Thoughts on the SBC, Part 5: Active Participation
As we approach the Annual Meeting of the SBC, I hope you’ll join me in thinking about how we can best engage the issues at hand. Take a moment and read Part 1: Service, Part 2: Prayer, Part 3: Fasting Together, and Part 4: Our Missional Purpose.
It has been a sad week in the life of our convention. So now is the time to engage rather than back away.
If you read my writings about the SBC, you may notice that I generally avoid referring to it as a “denomination.” Because we are group of autonomous (self-governing) churches, each congregation voluntarily participates. There is no hierarchical structure that requires loyalty or requires funding. (You can read more about this idea here.)
We volunteer to participate in a convention. Active participation is not required. But, if you want to have influence, you have to show up.
The SBC was created “to provide a general organization for Baptists in the United States and its territories for the promotion of Christian missions at home and abroad and any other objects such as Christian education, benevolent enterprises, and social services which it may deem proper and advisable for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God” (source). So, to partner well, get involved in the processes by which all of this happens. It is why we chose the name “Cooperative Program” for our central funding mechanism. We do things together for the cause of Gospel ministry. We give, go, minister, and make disciples together.
Voluntary cooperation being the case for the SBC’s operation, the responsibility is with us – the participating members – to be actively engaged. Here is some counsel on how to do so.
Speak up to have a preferred outcome. Given our history and our current issues/problems/shenanigans (take your pick), we need voices leading us to the future and honestly critiquing our past. To whitewash what we have been has never worked. As a body of churches, we should deal honestly with the systemic sins in our history. Any and all sins such as racism, misogyny, apathy in evangelism, backbiting, and the like should all be met head-on with confession and repentance.
As we do so, hand-wringing is not an option. We need spiritually bold voices that will lead us into a preferred future of solid gospel ministry. If we speak only to protect our system and our entities, then may God go ahead and wipe out our convention. The SBC must exist only so far as it encourages the church in God’s mission. Our collected voices and our individual leaders must blaze trails that further God’s glory and remained unconcerned with personal platforms.
I want to encourage you to make your voice heard. It will require an investment of time, courageous spirit, prayerful heart, and Spirit-led discernment. Now is the time for bold leadership that looks ahead to how ministry is accomplished in our day.
Understand how our cooperation works. It will take you no time at all to refresh your understanding of how the SBC operates. Please take that small amount of time to know how your state relates to the national SBC organization, IMB, NAMB, seminaries, WMU, and other entities. Critical in this is to know the percentage of Cooperative Program dollars that stay in your state and what passes to the national level. The percentages matter greatly. Our mission agencies, seminaries, and entities depend upon them. As we still have a vast frontier area of mission work inside many of our states, we need to continue to value cooperation.
Of course, cooperation is more than the money we give through the CP. It is also about actually getting face-to-face with one another. Even in our disagreements. And our disagreements are reaching a fever pitch. Our cooperation is often mostly about our money; which I even started this section about. But, it is about our spiritual kinship. We do have Baptist distinctives to which we hold. It is why I love the Baptist Faith and Message. It provides a wide coverage of what it means to be Southern Baptist. It that even encourages Christian unity and partnership with any believers who are working for the Gospel (Article XIV of The Baptist Faith and Message). We are a cooperative people with our resources and our lives for the purposes of God’s Kingdom.
Connect to those who are serving.You and I face an insidious temptation: Wait until a crisis arrives or the Annual Meeting happens before we engage. The last months have shown us that it is not an option if we want a healthy convention. You have passions and I hope you will engage them. Right now, there are members of Boards, committees, and entities that have zero idea what the members of the SBC actually want. Our brothers and sisters serving on these groups need our input. I serve on the Board of Directors for One More Child/Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. I’d rather have more input than I expected than none at all.
I think this moment is a time to especially engage our SBC Executive Committee. If for no other reason, let them know of our prayers for them and dedication to the work of the SBC. You can see the list of them here and search for those from your own state. Let me encourage you to connect with these leaders for the purpose of forward progress and not just a gripe session. Come to any conversations with the intent of spurring them on in their work toward the preferred future of Gospel impact.
We need active participation for our convention to work as it can. God has chosen the church to bear the witness of the Gospel. Let us humble the SBC system before His purpose, do away with any of our hero-worship of leaders, set aside our sins, and press together toward the prize of our high calling in Jesus.
In the next two posts, I hope to have some wise words about dealing with our sins and how a preferred future may look. Please feel free to pray for me now.