After penning this title I am sorely tempted to quote (out of context, of course) CS Lewis: “I believe in [the SBC] like I believe in the sun. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Now, that quote is typically attributed to Lewis and more directly answers the question, ‘Why do you believe in Jesus?’ or ‘Why are you a Christian?’ So, to apply that to the reason I can assuredly say today that I believe in the Southern Baptist Convention is a monumental statement of hyperbole. Nevertheless, I am quite happy to be a Southern Baptist and a Southern Baptist pastor.
I am a Southern Baptist, convictionally. My testimony begins as one born and raised in Southern Baptist churches. I was saved, called to ministry, and educated by the ministry of the local church and schools supported by the giving of local churches. Although I inherited an introduction to my faith through my parents and my having been raised in Southern Baptist Churches, I identify myself as a Southern Baptist, convictionally—not on convenience or any other lesser motivation. This is not to say that I have not been distracted by the pull of another denomination or para-church movement.
While in college, I was intrigued by the apparent zeal and ‘fire’ of the charismatic movement and the churches that identified themselves with it. I felt a contrast between it and the apathy and lethargy I sensed in many of the Southern Baptist churches I attended in college. God, however, used a special pastor and friends to open my eyes to the dangers inherent within the feel-good, me-first theology and consequent aberrant doctrinal assertions to be found in the charismatic movement. By digging deeper, I came to a greater appreciation for my Baptist and Southern Baptist roots. This is the reason I have a great love for my convention. This is my testimony, which leads me to two very important reasons why I believe very strongly in the SBC.
First, I believe in the SBC because of our strong reputation and the historical evidence that we are “people of The Book.” Our stance on the authority and veracity of Scripture is the foundation of hope. It is this hope that established the SBC as a convention of local churches cooperating together for the fulfillment of our Lord’s Commission and Commandment to us. On the basis of the Bible alone do we know the truth that has set us free and which we must share with others that they also may come to know Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life,” the only one through whom we can find forgiveness of our sin once we realize our need and repent.
Convictionally, we as Southern Baptists have well stated our common confession regarding The Scriptures:
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation. (BF&M 2000, Article I, HYPERLINK “http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp )
We, Southern Baptists, have not arrived at this statement lightly. We began with this conviction at the founding of our convention, then lost our way through succumbing to the enticement of academic acceptance and cultural relevance, accommodating many of our cooperative entities to the liberalism of society. Thanks to the local churches and the convictions of pastors and laymen alike, a resurgence took place to re-establish, from our churches to our seminaries to our mission boards, our common conviction concerning the authority and veracity of God’s word. To this very day, we remain a people of The Book who purpose to live out and proclaim its timeless truth to all. This is not to say that we need not guard that trust. No, the “battle for the Bible” will never end, at least on this side of Christ’s return. We must be diligent to contend earnestly for the faith that has once and for all been delivered to God’s people.
Second, I believe in the Southern Baptist Convention because of the strength of the local churches. In the aforementioned reason for my belief in the SBC, I constantly referred to the importance of the local churches—which importance includes equipping me to live my life, my salvation, my commissioning, and my calling, as well as for being the “grass roots” from which the Conservative Resurgence came. Our emphasis on the importance of local, visible, New Testament churches filled with regenerate members who have been scripturally baptized is necessary for our health and continued recovery of our commitment to fulfilling our Lord’s Commission and Commandment. Once again, we have an excellent statement regarding our common conviction regarding the local church:
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. ( BF&M 2000, Article VI, HYPERLINK “http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp” http://www.sbc.net/bfm/bfm2000.asp )
I believe in the SBC because the messengers from our churches recently have avowed a commitment to re-emphasizing the importance of regenerate church membership. I believe in the SBC because the messengers of our churches will, hopefully, be able to renew our commitment to being Great Commission churches. I say hopefully because I do not wish to see us tie in political jockeying and undue administrative considerations as part of what is meant by being a Great Commission Southern Baptist.
The people, who are our churches, are the strength of the SBC. We embody the past, present, and future of our convention.
I believe in the SBC! Are we perfect? No. Are we doing right? I believe we are. Can we improve? Always. May God grant us the grace to follow after Him, fellowship with one another in love, and declare the salvation He provides to a lost world with a great need.