Thursday, June 13, 2019

A Fresh Pastoral Perspective on the Changing SBC

Photo: Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle / Staff photographer
If one has never been to the Southern Baptist Convention, the best way to describe the experience is "the world's largest business meeting run by parliamentary rules." 

There are enormous exhibit halls attached to the Convention arena where any agency, educational institution, or business affiliated with the SBC can set up booths to pass out more information.

The SBC is also like a family reunion.

Just like dysfunctional families, there are some members that love to see you, and others that you can tell wish you'd skipped the reunion.

I love all the SBC family, even those who are unbiblical, illogical, and ultimately detrimental to the cause of cooperative mission work. I no more want them to leave the SBC than I want people to leave my church.

But I never cater to people in my church whose actions are without grace. They are always welcome to teach whatever they believe the Scripture to say, and nobody's threatened at our church (especially me).  We realize that gentle persuasion and "the ability to give an answer for the hope within you" is the only way you convince people of what's true.

So, with that said, I always love meeting new people.

I met Kendra, a young student at UAB who was at her first Convention with her mother. She is a reader with a keen mind. She's read things that I and others have written about the changing SBC, and she and her mother were so encouraged, they decided to join a Southern Baptist church in Birmingham.

When the staff of the church asked her what she wanted to do with her life, Kendra said, "I want to be a missionary!" 

The response from the male pastoral staff member was, "You'll make a great missionary's wife!" Kendra asked me if that's the attitude of most in Southern Baptist churches.

I assured Kendra, "No! Keep reading. Keep studying the Scriptures. God's call on your life will send you to places that patriarchal people may not like, but you answer to Him, not them."

Other stories could be told, but I want to focus on just one.

Travis Collins is the pastor of FBC Huntsville, Alabama. He is leading FBC to do some very creative ministry work locally and missions work globally. He and I have connected through the Internet, and he came to this year's Convention and we were able to share a lunch and sit through one of the sessions. Travis wrote a column reflecting on Tuesday's sessions of the 2019 SBC.
I just spent a fascinating day at the Annual Meeting of the SBC in Birmingham.  And I’m more encouraged about the Southern Baptist Convention tonight than I was this morning. 
I’m encouraged because I believe the SBC is getting serious about addressing and eliminating the scourge of sexual abuse in the Church, and is going to call out those Southern Baptist congregations that are enablers of abuse.
I’m encouraged because I witnessed a conversation about race on the platform of the Southern Baptist Convention gathering, the honesty and depth of which I never thought I’d witness.
I’m encouraged because I know there are lots of Southern Baptists who are tired of the male hierarchicalism that has dominated the SBC for three decades and believe God intends for men and women to serve as full partners in ministry.  Oh, I know those Southern Baptists aren’t in the majority. 
Yet. I’m encouraged because I spent a big part of the day with Wade Burleson, an Oklahoma Baptist pastor whom I consider a friend.  An out-spoken, plain-spoken, well-spoken guy who is the most skillful at declaring “The Emperor has no clothes” than anyone I ever have met.
I’m encouraged because I attended a dinner event celebrating Graffiti, a Southern-Baptist-related congregation and community ministry in New York City.  Graffiti is a group of folks who represent the best of Baptists—doing real ministry on the streets (not just pontificating about it) and ushering people into a transforming relationship with Jesus.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the good ol’ days, when Southern Baptists made us feel (even if I was a bit na├»ve), as missionaries to Nigeria, that our service was more important than who was elected President of the SBC. 
But today I was glad that a large portion of our church’s mission dollars go to the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Travis Collins
Pastor, First Baptist Church,
Huntsville, Alabama
More and more people in the SBC are understanding things like Travis Collins.

Brighter days for the SBC are ahead


Bob Cleveland said...

And I'm equally glad that there are people like you in the convention. Equally important, to deciding the things that were decided in the last 2 days, is someone within the ranks who will openly and skillfully point out if and when we're not doing those things in the coming years.

There may be others, but I'm thankful that you're there, because I know you will do just that.

I still recall vividly your motion that a database of "those credibly accused" of abuse or molestation be created, and the inaction (other than excuses) that followed. The Houston Chronicle put ink all over the results of that inaction, 10+ years later.

Lee said...

Good to hear that change is coming, thank you for doing what you do, Wade.

As an aside, I highly encourage people to read Travis Collins' book, "From the Steeple to the Street." An introduction to the Fresh Expressions movement and a tool that churches need to look at going forward.

Sallie Borrink said...

When the staff of the church asked her what she wanted to do with her life, Kendra said, "I want to be a missionary!"

The response from the male pastoral staff member was, "You'll make a great missionary's wife!"

I just had to resist the urge to throw something.

I have a missionary friend who has been a nurse to a particular people group in various places for thirty years. (Can't name them for security reasons.) She is unmarried. How sad it would be if she had never gone to share the Good News with the lost if our pastor had told her that she could only go if she had a man to go with her and take over.

Kendra - I will be praying for you whenever you come to mind. May God bless your desire to serve Him on the mission field.


Jacque's Blog said...

I received the Elizabeth G Price award when I graduated from Southwestern in 1987. When I went to receive the award, my husband went with me. He had to continuously tell people that came up to congratulate him that the recipient was me. Some just looked me, didnt say anything and moved on to the next person who got an award.

Wade Burleson said...


That culture, dear Elizabeth G. Price award recipient, is changing.


Julie Chase said...

Wade Kindra should meet Josna Antony and the Touch India mission school. Julie Chase

Wade Burleson said...

Yes, Julie, she should!

Anonymous said...

Fun game. Play anywhere.
Easy to play every time Mobile can be found here.