If you travel through the country side of Oklahoma, and prob other places too, there is one thing you can be certain to see. They go by different names depending on where you live. I’ve seen them called stone cribs, corner posts, or the ever descriptive “rock piles.” Every so often at the corner of a property there is a pile of rocks, 4 or 5 feet tall, with fencing wrapped around them to hold them together. Some of these rock corner posts have been there for generations. It was easier to stack rocks than dig holes in the ground, and provided a good place to pile up the rocks that littered the pasture. They also served as a strong foundation point for stretching fence line, even up to a quarter mile. These rocks had the strength to hold the tightly stretched barb wire that helped protect the livestock, family, and crops that it contained.
Not all fences are physical of course. In Baptist life the Bible serves as our corner post. Only it is strong enough to hold as an anchor for anything else. If you trace any “Baptist fence” it should end up back at the Bible. A fence that is anchored to our cultural status, political stance, or anything else will crumble and fall. The Baptist Faith and message is our simple way of stretching out a fence line from that corner post of the Bible. The Baptist Faith and Message serves as a fence of sorts for the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s our way of defining who is in and who is out of the fence. But you will find the BF&M covers a pretty broad pasture. We have simple Biblical convictions that allow us to stretch the fence wide enough to contain calvinists, traditionalists, 1689er’s, never Trumpers, MAGA fans, “great commission baptists,” those who preach from the Message, and the dyed in the wool KJV only Baptists too.
There are some who seek to put up fences that claim to be anchored on the Bible, but if you trace them back you’ll find they are tied to cultural preferences, politics, or traditions. These fences might look pretty and make a bold statement for a while, but they will always fail. Anything that does not have the Bible as it’s anchor will fail. I don’t know of anyone in the SBC who doesn’t claim to be anchored to the Bible. But all we have to do is trace the fence back to it’s source to find the truth.
Fences might be one of the oldest human inventions. At some point the first person put a fence as a way of saying “this is mine and not yours.” No matter how fancy the fence is, it still serves the same purpose. These old rock fence post serves the same purpose as a t post, a tree trunk, or a fancy piece of wrought iron. Over the years fencing materials changed from simple to fancy, but where I live most of what you see is miles and miles of barbed wire.
Most times when you see a fence, the fence is not the valuable thing. What’s valuable is what the fence protects. You put a fence around a pool to protect small children, a fence to stop your dog from getting out, or a fence to protect your livestock or garden. The fence needs to be sturdy and able to keep the wrong things out and the right things in. The fence might even be decorative or eye catching, but at it’s base it is utilitarian. Every fence has a purpose.
There is one thing that fences are not useful for: sitting. A fence is a declaration that we can go this far and no further. When we live in a world when Biblical values are increasingly under attack, we don’t have the time to sit on fences and argue about which side of the pasture has better grass. We like to spend our time talking about how our particular part of the pasture is better, or how we have better methods. At our worse we spend our time denigrating others who are within the same fence as us! We can’t sit on the fence and opine about matters, we must get off the fence and get to work. We must devote ourselves more than ever to the sharing of the Gospel with the broken world around us. We have to get off the fence and state clearly and boldly that the gospel matters more than preference, that the gospel matters more than personal platforms, and more than the trappings of power and success in this world. The fence of the Baptist Faith and Message helps us protect what is most important, the Gospel, God’s Word, and the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Thankfully the SBC has leaders and pastors who have been consistently vocal about the challenges facing our country. But there are many more who want to sit the fence and have it both ways. We cannot say character matters and then elect officials without it. We cannot say all men are equal and then have policies that separate them out. We cannot preach “you reap what you sow” and then act surprised when the harvest comes. We can’t preach “thy kingdom come” and then spend all our energy for a kingdom of our own. It’s a tempting trap, trying to appease both sides. Everyone is guilty of it at times. But now more than ever it is time to get off the fence and speak loudly clearly about what matters.
Fences aren’t made for sitting. Southern Baptist’s need pastors, laypeople, and denominational workers to get off the fence and speak clearly and boldly. We need to speak against those who seek to divide us into smaller and smaller pastures. It seems like in Baptist life we like to spend more time talking about our fences than our open pastures. We like to talk about what divides us rather than what unites us. The fence is not the valuable thing of course. The fence of the BF&M keeps us all in the same pasture, and it gets crowded at times. There are sections of the Baptist pastures I’ve learned not to go to anymore. And you should always watch where you step. But as long as we stay together within the fence of the BF&M then we can work together for the goal of taking the gospel to the nations. Let’s get down off the fence and stand for what matters: Jesus Christ and the Gospel.