David Crosby is the pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans and will be nominated for president of the SBC by former president Fred Luter. We have asked him the same set of questions we asked JD Greear and Steve Gaines. We thank him for his time in answering our questions.
1. Why do you want to be SBC president?
I think the primary reason the convention exists is to help us do world missions together. Our distinctive as Southern Baptists is that we voluntarily join our resources to accomplish greater things for Christ and the gospel.
I want to help facilitate the discussion about changes that need to be made in our structure and our funding process. I will speak as a pastor who has demonstrated deep and consistent participation in our cooperative missions effort. I will also speak as someone who has launched new initiatives and is interested in new ideas.
2. What do you hope to bring to the SBC over your tenure?
I call myself a “Jesus person.” At First Baptist New Orleans we are “Jesus people.” That means that we seek to keep our minds and hearts and mouths and actions under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and him alone. I want to call our pastors and churches to a new submission to Christ as Lord that transcends both national and denominational politics.
My commitment to missions is both cooperative and community-oriented. I hope I can give greater visibility to the necessity for community involvement by our churches. Our neighbors in need should be on our hearts, in our calendars, and in our church budgets. We have worked hard to create easy access to works of compassion for all our people. Many of them join us every week in the good work of declaring God’s word and incarnating his love.
If the world is to know Christ and the gospel, then we must be making disciples at home and abroad. We must enlarge the tent and increase participation in our cooperative efforts. If our cooperative mission effort is truly the best in the world—and I believe it is—then it should be attractive and exciting to our churches and our people.
I will bring my experience as a pastor, editorialist, and spokesman. And I will bring a history of overcoming problems through implementing creative ideas and building consensus to see them accomplished.
3. What do you want to see change in the SBC? What do you hope stays the same?
I think we have to look at the entire spectrum of our work together. Few of us would have chosen to bring home a thousand missionaries from the field. Had we been making these hard choices with a view to our entire work—local church, association, state, and national—I think we would have chosen differently. If I am right in that assessment, then we must have a wide and deep discussion about our priorities and the focus of our work together.
The average Baptist layperson gives their tithe believing that they are supporting missionaries around the world. That is the picture in their minds and hearts. We often plant those pictures there. We must be fiercely faithful to that expectation and understanding.
I hope that we continue the Cooperative Program as the funding stream for our work together. I can’t imagine how boards and executive could manage money without being able to create a budget and have it funded. Barnabas “brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). That is the kind of trust that is required for us to do our work together. We must trust the boards we have elected and the executives they employ.
Pastors know that they can raise money for emergency needs or special projects. But it is the church budget that we all do together. That’s what keeps things running at the local church.
The same is true in the convention work. We all have things we favor, things that are exciting and have local connections. But it is the unrestricted money that funds the strategies and visions of our entity boards and leaders.
4. What can you bring from your experience at First Baptist Church, New Orleans, particularly in the area of missions, to the rest of the SBC?
We who labor day after day in New Orleans bring a missionary perspective to our work, as you can imagine. It changes how you think about the church when you are viewed as an anomaly rather than a majority.
We are deeply engaged in our community. The recovery from Hurricane Katrina was a mammoth effort that took years and continues to this day in some ways. It required commitment not only to our local church but to the parks and playgrounds and community assets that were destroyed by the flood.
Katrina washed us out of our pews and into the streets and lanes of our city. We launched a new initiative called Care Effect that involves many of our adults in practical deeds of love for our neighbors. This involvement has connected us to people who are from different ethnic and economic backgrounds. Our work touches all kinds of people, and our church is becoming more and more diverse in its worshiping congregation. Not everything about that change is easy. But it makes us look more like heaven.
If churches are interested in becoming relevant to their communities, we can show them how it is done. We are in the prisons, nursing homes, among the hungry and poor, in the public schools, teaching English to recent immigrants, helping hungry children eat over the weekends, actively recruiting and training and supporting foster families, and ministering to employees in the strip clubs on Bourbon Street.
5. One of the most important things that an SBC President does is make appointments. What will be the primary considerations in that process for you? What role will Baptist confessionalism play regarding the BFM2000?
Our cooperative work has sufficient theological parameters in the BFM2000. I think board members should be ready to operate within those parameters.
Our boards and agencies need people at the table who represent the diversity of our churches and our mission field here in the USA. We need to hear their voices. We will do our best work together only if they are actively and consistently contributing to the development of our strategies and plans. I hope my appointments will reflect the wide-ranging diversity among us and in our communities.
I will seek to appoint Baptists from churches large and small who have a reputation that they love God and love others. I want to appoint people who are truly cooperative, who know how to speak their minds, advocate for their perspective, and submit to the will of the majority in order to get things done.
6. What is your perspective on the ongoing Calvinist/Non-Calvinist debate in SBC life? Will that affect your thought process in making appointments?
I believe that God is sovereign and humans are free and therefore accountable for their choices. Our Southern Baptist tent has included both camps since the beginning of our convention. We have not considered these views as heresy. We have defended the rights of one another to disagree on these matters.
We cannot resolve the theological conundrum of God’s sovereignty and man’s accountability. But we can resolve to work together and love each other for the sake of Christ and the gospel.
I will appoint board members who will operate our entities within the theological parameters of the BFM2000.
7. How do you plan to help facilitate the ethnic diversification of SBC leadership? In a nation that is growing increasingly ethnically diverse and with immigration being a major issue, how can a diverse SBC help give leadership to our nation in these areas?
I have the great advantage of having Pastor Fred Luter as my friend and counselor. He understands the opportunities and the needs as well as anyone I know. I hope to make this a matter of consideration from the very first as we seek to structure in the present for a future gospel strategy that is ever wider in its reach.
8. With the recent downsizing of the IMB overseas missions force, what can local churches do to both engage in mission themselves and help strengthen our collective work through the IMB?
The only way to strengthen the collective work is to give to the budgets of our entities. The best way to do that is through the Cooperative Program. I don’t know of a better way or a better plan.
Local churches must see the great advantages of a unified income stream for our work. Pooling our resources to reach the untold masses has made our mission work the model for evangelicals everywhere. Southern Baptists got this right back in 1925, and it is still right today.
I am ready to examine the length and breadth of our unified giving plan and the deployment of dollars. The International Mission Board represents the very heart of our work. We have some hard choices to make. I would rather make those choices with the entire fabric of our work laid out before us.
Nothing so inspires mission work like going yourself and lending a hand and a voice in a cross-cultural presentation of the gospel. I encourage our people to go as well as pray and give.
9. What role do you think the Cooperative Program and denominational giving should play in SBC life and our work together?
Our cooperative mission work is our life together. And the CP is our strategy for funding it. I think cooperation for the cause of the gospel is biblical and mandatory. Many churches do independent missions. There is nothing distinctive about it. What is distinctive about Southern Baptists is that they do missions together. That can and should remain our heart and our reputation.
10 The vast majority of SBC churches have under 200 people in attendance. What role do they play in SBC life? How can you help increase the involvement of smaller churches and their pastors in denominational leadership?
I live in the company of pastors in small and average-sized churches. I know their names and am familiar with their work. My church may be large to them, but my work as a pastor is very much like theirs.
I am deeply involved in my association. I believe that associational life is where biblical fellowship happens and where theological accountability takes place as an outgrowth of that fellowship.
Smaller churches are often the most faithful givers to our cooperative work. My father was pastor to a congregation of 40 people who led annually in per capita giving to the Cooperative Program. They set a high standard for us all.
Church members from small congregations should serve on the boards and agencies of our conventions. We need their perspective as we plan our work.
11. When you talk to young people and particularly young church planters, how would you encourage them to participate in the SBC?
Our church elected a 33-year-old woman to serve as one of the two messengers to our association. She is deeply involved in ministry and understands well the gospel work that we can only accomplish working together. I encourage young people to participate in our life together as Baptists, to value that collective life, and to embrace cooperation as a mainstay of our mission work.
We have a World Wall in our church lobby. It features missionaries with whom we have a personal connection. Their pictures are on display along with prayer cards. We ask our people, young and old, to pray for our missionaries.
We take young people to the international mission field and help them with scholarship money. Many of the 14 teams that have gone to Ghana in the last 6 years from our church have had young adults and even youth in their number. Our youth participate as a group in mission work both foreign and domestic.
12. What was life like during your time in the band with Stills, Nash, and Young? Have you worked to reconcile your public feud with Graham Nash?
Every time David Crosby ended up in jail someone taped the news release on my door. I am glad that my liver is healthy.