Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, also known as the heart of the Bible belt, I had an advantageous understanding of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Now as a church planter outside of the South, I have come to better understand that the majority of my fellow planters and pastors were not afforded the front row seat that I viewed SBC life from. We read the articles and listen to the podcasts informing us of decreased attendance at the annual meeting and disengagement on all levels of participation.
As a planter in my thirties and current president of our state convention, I am often asked why am I so involved in what appears to be an archaic system? Isn’t the SBC irrelevant? I would suggest to you two clear and compelling reasons why I choose to engage in the Southern Baptist Convention.
I love the fact that Southern Baptists’ have a clear, concise and compelling confession of faith known as theBaptist Faith & Message. It was first written in 1925, revised in 1963, 1998 and finally in 2000. We know what we believe and why we believe it. The foundation of our faith is rooted in the Scriptures. In an era of postmodernism and pluralism, we need doctrinal fidelity more than ever. One of the incredible benefits of being connected to the Southern Baptist Convention is the autonomy of the churches that comprise it. When we planted Living Hope Church over seven years ago, we had a national sponsoring church in Memphis, Tennessee and a local sponsoring church in Dublin, Ohio.
Both of these churches were and still are leading churches in our convention. Though our church may look a little different than those that sent us, we all believe and hold to the same confession of faith rooted in the Scriptures and the Baptist Faith & Message. I am thankful that before I was born, and soon thereafter, Southern Baptist leaders fought for and won the battle over the inerrancy of the Bible. As a young leader in the SBC, I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before me and afforded me the opportunity to lead from an inerrant, inspired and infallible view of the Scriptures that is held among our convention and seminaries. It was not always that way.
Another compelling reason I choose to engage is the Cooperative Program, commonly referred to as CP. Just as the Baptist Faith & Message was introduced in 1925, so was the Cooperative Program. Southern Baptist Churches were being asked by agents coming from seminaries, mission boards and other entities for funds and the system was broken. In an effort to promote a more balanced distribution to all, the Cooperative Program was birthed. To date, over seventeen billion dollars has been given since 1925 to SBC seminaries and mission causes.
No other denomination or network on the planet can come even close to this collaborative effort to fund and fuel missions around the globe. When I am able to stand in front of my young church and inform them that they are not giving to Living Hope, but rather through Living Hope to the kingdom, it’s a game changer. I would not be able to say those words without the Cooperative Program. As a planter, I have received direct financial support from the CP and now it’s time for me to give back. Simply put, we can do more together than we can alone.
I am grateful that in my hometown back in 1925, both the Baptist Faith & Message and Cooperative Program were introduced. Nearly a century later, these two pillars of SBC life are the reasons why I choose to engage. Please don’t sit on the sidelines and complain, rather engage and cooperate.
Published October 24, 2016