Once I might have called this the Taiwan test. Admittedly oversimplified, I believe there’s an idea here worth our consideration.
In 2012, I was leading an interdenominational Bible study for missionaries in Taichung, Taiwan, during the heyday of Baptist blogging. As I chatted with some of the missionaries, I realized how irrelevant the hot-button issues raging in the Baptist blogosphere were to people actually doing ministry on the Kingdom’s frontlines. Our petty, internecine squabbles, which seemed so crucial as we engaged here, meant nothing to them.
I am sitting under African stars, on my 13th trip to Senegal. On the last several trips I have begun teaching pastors and church leaders in training sessions. Next week I will be speaking on perseverance at the Casamance Men’s retreat. Many of our issues in the US are issues in Senegal too – the reliability of God’s word, the Trinity, the gospel – fundamental Christian truths. What the Bible says about baptism matters here in Senegal. Issues of church leadership matter. We read the same Bible in different languages.
However, 92.746% of the stuff we fight about on social media just doesn’t matter here in Africa. They have their own struggles and ours often don’t make sense. Our power struggles, battles for denominational control, worship style debates – on and on the irrelevance goes.
Last November, I led a study of Galatians here in Siganar. Had a great time. At the end of each session I was peppered with questions, many touching on issues I had never considered. I tried to apply biblical principles and deferred to African pastors who understood the issues. We muddled through but I noticed a reverse trend.
Sometimes they had passionate debates about things that seemed unimportant to me, because I haven’t experienced those issues. In the same way, the world, even the Christian world, looks at Southern Baptists and often shakes its heads.we fight passionately about things that just don’t matter outside our cloistered community.
We get passionate about issues that are cultural, political, social, or personal, and often assume the issues we are tasked about are biblical fundamentals. We have to stop fighting over minor issues like they are biblical fundamentals and essentials.
Here’s my thesis: if it wouldn’t matter in Senegal (or Taiwan, or…) we should not fight about it here.
That’s not to say issues don’t matter, but they aren’t worth fighting, dividing, name-calling, and anathematizing about. We need some perspective. Eschatology matters, but we can hold disagreements without rancor.
There’s a big world that needs Jesus and our intramural battles are embarrassing the cause of Christ, not to mention ourselves. We are looking stupid and we bear the name of Christ.
I think of a commenter on a recent post who basically equated his views on complementarianism with the Trinity. They were equal in value! We need some perspective. Some humility. Some wisdom. Some discernment.
I think there’s a lot of good in the SBC. Good missions programs. Good schools. A pretty good church or two. We continue to bleed people and churches because of a toxic environment, majoring on minors, failing to discern what matters most.
We need to ask ourselves if our hills are worth dying, and killing on, before we pick up our weapons and begin firing.