This week, Stephanie and I are at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans. If my guess is right, this will be a fairly historic convention as we elect our first African American president in history – Fred Luter. I’m excited about this opportunity.
But, as usual, there has been a bit of controversy leading up to the convention. My intention is not to deal with the controversy here, but to give two simple reasons why I am still a Southern Baptist.
1. We have a common confession. Southern Baptists have adopted a common confession that serves as a guide for doctrinal matters. It is the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. While this doesn’t deal with all of the specifics of every “flavor” of theology, it provides a framework by which we can abide and beliefs we can all uphold.
Don’t get me wrong, while I appreciate the recent conversation about Calvinism, the Sinner’s Prayer, the “name change,” and other issues, I am grateful that the Baptist Faith and Message steers clear of these issues. In so doing, it provides a general statement that Southern Baptists can affirm while maintaining their diversity.
2. We have a common mission. Another reason I’m a Southern Baptist (and this is a big one) is because we have a common mission. Of course, our common mission is the mission of all Bible-beleiving Christians – the Great Commission. We should preach the gospel to all people, in all places, until the end of time; baptizing them in the name of Jesus and teaching them to observe His commandments.
But what I love about being a Southern Baptist is our method for fulfilling the Great Commission – the Cooperative Program. The church where I serve as pastor has been a strong supporter of the Cooperative Program for years. We believe in this method of reaching the world with the gospel. Because, as we give to the Cooperative Program we are literally touching the nations for Christ. Through the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, we are partnering in church planting, missions, and ministry across the globe. We can do more collectively than we can individually.
In the end, these two things matter significantly. This speaks to our theology and our missiology. Theology without missiology is dead orthodoxy. Missiology without theology is empty pragmatism. And so, I’m a Southern Baptist because I believe we have brought these two elements into balance. We have a common confession (theology) and a common mission (missiology). Thank God for the Southern Baptist Convention. May we continue to partner together to reach the world for Christ and bring honor and glory to God.