In a time of change within the culture and the church at large it is imperative to look for a leader who will set the example of maximum Gospel engagement. Closer to home the Southern Baptist Convention is at a crossroads, seeking to push back lostness while struggling to find its identity. This is why I believe #SBC18 in Dallas is so important. The churches of the Southern Baptist Convention have an opportunity to establish an identity as a disciple-making and gospel-proclaiming unit. This is why I’ll be raising my ballot for Pastor J.D. Greear on Tuesday afternoon. So why am I voting for J.D.?
I’ve never met J.D. personally. But I have benefited from his books and teaching for several years. What has struck me about him is his emphasis on the gospel. Not to mention, a quick glimpse at The Summit reveals “the gospel above all” approach. He sets the example that SBC pastors should follow. Platitudes about “the need for more evangelism and baptisms” are a reality through Greear’s ministry. As a convention we must know the gospel and I believe J.D. will lead the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention into understanding the impact of the gospel locally, nationally, and globally.
J.D. has stated, “The 2000 Baptist Faith and Message is narrow enough to unite us on the essentials and broad enough to allow freedom in the peripheral.” The BFM2000 is the unifying document of friendly cooperation for local churches in the SBC. It unites us on the essentials and allows freedom in the peripheral. In other words, Traditionalists and Calvinists can work together. The one who believes in pre-trib or post-trib rapture can unite together. Baptists from all theological tribes can work to reach the nations for Christ as long as we agree on the BFM2000. I’m convinced that J.D. will encourage cooperation around the BFM2000 while not provoking animosity among those who may disagree on the finer theological points.
Cooperative Program Experience
J.D. has CP experience. What I mean by this is simple: he knows first hand about the blessings of the CP. He received his ministry education from Southeastern Seminary and served with the IMB, made possible by the Cooperative Program. As a recipient of CP funding, he knows how the CP works and how to encourage more cooperative giving among churches. The Summit has been clear about CP giving and has encouraged more. As an autonomous local church, J.D. has led them to give to CP and other Great Commission work. The SBC should celebrate and follow his lead.
The recent past shows that the SBC has problems when it comes to speaking to social issues (remember the 2017 resolution debacle?). The SBC must address our culture in order to be a force of gospel impact – exactly as it says in Article XV of the BFM2000 – that we should “work to provide for the orphan, the needy, the abused… speak on behalf of the unborn and… seek to bring industry, government, and society as a whole under the sway of the principles of righteousness, truth, and brotherly love.” I believe Greear has the voice the SBC needs to speak with gospel clarity on these issues. Most would recognize the need for more minority diversity on our committees. Many would acknowledge that our past is scarred by racism and misogyny (whether intentional or unintentional). Thus we need a leader who can encourage us to discuss and offer solutions to these problems. We care about these things because the Bible commands us to. J.D. understands this and can help the SBC wisely navigate in the future.
Bridging the Generational Divide
Let’s be honest. There is indeed a generational divide in the SBC. Many younger SBC pastors have distanced themselves from Baptist life. Yet, I believe the SBC is at a “Moses and Joshua” moment. As younger pastors we must stand upon the shoulders of our fathers and be thankful for their gospel accomplishments. Older pastors must provide guidance and encourage the next generation (something the SBTC is doing through The NextGen Pastor’s Network). The reality is we need both older and younger pastors. I believe J.D. can help bridge the gap between the older and younger generations of pastors. He can speak to the younger generation while listening to the older.
For me, a vote for J.D. doesn’t mean I’m anti-Hemphill. I’m not anti-Traditionalist. I’m not anti-old guard. Rather I am pro-gospel impact. Because Jesus promised to build His church, I am hopeful of the future of the SBC. I’m convinced whosoever is elected will attempt to maximize the gospel and will have my support. But at the crossroads, I believe J.D. is the right man for the position.
See you in Dallas.
Michael Cooper is the Pastor of Grace Community Church in Mabank, TX, where he has served since 2013. He’s a graduate of Criswell College and is currently pursuing doctoral studies at SBTS.