The picture attached to this post feels like it was a decade ago. This was a panel discussion on missiology where we discussed what it means to keep the gospel the same as it moves from one context/culture to another and one generation to another. It’s crazy it’s only been three years… it feels like a lifetime has passed.
This week as the SBC meets in Anaheim, CA, I’ve served in SBC churches for close to 24 years. I’ve always appreciated our commitment to unity of doctrine and the Great Commission. But for the last few years our differences have been in the spotlight.
And this year we have exposed a 20+ sin of covering up sex abuse in our churches by members of the Executive Committee staff and leadership.
As many continue to point out the SBC is theologically conservative. (And politically conservative for the overwhelming number of members and churches.) And yet, there is a new network of pastors and churches called the Conservative Baptist Network with the goal to #changethedirection of the SBC because they see a progressive and liberal slide happening in the denomination.
I am not a supporter of the CBN. In fact I can’t trust them because they are organized around the same leaders who got our convention in the sexual abuse mess the first time around.
But, I think an honest look at the convention requires admitting there are reasons for concern. There are churches that have women pastors in the SBC, not many, but they are here and at least one of them is a huge influencer. Saddleback Community Church where Rick Warren has pastored ordained women to the pastorate in recent years. It’s clear that they intend to continue this with their next pastor, Andy Wood. His current church has female pastors and his wife will serve as a pastor when they join Saddleback.
For me this is a matter of concern; because our statement of faith states that the office of pastor is reserved for men… and how we handle this situation and other churches with the same beliefs is a big deal.
In addition, there are other churches who may not have women serving as pastors, but throughout a year a woman may preach the Word to the congregation. Now, our statement of faith doesn’t address the role of preaching. By that I mean that the BF&M doesn’t specify who should or should not preach. (I believe it’s implied in the BF&M, and I think it’s clear in Scripture)
The office of pastor is given to men and preaching the Word is the primary means by which a pastor shepherds the congregation. As a result, I believe that preaching the Word to the congregation is reserved for men, in particular men who are serving as elders/pastors, or who are called and growing in that direction.
But, I think it’s clear that God has given women incredible gifts, and that the church should invest and equip women to serve and lead in a myriad of ways. But I also believe that the Bible is true and that God’s purpose and design for men and women is glorious in the home and in the church. I’m not advocating for an absence of women in leadership, I’m advocating that we adhere to the Word.
When you combine the concerns over women pastors, the role of women preaching the Word to the congregation, the acceptance or denial of CRT, concerns over the relationship of the SBC and politics, a current SBC President who openly plagiarized sermons, another former SBC Pres in the news for potential sexual abuse (at least attempted adultery), and then add the sexual abuse scandal you have nothing other than a stain on the beautiful name of Jesus.
And praise God that in the midst of all of this we continue to send missionaries, plant churches, respond to crisis, advocate for the unborn, lobby for religious liberty, train pastors in our seminaries, and seek to love God and make disciples in our local churches.
We are at a point where the good no longer distracts from the bad. But, I don’t believe we need to #Changethedirection of the SBC. I believe we need to be faithful to the direction of the SBC, and that means holding one another accountable to the what we believe and what we are about.
There isn’t a problem with the direction of the SBC, but there are many problems in the SBC.
It’s sinful that we looked the other way over and over again as abusers hurt and traumatized their victims.
It’s problematic that we have become a political environment where men build platforms rather than churches.
It’s a big deal that we ignore the fact that pastors and churches are rejecting what the Bible teaches and what we believe about the role of women in the pastorate.
And it’s shameful that we can’t put racism behind us and also admit there is still work to do. Our country and many of our cities are increasingly diverse, and if we are reaching our local communities then eventually that means being more diverse… and that requires intentionality. In fact, reaching people at all today requires intentionality on our part.
I am for addressing the problems rather than the direction. I believe that the overwhelming number of pastors and churches are in the SBC because of the direction we are presently aiming for. But I am one of many who are disappointed with recent events and the divisions that exist. I am attending this convention with concern and praying for wisdom and discernment to abound as we meet.
I mentioned the CBN earlier because they have positioned themselves as agents of change for a wayward convention. But over the last few years I have not been able to find any peace concerning them, and in fact have grown concerned they are more unified in what they are against than what they are for.
We need leaders who can articulate what we are for, and then handle the problems that we face as we move in the right direction. You can’t lead by simply pointing out problems and attacking them. There will always be a problem to address, which is why we need direction.
This doesn’t mean that I am team Bart Barber either. And after many calls, texts, and emails I know I’m not alone in my position. There are many who want to do right by the abused, be consistent in our doctrine, and move forward to reach all people both near and far with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The SBC shouldn’t be about sub-networks or platform personalities. As Adrian Rogers once said, “I’m willing to compromise about many things, but not the Word of God. So far as getting together is concerned, we don’t have to get together. The Southern Baptist Convention, as it is, does not have to survive. I don’t have to be the pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church. I don’t have to be loved; I don’t even have to live. But I will not compromise the Word of God.”
God doesn’t need us, but we desperately need Him.
My hope is that we are renewed in our humility and resolve to be faithful to the Word. That we will leave Anaheim unified around our direction after having made wise, just, and biblical decisions