(Wm Dwight McKissic, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas. We are always thrilled to post his articles.)
President Bryant Wright has appointed a self-funded blue ribbon advisory committee, authorized by the Executive Committee to provide counsel to him as he prayerfully weighs recommending to the SBC in her Annual Session upcoming in New Orleans, a proposed name change of our beloved convention.
I commend President Wright for his thoughtful, deliberate and considerate proposal. I wholeheartedly agree with the spirit, letter, advisory committee and methodology used by President Wright in launching this proposal.
There may be some validity to the complaint that there are no lay people on the advisory panel; and perhaps it would be wise if President Wright added two–three lay persons to this panel. If youth and young adults are not represented on this panel, consideration should be given to adding that demographic as well.
Unlike the GCR panel, this advisory committee has at least one African American on the panel as forethought, as opposed to an afterthought. This I believe is what the 21st Century SBC should reflect: The Kingdom of God (Rev. 5:7-9).
Whenever a name was changed in Scripture, it usually signified a change in character, conduct or focused concentration on the part of the person or entity whose name was changed. It was not simply a cosmetic change.
Jesus challenged and rebuked the Pharisees for representing a cosmetic change, but inwardly not committed to a character, conduct or focused concentrated Kingdom-minded change. Again, I believe the only biblical justification for the proposed name change of the SBC must be (as some have already indicated in naming possible reasons for the name change) would be a commitment to change in at least one or all three of these areas: Character, conduct and focused concentration.
If the SBC is to change her name, the name change ought to be indicative of a change in focused concentration from a regional and racial 19th and majority of the 20th Century focus, to a 21st Century and biblio-centric concentrated focus on the Kingdom of God. The 1st century church was a Kingdom of God focused church as opposed to a regional or racially focused church. Consequently, they filled all Jerusalem with their doctrine and turned the world upside down for Jesus. Their message was, as Dr. Russell Moore so appropriately points out in his book, The Kingdom of Christ—“There is another king” (Acts 17:7). And as R. Allen Street (Professor of Evangelism at Criswell College) so rightfully echoes our evangelism as instructed and modeled by Jesus ought to be a Kingdom-focused evangelism. The major theme of Jesus’ preaching was the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ first, last and intermediate preaching/teaching and evangelistic initiatives focused on the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).
Matthew and Mark summarized and capsulized the message and ministry of Jesus as, the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15, Matt. 4:23). Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14).
If the focused concentration of Jesus and his public ministry was not exclusively identified with or limited to a certain region or race, neither should the identity and focused concentration of the SBC be indicative of region or race. Therefore, I propose the name, KINGDOM BAPTIST CONVENTION. Who could argue with the Kingdom of God being our focused concentration and indicative of our universal assignment (Matthew 28:19-20)? Who could argue that the word “Baptist” following the word Kingdom is suggestive of the right priority and emphasis; yet by including the word “Baptist,” it immediately identifies our heritage; and it also quickly distinguishes us by our non-negotiable doctrines, authority/inerrancy of scripture, salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, eternal security of the believer, baptism by immersion, a regenerate membership, substitutionary atonement, a physical body resurrection of Jesus as well as a physical bodily return.
Historically, the word “Baptist” preserves our identity and continuation of the legacy established by great men, women and movements of yesteryears that I admire and appreciate such as: Thomas Muenster, Charles Spurgeon, Shubal Stearns, Martha Stearns, John Jasper, Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., E. C. Morris, Henry B. Morehouse (Morehouse College named in his honor), Martin Luther King Sr. and Jr., W.A. Criswell, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Jack Taylor, Beth Moore, Rick Warren, Gardner Taylor, Frank Page, J.H. Jackson, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Lottie Moon, Ken Hemphill, George Liele, Howard Thurman and yes, Fred Luter; the Anabaptists, Sandy Creek, Charlestonian, National Baptist, Southern Baptist, Fulness and Full Gospel Baptist. These were Kingdom believers of a Baptist persuasion. In spite of the distance that some Baptist place between themselves and the word “Baptist,” and the many stripes and flavors of Baptist that exist (as indicative by the above mentioned names), I believe the word “Baptist” still has major significance and is a worthy distinguishing factor doctrinally and historically. However, the word Baptist should always be secondary to the Kingdom of God, and my proposed name for the new SBC keeps this priority in focus.
The word “convention” is simply indicative of a multitude of churches who share Baptist doctrine and historical roots who convene together to advance kingdom business; thus, the name Kingdom Baptist Convention. I would hope the word “Baptist” is retained in this new convention name.
The conduct change that should accompany this name change it appears will happen somewhat simultaneously with the name change proposal. And that is the election of Pastor Fred Luter as president of the SBC. This is a positive and good move, solely on the basis of merit and character, without any consideration of color or political correctness. However, I trust and pray that the election of Fred Luter is an indication of a conduct change systemically with regard to racial matters. If the post-presidency-Fred Luter-SBC looks like the current SBC with regard to racial diversity represented on the Executive cabinet, then the election of Fred Luter will look like that Pharisaical cup (Matthew 23:25-27). The real litmus test of whether or not the SBC has undergone a sea change with regard to racial conduct will only be known when it is time to replace some of the current entity heads. However, the election of Fred Luter is a major symbolic step, but a substantive step remains to be seen to elect an African American as an entity head.
Until such time, the jury is still out as to whether the name change and Luter election is cosmetic or real. Again, if the post Luter SBC does not change, then there is no need to change the name. The current name represents the current practices quite well. The missions, evangelism and church planting emphasis of the SBC often overshadowed the name, and that’s why some of us were attracted to and remain SBC; but at times it is still painful, and we are occasionally reminded that the SBC is well, just that, the SBC.
I am excited and thrilled beyond measure with regard to the recent church planting emphasis of the NAMB. Dr. Ezell and the NAMB have my wholehearted support. I was really encouraged when I read what Dr. Kevin Ezell stated that the NAMB will not prevent church planters from having relationships with historical denominational linkage that believe and practice “degrees of charismaticism.” It is my prayer that this attitude would be conveyed by Dr. Ezell and NAMB to funding church planters who practice “degrees of charismaticism.” Dr. Danny Akin, President of The Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, perhaps made the most prophetic and Kingdom-minded statement regarding the controversial IMB policy concerning private prayer language which is also basically identical to NAMB policy: “’I think the IMB policy on private prayer languages is wrong,’ Akin said. ‘I’m with Jerry Rankin on that.’ Rankin is president of the IMB.” Ironically, for making a statement similar to what Dr. Akin made regarding the IMB policies, there was an attempt made to remove me as a trustee at SWBTS and my chapel sermon was censored, saying I criticized a sister SBC agency. This is also another example of a SBC double standard. WOW! I’m grateful to see positive movement in this direction.
Recently, the SBTC has in principle agreed to fund a proposed church plant/satellite sponsored by the church I pastor, knowing full well my beliefs and practices as it relates to praying in tongues in private. (I will initially be serving as church planter while simultaneously serving as pastor of CBC.) I have not agreed to accept the funds because I am just not sure of the future direction of our convention. I did not feel right receiving funds from the SBC for church planting in light of the fact I’m aware of church planters who have been denied funding because of the policies concerning praying in tongues at NAMB and the SBTC. Our church has donated over $100,000 to church planters whose beliefs and practices are identical to mine. Offering me funding represented a Kingdom mindset by the SBTC that ought to be extended to all church planters and missionaries. But nevertheless, I am beginning to see positive movement in the right direction. I want to apologize to the SBTC for stating on more than one occasion that they would not fund someone like me as a church plant today, but apparently I was wrong.
The appointment of Ken Weathersby as Presidential Ambassador for Ethic Church Relations in the SBC is also a right and timely move by Frank Page and Kevin Ezell. Before Ken Weathersby was promoted to this position he was demoted as VP at NAMB. This sent a shock wave through the African American Southern Baptist community. However, I must admit I was sorely disappointed when I read in the Baptist Press and saw pictures that NAMB had appointed four Whites as Vice President to develop church planting throughout the United States and overlooked four highly qualified mid-level African American NAMB personnel for one of these slots. This has caused much consternation with African American Southern Baptist churches. Why would we attempt to plant churches in Urban America with four men who ethnically don’t resemble the majority of people in Urban America (Acts 13:1-3)? The name change has to represent a departure from these types of practices.
I could cite several other instances of racial and character issues currently being practiced in the SBC that need to change. However, the point of the article is to celebrate the fact it appears we are moving toward change, and I celebrate this move!
Lord, let thy Kingdom come, let thy will be done on Earth and in and through the SBC, as it is in Heaven. Amen.