Okay, the past few posts I've taken a shot or two at some things in the Southern Baptist Convention that I think could use changing. To be fair, though, I'm a lifelong Southern Baptist, and, further, I think I should share some great things we have as Southern Baptists:
1. Local Church Autonomy: We here at Calvary Baptist can vote tomorrow to paint the building in pink camo, and the SBC has no say. We can choose our worship style, our leadership, set our budget. All that's really required of a participating church is to give $1 a year to the SBC. (I don't count doctrinal agreement as required. See #2)
2. Doctrinal agreement: We have a fairly short, extremely straightforward doctrinal statement. It is specific where it needs to be (Basic Trinitarian Concepts, Atonement, Divinity of Christ) and generic where it needs to be (Election/Predestination, Spiritual Gifts). It allows churches to develop their own character, but makes clear what beliefs we associate with in the SBC. Why join if you disagree?
3. Stable mission funding: although we don't do this with all of our North American Missionaries (and I think we should), Southern Baptist Churches provide a fairly stable support platform for our missionaries. We don't have people in foreign lands that have to keep evacuation ticket money available just in case, or that have to decide between buying Bibles for their ministries and having food, or at least we shouldn't, with the structures of the Cooperative Program.
4. Independent state bodies: Each state/regional convention is its own entity, responsible only to the churches in the area it serves. We here in Arkansas are served by the ABSC, and they answer to the statewide convention. If it becomes necessary, our state can tell another state to leave us alone. Which allows Arkansas churches to guide ministries in Arkansas, allowing people who live in the culture to evangelize it, rather than having New Yorkers tell Arkansans what to do. Or vice versa.
5. We don't have an official, mandated Bible translation. Sure, we've got the Holman Christian Standard Bible, but you don't have to use it. It's just since Lifeway holds that copyright, they can reprint it in the literature without cost. And it's not a bad translation, but if you prefer NASB, ESV, or KJV, you can use it.
5b. We're not a King James Only Group. Although we have some churches that are, both officially and unofficially. And that's okay. See #1 & #2.
6. We have available theological education, but a church is free to call a pastor, ordain a minister, with or without it. And, we have theological education for those of us who are distant from official seminaries but still recognize our need to learn.
6b. Our state, at least, provides some wonderful practical training, funded through the state's portion of the Cooperative Program. Which is really great, since there's days we all need a little help.
7. We can ignore our denominational hierarchy if we want to. One of my deacons commented about some paperwork about how big our church is, where our members live, that we would 'have to fill out and return.' And the truth is, we don't. One blessing in Arkansas is our state folks don't think we have to either. They willingly offer, but they never force a church to do anything.
8. Musical diversity: Each church selects and functions with its own musical style.
9. Missionary heritage: even though we've only been around since 1845, some of the best missionary stories come from Southern Baptists.
10. Missionary force: Anybody else have over 11,000 missionaries, 40,000 preachers, plus vocational evangelists, associate ministers, musical talents, and volunteers, all the while teaching people that they are eternally secure in Christ, and only serve Him as a response to His love?
There's 10 reasons. I could say more. I'm a graduate of an Arkansas Baptist college, I attended a seminary run by Southern Baptists, I've preached in 5 states and 1 country (out of the US) for SBC churches. If not for the SBC, I wouldn't be where I am today.
So, will I blog out some things that I think should change? Certainly. But I'm far, very far, from leaving the SBC. Our underpinnings are sound, our ideals Biblically driven. Are some of the side issues in need of repair? Maybe so. But down in, our foundation is solid.
The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Good things in the SBC
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