might be frustrated and want to tap out.

     2. Potential
Partnership doesn’t only look in the rear-view mirror, but it also looks through the windshield. I’ve chosen to partner with the Southern Baptist Convention because I truly believe in the trajectory of our cooperative efforts. There have certainly been great days in the past—times when God has used Southern Baptists to usher in revival or take the gospel to those who’ve never heard. These days can happen again.
Young leaders have a significant role to play in this future becoming a reality. By God’s grace, we are largely a denomination led by humble individuals who recognize the need for young guys to be in leadership positons—not merely as a token millennial—but as a voice who will shape the future. If we are not at the table when leadership decisions are being made, it’s often not because leaders don’t want us there but because we’ve taken ourselves out of the game. We’ve squandered the gift of influence we’ve been given.

So show up. Attend the meetings. Serve on committees. Speak about things that matter. Lead your churches toward mission. Set the model that others can follow.

Should Jesus tarry, future generations will look back on our decisions today as those that shaped the culture of the SBC, and for that to happen, we need more and more young leaders to get in the game.

How can you engage in missions with the SBC? Learn more at Send Me!

Published October 25, 2016