Lest I violate 1 Corinthians 14, the title means this: Common danger brings forth harmony. This was the “use that word in a sentence” example from the Latin Word of the Day email I got a few weeks ago. I would actually consider having this tattooed on someone else, because it’s just a great statement. So if you’d volunteer for that, email me.
I would like to give you a few thoughts on this phrase, commune periculum concordiam parit.Especially as it applies to the Great Commission Baptists of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I. First, let’s look at the word harmony. Harmony is a great word. It’s a music word, one which I am not personally able to demonstrate, but it’s part of why you need a choir for the Hallelujah Chorus. Harmony is multiple notes that produce a pleasing sound and work together to fill out the same piece of music. It is a unity of purpose with a diversity of participation. You hear it at my house when the piano practice shifts from the child playing one note of Jingle Bells to the one playing 4 notes (using both hands!) to play Jingle Bells. It’s fuller, more complete, and makes one of the greatest annoyances of Christmas almost bearable.
II. Second, let’s look at the idea of common danger. Common danger. Shared danger. A threat that rises against all of us, rather than merely at some of us. Looking back at history, the church was often most unified internally when the threats were greatest externally. That’s not to say you didn’t have the odd heresy rise up even in persecution, but generally speaking the common danger of Caesars, barbarians, and natural disasters helped strengthen harmony in the early church.
In the present day, we see common danger still. Even among a wider group than just Southern Baptist, we should see Christians coming together to address certain problems: “A Baptist, a Methodist, and a Presbyterian” is not just a joke setup, it’s a group that can: feed the hungry; provide clean drinking water; fight human trafficking; shelter orphans; advocate for the voiceless; fight racism; struggle against tyranny; protect religious liberty. Many of these issues have been advanced through the years by people brought into harmony by seeing the common danger.
Admittedly, dealing with those dangers are the outgrowth of a Christian life and not a replacement for trusting Christ as Saviour and committing to Him as Lord. Yet we cannot neglect them. Moreover, because of our differences with others over the very idea of needing to trust Christ as Lord, it’s harder to find the common ground to spread the Gospel with them.
III. Third, let’s consider this: we have lost our common danger as Southern Baptists. For some, the danger is that we are not Calvinist enough. For others, the Calvinists are the danger, while others see the danger being that we’re all Calvinists but don’t know it. Others make Arminianism our danger. Liberalism was our danger, and perhaps lurks as a continued one, but we have no real agreement on it. Is our danger too many church plants or not enough? Too many cooks and not enough servers? Multi-site churches? State conventions? NAMB? Baptist Press? Bloggers? Pastors that wear neckties or t-shirts?
We have lost the idea of a common danger. The result being that we’re all playing our own tune, not in harmony with one another and not in harmony with the Lord God.
I would suggest to you that we need to find that common danger. As we believe in either “once saved, always saved” or “perseverance of the saints,” which I have long thought were the same, but to some they are not, the danger is not that we lose our salvation. Yet the danger is very near: that we continue, despite our surges and resurges, our committees, panels, and task forces, despite our boards, agencies, churches, preachers, blogs, and whatever else, we continue to not make disciples.
Go back to the text of Matthew 28:18-20. We ought to be well aware by now of the need to “go.” Of the need to remember “all nations.” Of the need to acknowledge that He is with us “always.”
Yet we are faced with this common danger: no sustained making of disciples. The symptoms are obvious in our churches across the SBC (count your blessings if you’re the exception): a crippling Biblical illiteracy; a growing evangelistic unfruitfulness; and the absence of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives from failing to make disciples.
We need to recover our senses and return to making disciples. Disciples that can read the Bible and by the illumination of the Holy Spirit understand it. That’s what soul competency and the priesthood of the believer is about, after all, isn’t it? Yet our bickering over items like a Bible study that we haven’t read shows this: we know that our churches are filled with people that we have not made disciples. If they are competent disciples of Jesus, then can they not filter the Word?
Likewise when we talk like our congregations are ignorant, we only show that we have missed this and not made disciples.When we act like the people, God’s people, are incapable of dealing with the facts and the decisions of His church, or the work of His churches together, then we are acknowledging that we have not made disciples.
When we see that it now takes what, more than 50 Southern Baptist Church Members to generate one baptism in the stats, we see that we have not made disciples. More than 50? Seriously. Even if you take the dodge that we have bloated membership lists, that still shows the same problem. We have lost our evangelistic fervor and faithfulness because we have not made disciples.
Disciples read their Bibles and realize that their neighbors, friends, and loved ones will spend eternity where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched; where the love of God is known only by His wrath; a place we call Hell in the English Language. And they want to do something about it. They want to do something about it that no one goes there.
True, they realize that not everyone goes to Heaven. And they wonder why some do and some don’t, but they know this all the more: if a disciple of Jesus Christ does not take the Gospel to people, that Jesus died for their sins and that He rose from the grave, then no one else will.
Disciples are not always loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, gentle, good, faithful, and self-controlled, but the effort to grow in those things is there. The prayer to be more like Christ is there, and the hope that He will make more of the effort than we can make for ourselves is there.
But it all comes back to this: our common danger is that we are headed into a place where we do not make disciples.
If we will wake up to that danger, then perhaps we can find the harmony to work towards preventing it. Does that mean that some notes will be off from us? Certainly, but if the music was not ours to write in the first place. Only ours to play. You may be an Arminian on the bass clef and think you have nothing in common with that Calvinist treble clef guy, but you’re both playing to please the God who saved you. The God who went to the Cross for your sins and rose from the grave.
I would daresay that history is littered with wreckage of nations, movements, denominations, and churches that could not come together when the common danger was at hand. If we follow their path, then the Great Name Change Debate will only be about our tombstone. The Great Calvinist/Arminian/Reformed/Baptist debate will be about which appendix of dead religion we fit under.
There is a better way. Some of it may look like losing on some issues–we may just have to be Great Commission Baptists. We may even have to elect a board of trustees for the whole operation and update the charter. We may have a curriculum or two that’s more Calvin than not or more Arminius than not. Just as an observation, churches still grew when the dreaded liberals were running amok, I think we can survive someone who takes the Word of God as seriously as we do but takes the theology differently. That goes out to both sides.
We have a common danger, and it waits at our door. With harmony, we can hold it at bay. Can we find that place again where all of us are striving to make disciples of all the nations? We need to.