There is a lot of room under the banner of Great Commission Baptists for people who do not see eye to eye on many issues.
Some among us seek to narrow the fellowship of Southern Baptists, or Great Commission Baptists, according to their own preferences. If you do not do as they do, prefer what they prefer, vote as they vote, think as they think, you are not a true Southern Baptist. We are an odd and ill-defined fellowship with an ill-defined identity, and so this kind of claim to Southern Baptist identity becomes possible.
Boiled down, though, there are three basic aspects that identify us as Great Commission Baptists. You could add to the list, of course. I’m not sure how to narrow it.
- We live in general assent to the Baptist Faith and Message statement. This document is controlling over our schools and entities. The BF&M cannot be imposed on churches but it is our general confession of faith and those who significantly diverge from it place themselves outside our fellowship.
- We cooperate as Great Commission Baptists to do world missions. Though no church is required to give a specific amount to mission through the Cooperative Program, joining together to reach the world for Christ is fundamental to who we are.
- We must not violate certain behavioral guidelines that Baptists have set. To this point, there are essentially 3 of which I am aware. Great Commission Baptists may not ordain or approve of homosexual behavior. We may not give approval or consent to racism or racist activity in our churches. Some say our credentials committee is currently not doing a great job of researching and responding to complaints about abuse, but we have decided that these issues can lead churches being put out of our fellowship.
Within those parameters, I am willing to share this denomination (or convention – use whatever term you prefer) with a wide range of people. If you live in general assent to the Baptist Faith & Message 2000, are willing to cooperate financially to whatever extent you decide, and do not violate our constitutional guidelines, I am happy to cooperate with you in this worldwide missions endeavor. I may seek to make sure you have less power in our entities. I may vote against your candidates and argue against your ideas, but if you are a confessional, cooperative, constitutional Baptist, we can stand under this big tent together.
- I am willing to share the SBC with grumpy 1689ers who call everyone who question the theological aptitude of anyone who doesn’t assent to their preferred creed or confession, if they will abide by the BF&M, cooperate in missions, and live by our constitution.
- I will share the road with Trumpistas and Never Trumpers alike if they will give honor the BF&M, cooperate in missions, and abide by our constitution. Politics must NEVER be a point of fellowship among those who seek to obey Christ’s Great Commission.
- I am willing to cooperate in our “missional” endeavors with hipster pastors with their skinny jeans and tats as well as traditional guys wearing coats and ties carrying their hymnals.
- I will link arms with guys preaching from the KJV and the NIV.
- I will “do missions” with those on all ends of the complementarian spectrum – from CBMW-types to those who only restrict the office of Senior Pastor to men.
- I am willing to live and work in a denomination of Calvinists, non-Calvinists, Dispensationalists, Amillennialists, even, if the wind is blowing out of the Southeast, a Post-millennialist now and again. There’s always a weird uncle in every family. Our BF&M was written INTENTIONALLY to include people from a number of doctrinal perspectives on certain issues.
- I am willing to partner with those who give 10% or more to missions through the CP, as my church does, those who give much smaller percentages, and those who designate to certain ministries and organizations within our fellowship. I wish everyone gave generously through the CP, but it takes all kinds.
- I love the name GCB. If you long to hang onto SBC, go for it. We can still unite in this endeavor, right?
- I will even join together with SEC fans for the cause of Christ. And fans of the Asterisks!
There is great freedom among Great Commission Baptists to be what you want and do what you want. When I was a young whippersnapper, there was a single SBC culture, but that is gone. Now, you can find 10 SBC churches that look nothing like each other and have great variations of beliefs on issues, different strategies, and still they have a relationship with the SBC. I am okay with that.
There are some things I am not okay with.
- I am not okay with those who choose the works of the flesh over the fruit of the Spirit. Oh, we all fall short on a daily basis, but some have made peace with that and have come to see gentleness and unity as signs of weakness. They’ve mimicked the coarseness of public debate, of political insult and derogation and said it reflects discernment and theological courage. I have no use for that. I hope these people will either repent, be filled with the Spirit and seek a new way, or find their way out of our fellowship.
- I am not okay with those who seek to impose their preferences on all of us. If you want to be Reformed, God bless you. You cannot tell the whole SBC it must be. If you are anti-Calvinist, fine. But you cannot tell the whole SBC it must oppose Calvinism. You love Donald Trump? Fine, but you cannot make loving Trump a point of fellowship – that approaches anti-gospel heresy. To question whether someone loves Jesus because they voted for Trump is just as wrong. We cannot turn hobby horses into warhorses to dominate the SBC.
- I am not okay with pastors who abuse women and children. I am not okay with churches that cover that up and any level of denominational complicity in that cover-up. This is shameful and wicked and we cannot ask God’s blessing as long as we are complicit in covering up abuse instead of exposing it.
- I am not okay with racism of any form or significant resistance to racial reconciliation and inclusion. Resisting the inclusion of minorities in our convention is denominational suicide. The country is headed toward being majority-minority within a couple of decades, it seems, and if we seek to be a white denomination, we are foolish. More than that, it is contrary to Christ who is gathering a people from every tribe and language on earth to worship him eternally. Racist churches (yes, they still exist – not many perhaps, but they do exist) must be put out of our fellowship.
The SBC will never be perfect as long as imperfect people are running it. Imperfect people will always run it. We are the best we can be as Great Commission Baptists when we join together as one, when we unite around the BF&M and Cooperative Missions.
The GCB (or SBC) has lots of room in the tent. No, not for everyone. But if you believe the Bible, preach the gospel, have Baptist convictions, and are willing to join together in this mission, come on in – the coffee’s on.