I’ve only known Pastor Scotty for about an hour as I jot down these thoughts, and we’ve only chatted on the phone at this point. Our conversation surfaced from all that’s happening within the Southern Baptist Convention.
He couldn’t have known when he returned my call I was pecking away on my laptop attempting to make sense of what God is impressing on my heart to share. And yet Pastor Scotty articulated it beautifully and precisely:
“My prayer is that you will have a great story to write about the amazing ways God is using this horrible, far-reaching story of sin and abuse for spiritual awakening and restoration. Only God can do that, but He can do it.”
Thank you, Pastor Scotty, for taking the time to encourage this writer and for reminding us where our focus needs to be.
As we work to access appropriate accountability measures for SBC-level entities, we also should review the expectations and demands put on them.
Is it possible we are too focused on numbers and statistics, thus creating a culture of meeting goals we set for ourselves as the top priority over our true main purpose?
Believe me, I understand the positives that come from setting goals and striving to reach them. I’m chief among those always looking to find improvements and ways to grow.
But what if we all took a breath in the midst of the uncertainty, chaos and devastation around us right now?
What if we refocused our efforts on seeking to be more like Christ each day and looking around consistently to find where He is at work so we can join Him?
What if we tossed out the routines of church life, the familiar schedules of what we do when, and instead let God lead us where He would have us serve?
The associational leaders, state convention leaders and SBC leaders would undoubtedly take notice of what was happening in the churches and might realign their thought processes as well.
What if those employed by the various SBC entities asked state convention leaders what resources are needed to help individual states?
And then the state conventions could look to associational leaders for direction on how to best help churches at all levels — you know the saying: “across the byways and highways.”
To make this work, churches would need to ensure their own individual health and then work together with other churches while also participating in their local association.
Associational leaders would need to stay connected to each church and communicate with state convention leaders. From there, state convention leaders would need to build rapport with the SBC-level entity leaders and vice versa.
Is it realistic?
Of course, we all know disagreements will happen over leadership style, financial decisions and where to focus energy. How could it not with roughly 14 million members in 44,000 churches across 42 state conventions? But if we all remember we exist to serve the local church and stay focused on that reality, it might keep frustrations tempered.
At the end of the day, each of those we’ve entrusted to steward our various areas of work is a person, same as you and me, attempting to work out the calling on his or her life.
And while we might be tempted to put them on pedestals, their calling is one of serving Southern Baptists to help spread the gospel and disciple believers, not creating kingdoms or power structures — and not to spend time, energy and money developing new ways to convince us to engage.
The grassroots level should be the one leading the way, reaching local communities for Christ and pulling from associational, state- and national-level resources, while also helping fund the missions and educational efforts that exist because of the Cooperative Program.
As the denomination attempts to navigate the abuse scandal, we must provide protection and prevention of future cases while caring for existing survivors.
We also must address the growing lack of trust and find ways to work together again.
Continued division, panic responses to difficult news and an increasing number of people considering jumping ship demonstrates we are in danger of losing our way as a family of faith, but all is not lost.
We can still be part of an amazing story of spiritual awakening and restoration, of shining the light boldly and brightly through the darkness, if we will release control and let God lead the way.