by Mark Spence, President of Colorado Baptists
Customer: “What is the soup du jour?”
Waiter: “It is the soup of the day.”
Customer: “That sounds good. I’ll have that.”
It is a great day to be a Colorado Baptist. Across our national convention, Cooperative Program giving is up. Churches broke records left and right in their giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Our family of churches continues to send new missionaries all over the world and plant churches throughout our nation. Yet not all is right in the SBC. Too frequently, a new controversy riles up the factions. How is a good Baptist to respond?
We need to recognize that there always have been controversies “du jour.” I’m old enough to remember when Calvinism was the controversy of the day. Some alleged that one could not be Calvinist and Southern Baptist. Hogwash, but it is par for the course when some are more interested in controversy than in the gospel.
Of course, there are doctrines that require firm responses. These matters of first importance are what make us Christian. We must be resolute in standing for primary doctrines such as the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, the problem of sin, and reality of Hell. Responding to any controversy related to what makes someone a Christian is worth it as long as we address the issue in a godly manner.
We must also stand firm for what makes us Southern Baptists. A church can practice baptism by effusion (sprinkling) and remain Christian, but a Baptist church should not. If a church wants to submit to a presbytery, they are fully within their right to do so. However, they should not retain “Baptist” in their name. In a similar fashion, an egalitarian should feel uncomfortable with the BFM 2000. Controversy related to what makes a church Southern Baptist is worth it, again, as long as we address the issue in a godly fashion.
However, not every disagreement should rise to the level of controversy. It is possible to be Reformed, or Arminian, and be a Southern Baptist. The same goes for dispensational, amillenial, or postmillennial (I think) in your eschatology. Not even cessationism is a requirement to be SBC. It is right and good for the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 to be strict on what it means to be a Christian and a Southern Baptist. It is also right and good for the BFM 2000 to ensure freedom on the rest.
The enemy loves to distract us from the Great Commission through non-essential controversies du jour. Let’s return to focusing on the Great Commission and responding to necessary controversies with godly character.
Which (finally) brings us to the point I am trying to make: How can we respond to the contemporary controversies du jour in a godly fashion? First, let me speak to how we shouldn’t respond. Often, I am surprised at how pastors or other church leaders disagree. We have gotten into the habit of threatening the denomination in ways that we would never permit church members to threaten us.
One example of this is from those who wield their Cooperative Program (CP) dollars as a weapon. If so-and-so isn’t fired, or if such-and-such isn’t done, some pastors lead their church to withhold CP giving. Imagine the chaos in the local church if a pastor acquiesced to similar demands of a church member. I have told more than one church member that their membership and their tithe is not a weapon. The denomination cannot, and should not, submit to a church, large or small, who wields their membership or their CP giving as a weapon. Instead, we must treat our fellow pastors and denominational leaders as we would want our church members to treat us.
One benefit of right doctrine is godly character. Believing right things about God has a positive impact on our character. Therefore, if you or I were consistently to respond to controversy with ungodly character, you or I need to ensure our doctrine is actually right.
Through his Word, God defines godly character in a few different ways. The fruit of the spirit includes patience and kindness. James encourages us to be slow to speak and quick to listen. Take a moment and reflect if these characteristics have been true of you during the controversies of the day.
Not everything is going great in our family of churches. Evangelism efforts, as reflected in baptism numbers, are down in the SBC. This should be the main controversy of the day. It should consume our time and our keyboards. The enemy loves to distract us from the Great Commission through non-essential controversies du jour. Let’s return to focusing on the Great Commission and responding to necessary controversies with godly character.