- We get to hopefully elect Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans as SBC president. He is a good man with a sterling ministry record. I heard him speak at the Pastor's Conference in Greensboro, NC in 2006 and he did a fantastic job and has been a real leader in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the rebuild. I look forward to how he will lead the SBC into the future. He is also African-American, and will be the first ever black president of the SBC. If you know anything about our origin and our past, this is a good thing.
- I get to spend a few days in New Orleans, my birthplace and favorite city in America. Can't wait. I love it down there.
- I am bringing a resolution on holistic ministry in the SBC. I pray that it makes it out of committee and I think that it will be a good encouragement as we move forward into ministering to our communities in both word and deed. You can see the text here: A Resolution Supporting Holistic Ministry.
- I get to see old friends. I used to be heavily involved in Baptist Blogging about 4-5 years ago and knew a lot of people through that. It was a good experience, but life moved on and I did not have the energy to stay involved in controversy. I still participate in discussions every now and then, but not as much as I used to. However, I have met a lot of great people through it and many of them will be in New Orleans next week. Looking forward to reconnecting.
Here are the things that I am not excited about:
- Calvinist-Traditionalist Controversy. Baptists are fighting again. It is unnecessary. I don't know if there will be any official move by either group to assert themselves over the other, but the Convention has definitely been affected by this division. It is more about power than it is about theology, in my opinion. I can tell that because you only have to talk to a representative from each camp for just a moment before they begin to complain that those of their ilk might be shut out of participation in Baptist life in some way. If it is not directly about power, then it seems to be about access to power. Everyone needs to calm down and carry on according to their convictions.
- The aging and decline of the SBC. It so often seems as though we are trying to hold on to some greatness that we think we once had. It is kind of discouraging to go to Annual Meetings because you really do see how gray the SBC is. I am glad for the participation of the older generation. They should not stop. But, it is indicative of the decline of denominations and all institutions, really, when younger people just don't participate. I think that things like denominations will continue into the future, but they must change the way they do business - instead of having ministry flow through them, they need to facilitate networks of churches to carry out the mission wherever they are. The GCR was supposed to give us that perspective, but it seems to have fizzled out.
- SBC Name Change - there is a proposal to give the SBC a nickname - Great Commission Baptists - and keep the old SBC name for legal purposes. But, a rose by any other name is still a rose, thorns and all. One, I don't like nicknames. Two, few will use it and it will die out, I am afraid. And Three, we should not be defined by the Great Commission, but by Christ. Our unity is in the person of Jesus, not a mission that we do together. Which leads me to my next point.
The SBC Is Already Unified
Okay, so we fight a lot. We fight about a lot of different things. It seems that Baptists are always splitting into some camp or another. As this happens, you hear battle cries about being right and standing for truth. You also hear people bemoan the fact that we are arguing. Everyone wants to get their way and see their view reign supreme and we are upset about our lack of unity because we fail to agree on issues.
But, what if we were already unified and all of these disagreements were just dinner table discussions amongst family? What if it was not up to us at all to maintain unity?
That seems to be what Jesus is praying in John 17:20-23. He prays that we will be brought to complete unity so the world we know that the Father sent Jesus. Even though we disagee on issues and sometimes argue about how we see things, I will go so far as to say that if anyone is in Christ, he is a New Creation - the old has gone and the new has come. Though we once regarded people from a worldly point of view, we do so no longer (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). In other words, we should see one another from a spiritual point of view where Christ has already established our unity IN HIM in the heavenlies. Unity is not something that we create, but instead, it is something that we recognize and live out of since our unity is already established in Christ. IN CHRIST, we are one. So, even if we disagree, we are still one because we are in Christ together.
So, even if we go to New Orleans and fight and disagree, we are still unified in Christ in the heavenly realms. We cannot get away from one another. But, knowing that should not give us permission to argue, fuss, fight, and try to dominate the other. Rather, knowing that we really are one in Christ despite our differences should actually influence how we treat one another. It should cause us to see our disagreements in perspective. It should cause us to fight with all our energy to live and work together and display the unity that Christ secured for us on the Cross. When we fail to see that, we actually fail to understand what Jesus did for us and we present a fractured witness to the world.
As we vote on a nickname to be called "Great Commission Baptists," which has to do with our witness, we will be simultaneously fighting and dividing over interpretations of theology, which actually harms our witness, undercutting the message we hope to proclaim.
Ironic, isn't it?