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From observing our own Southern Baptist denomination, I believe there are six primary issues we must answer. Please comment if you agree or disagree or want to add or take away some.
1. Lack of Historic Redemptive Expository Preaching
The Word of God demands to be approached in the way in which it was written. Each sentence in a letter builds on the previous… and likewise through most of the genres of the Bible. We must approach the text in the way in which it demands to be approached. Also, every ounce of God’s Word is relevant for today. We must preach the full counsel of God’s Word, and help apply it to our congregation’s daily lives. We must not merely say what the text means in context, but we must also apply it to our hearers’ contemporary context as well. Furthermore, we cannot preach any text as if Jesus Christ has not lived, died, and risen from the dead. We must preach the text in front of us, whether from the Old or New Testament, in light of the point in history in which we live: Jesus has already fulfilled the law through His life, death, and resurrection, and we’re awaiting Him and His final fulfillment of all of Scripture. In other words, Jesus is the point of all of Scripture. To leave Him out, is to leave out the major point of the text, regardless what text you’re preaching in the Bible.
2. Lack of Biblical Discipline
Love has been radically redefined in the local church as being “accepting of all, while holding no one accountable to Biblical faithfulness.” How many churches consistently practice Biblical discipline? Very few. Even though God has always held His people accountable to His Word, and even though Biblical discipline is commanded in Scripture, local churches have redefined Christian love to include “tolerance of unrepentant sin,” while excluding “loving accountability to God’s Word.” Furthermore, it must be noted that since Biblical discipline has been left undone in most Southern Baptist churches, pastors cannot come in and Biblically discipline apart from the congregation’s approval. The congregation must be involved in holding one another accountable or the church is not practicing Biblical discipline. Pastors should be actively working in leading their local congregations to lovingly hold one another accountable to Scripture.
3. Biblical Ignorance
How many pastors teach their congregations how to study God’s Word? From what I’ve seen growing up, churches that do this are few and far between. As a result of this neglect, our churches have almost a “Roman Catholic Church” mentality; it’s like they believe that only the preacher is capable of understanding God’s Word (or worse yet, that every interpretation of Scripture is equally valid). We all know that this isn’t true, but why don’t churches teach their members how to study God’s Word? Do we assume in a modern and postmodern culture where relativism reigns that our church members will somehow approach Scripture with more concern about authorial intent than immediate application, without a shred of discipleship? Southern Baptists need some serious work in this area.
4. Lack of Personal Evangelism
Personal evangelism is lacking in most Southern Baptist churches. With the heavy emphasis on event evangelism in the past, along with the combination of a revivalistic mentality, many Southern Baptists live like sinners can only respond to the gospel in the church building. The bottom line is that we’re largely not “taking the name of Jesus with us” when we leave the church building. If there is evangelism in Southern Baptist churches, it’s not personal evangelism, but largely, corporate evangelism carried out by the pastor during his sermon. We must return to New Testament evangelism, where believers take the gospel to their neighbors on a daily basis.
5. Love of Nostalgia
Every Southern Baptist who loves the SBC, has their own nostalgic inducers they remember and love. If we’re not careful we’ll redefine the worldwide Southern Baptist denomination as “our SBC.” This is easily recognized when one tries to change anything that a local church has done for years. The problem is that the concern of Southern Baptists should be with being Biblical instead of in trying to force over six million people to adopt our narrow Southern Baptist nostalgia. Baptists have always been confesisonal. Beyond our confession, we have freedom. If pot-luck meals, hymns, and prayer meetings are not Biblically or confessionally emphasized, then our fellow Southern Baptists are free to do what they want. In other words, just because another Southern Baptist’s nostalgia may be different than mine, that does not mean they’re not a true Southern Baptist. Read some Southern Baptist history, or worship with other Southern Baptists in a different local context than you, instead of forcing your nostalgic inducers on others. Nostalgia is fine, so long as we don’t force our nostalgia on others to redefine what it means to be “Southern Baptist.” We must love our neighbors more than our nostalgia.
Postmodernism teaches that what we see and experience does not actually correspond with how the world really exists: i.e. “The ‘truth’ is in me and in you.” Modernism, on the other hand, teaches that our observations correspond with how the world really exists: i.e. “The truth is out there.” Something that’s interesting about the SBC right now, is that agendas are more important than truth. In other words, several in the SBC are practicing the dogma of postmodern-modernism. They form beliefs about various belief systems and individuals, not based on consistent evidence, but based on misrepresentations, stereotypes, or arbitrary observations. Their beliefs about fellow Southern Baptists do not correspond with what these Southern Baptists actually believe, but instead are based on what they believe these Southern Baptists believe (postmodernism). Then, in submission to modernism, they think their beliefs about others are absolute. No amount of evidence to the contrary will change their minds. It’s very strange, but this is the current state of some in the SBC: even though their beliefs about their brothers and sisters do not correspond with the evidence (postmodernism), they nevertheless hold onto these beliefs as if they’re absolutely true (modernism).
In conclusion, I believe that all of the problems within the SBC as a denomination would be fixed if we would answer these issues with Scriptural obedience.
What are your thoughts?