As the SBC numbers have been reported in recent days, we have noticed a drop in baptisms, Cooperative Program giving, church membership, and church planting. These statistics often breed many who simply come to the forefront claiming that we need to baptize more next year. However, merely dunking people under water does not accomplish anything except inflated numbers for boasting rights. Schemes of man to produce numbers are nothing more than prideful idolatry at heart. While having breakfast this past Monday with fellow pastors and evangelists, one of the men spoke up and said that many evangelists are constantly focused on numbers and reporting “decisions” in their meetings because they are hanging their success on the amount of people they get to come down the aisle. How do we avoid such idolatrous errors and accomplish a true Great Commission resurgence in the SBC? Dr. Danny Akin has provided a solid approach to this effort that is Word driven and focused. Many key issues that face SBC churches are directly addressed in Akin’s sermon and the Great Commission Resurgence. Below are a few key issues that jump off of the page as extremely important for unity surrounding the gospel of Jesus Christ within the SBC.
I. The Issue of Expository Preaching
Many people today in the pew may not understand the importance of having a preacher who preaches with an expository format week by week, but those who have taken a serious look at the pulpit today understand the need for that type of approach. When the Word is not being preached in full, the people are not receiving an adaquate diet. Therefore, they are left to feed on the fancy speech and cleverly constructed cliches found in the favorite sugar stick sermons of many preachers today. However, as Akin rightly noted, the way that the SBC will move toward and experience a Great Commission Resurgence is through the Word of God being rightly proclaimed. Dr. Akin said,
We need a new battalion of well trained expositors who preach the whole Bible book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, phrase by phrase and word by word.
When preachers enter the pulpit each week with a goal to allow the Word of God to speak – God will speak to His people and move them toward obedience in all areas – including the area of missions and evangelism. No scheme of man or numbers based formula will replace the clear proclamation of God’s Word.
II. The Issue of Doctrinal Divisions
The SBC comes together for the purpose of missions. The entire SBC will not agree on every issue of doctrine, however, the BF&M 2000 is a document that protects Southern Baptists from heresy and exalts the essential doctrines of Holy Scripture that bring us together. In recent days, some folks in the Convention have decided to stop fighting the world, the flesh, and the Devil in order to fight over doctrinal differences. Dr. Albert Mohler, as Akin points out, has a great article titled, A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity which describes the differing levels of doctrine and when it may be necessary to part fellowship.
Rather than seeking unity for the sake of the gospel, many folks in the SBC are seeking division. When preachers stand in pulpits and place the focus on Calvinism as if it is the main goal of the church to equip believers to go out and make Calvinists – they have lost a true focus of the local Church. Likewise, when preachers stand in the pulpit and beat on Calvinism or Calvinists as if they are the “Great Red Dragon” coming to get everyone – they likewise have erred and proven themselves to have a lack of education regarding the history of the SBC. Their attitude further aligns them with a divisive agenda. Yes, the Southern Baptist Convention was founded by men who were Calvinists and many of our famous missionaries, SBC Presidents, Seminary Presidents and founders, and SBC theologians were Calvinists – 5-point Calvinists. Many today are Calvinists and modified Calvinists. However, with a lost world surrounding us, why should we sit and debate the 5-points of Calvinism, fight over Calvinism, or divide over Calvinism when we should be working together to reach this lost world with the gospel that saves? It is simply not profitable. Those who push agendas (on either side of the fence) and who are working harder to make Calvinists than disciples have embraced an error filled movement. Those who would rather preach on why Calvinism is the “Great Red Dragon” than the gospel of Christ that is the “Power of God unto Salvation” have likewise embraced an error filled movement. Both sides need to repent!
III. The Issue of Healthy Churches and Baptist Identity
Many churches today are so numbers driven that there is absolutely no means of biblical counsel or desire to make sure the people coming to join the church embrace solid essential Baptist doctrine before they are brought into the membership of the local church. As a result, the churches are often left with a largely inflated roll where only a percentage of those people attend. Furthermore, when this occurs, the local church is often filled with people who have differing doctrine than historic Baptist doctrine. This creates unnecessary friction within the community and could lead to unhealthy church splits. According to the Great Commission Resurgence:
We must be especially mindful to resist contemporary threats to our historic, biblical Baptist identity. Our churches must remain committed to the Baptist distinctives of a regenerate church membership, believer’s baptism by immersion, the priesthood of all believers, congregational church polity, local church autonomy, and liberty of conscience for all people. Each of these distinctives must be embraced under the lordship of Christ as revealed in Christian Scripture and interpreted by gospel-centered congregations. We must be willing to alter our practices to better accord with a robust Baptist identity, including in many churches a more responsible baptismal policy, a recovery of redemptive church discipline, a healthier balance between pastoral leadership and congregational authority, and a commitment to an every-member ministry.
The numbers oriented church policies of today are crippling the local church. When no standards exist for membership, no true and distinctive Baptist identity requirements are in place, when no church discipline is being practiced in the setting of the local church, and when people who are not saved are being baptized without any serious biblical counsel – the local church becomes something other than a true church of Jesus Christ. When this happens in the SBC – the entire Convention crumbles on a faulty foundation of pride-based number reporting that is nothing more than idolatry with makeup.
Last night, I signed the Great Commission Resurgence. I pray that we will see a true moving of God rather than a numbers based scheme of man within the SBC in the days to come. I pray that we will see the passing of a day when “numbers of decisions” are being elevated by evangelists and our Convention as a whole as the means of success. If all of those numbers were true – our local churches, our communities, and our world would look drastically different. Join me in praying for a God initiated, Spirit empowered, and Word driven Great Commission Resurgence that will turn the world upside down with the gospel of Christ.
Pastor Josh Buice
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