The problem of disunity is not a new challenge for contemporary Christ followers, Willy Rice said during the convention sermon at the Southern Baptist Convention on June 16.
“Even the disciples of our Lord were known to argue among themselves,” said Rice, senior pastor of Calvary Church, Clearwater, Florida.
Preaching from 1 Corinthians 3, Rice said the passage shows a church divided by doctrinal confusion. They were divided into different tribes, professing allegiance to different leaders. The Apostle Paul addressed the reality of their dissention, the reasons for it and what they should do about it, Rice said.
The SBC needs to consider the same things, he said, noting that “our very future may depend on it.” He suggested three places to start based on the passage.
- Be clear about our identity.
The Corinthian church needed a reminder about where their allegiance should really lie, Rice said. They dealt with an unhealthy fixation on personalities.
“There was an emergence of a kind of celebrity culture, and Paul quickly condemned it,” he said, noting that one of the factors of tribalism is an unhealthy exaltation of human leaders.
Work of God
Southern Baptists don’t need celebrities, they need to remember “we do not own the field, and we do not own the house,” Rice said. “It is God who does the work.”
And the real work doesn’t happen on the convention floor, he said — “it’s out there.”
- Be careful about our ministry.
Some ministry is built with gold, silver and jewels — things that last, Rice said. Other ministry is built with straw, hay and wood — temporary things that will burn up in the life to come.
“Today as in every day, in this generation as in every generation, the issue of truth must be confronted,” Rice said.
It’s important for Southern Baptists to guard their theology, he said. “We know where the road to theological liberalism leads — to death. … Theological compromise is just a halfway house on the road to unbelief.”
But motives matter too, Rice said. “In the account of the woman caught in adultery, the angry mob was not motivated by righteousness. They knew the sin, they knew the Scriptures, but they didn’t know the Savior. I don’t want to be known as angry old men with rocks in our hands.”
Southern Baptists need to be careful about the aroma given off to a watching world, he said, asking if messengers thought anyone listening this week would conclude that the convention was made up of people of love.
“If you do not mirror the character of Christ, your words and your work are nothing but wood, hay and straw,” Rice said.
- Be certain about eternity.
Rice said Southern Baptists know eternity is coming, and with it a day of both reward and ruin.
“The humblest among us, the least known among us, may with gold, silver and jewels do the work of the Lord,” he said.
“He who labors faithfully will receive a reward.”
The church has many problems, but “woe be it to that person” who works to destroy it, Rice said.
“Be careful before you take a careless sledgehammer to the house of God just to build a name for yourself,” he said. “Eternity is coming, and God is watching.”
Southern Baptists have embarrassed themselves in the way they’ve treated each other before a watching world, Rice said.
He noted that he wants to think “we’re better than this, but then again, maybe we’re not.”
“Maybe this is who we are, and that’s what makes this so hard,” Rice said. “But you know what? Jesus is better than this.”
Because that foundation will hold, followers of Christ will continue to work, he said. “Let us gather up the gold of the gospel … the silver of the Scriptures and the jewels of Jesus. Let us be done with the wood, hay and straw of posturing. Let us labor for the Master. There’s work to be done — work that lasts.”