Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Bottom-line Loyalty

On my last post, Denominationalism, I said that "I have some opinions of my own on this issue." In general, I included all of the quotes and references I included because I pretty much liked what each one had to say. I especially identify with Pastor Al Meredith when he says:
I am a Baptist by conviction and by choice. But there is a higher, deeper conviction than that which claims my loyalty. By a miraculous working of God I have been born again into the family of faith, the church universal, the Redeemed from every kindred, tribe, nation, and generation.
I want to make one thing clear. I am not against the Southern Baptist Convention. Evidently, if I were, I could not with a good conscience remain a part of it. I believe Douglas Blount (see Denominationalism post) makes an excellent point in his reference to C. S. Lewis's illustration of the hallway and the various rooms. I also think D. G. Tinder's observation is very astute:

One response has been to oppose denominations and urge all true Christians to leave them and meet simply as churches of Christ, Christian churches, churches of God, disciples, brethren, Bible churches, evangelical churches, and similar inclusive names. Despite obvious appeal in times of denominational confusion, strife, and declension, the reality is that no such movement has anywhere attracted most Christians to itself. Instead this has been just another way of increasing the number of denominations, and sects, usually with the group's reluctance to admit it.
The problem, for me, is whenever we put our loyalty to the denomination we are a member of in front of our loyalty to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ around the world.

On my Coming Clean post, I said:
I believe that the vast wealth of spiritual, human, creative, and financial resources represented by the SBC make up an excellent platform from which to serve the Lord and work together with His Body around the world for the advance of His Kingdom.
As long as I continue to believe that the Southern Baptist Convention serves as the best platform for helping me in my small part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the advance of the Kingdom of God (tasks given to the Body of Christ at large, and not just Baptists, in my opinion), I will remain a loyal Southern Baptist.

I am grateful for people like Al Meredith (though I have not had the privilege of meeting him personally). I believe he is representative of the majority of grassroots pastors and members around the SBC, who also long to see the Lord glorified through greater unity and cooperation with fellow members of the Body of Christ in other denominations, congregations and assorted ministries.

At the same time, I have been a little surprised and increasingly concerned about what appears to be an effort on the part of some to move the Southern Baptist Convention in a more "denominationalist" direction. Some have linked this with the Landmark movement of the 1800's.

In the meantime, there are many "younger leaders" (and undoubtedly, some who are not so young) who are beginning to ask themselves whether or not "the Southern Baptist Convention serves as the best platform for helping [them] in [their] small part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the advance of the Kingdom of God" (see, for example, the comments section on Steve McCoy's Churches Louder than Blogs post on his Missional Baptist Blog).

I, for one, as an IMB missionary, and a concerned Southern Baptist, join with others in urging those who are considering "jumping ship" to not do so quite yet. There are a lot of really good, strategic, and biblical things going on as a result of the continued cooperative efforts of Southern Baptists. However, if the day were ever to come in which, before God, I were to arrive at the conviction that excessive denominationalism within the SBC outweighed the comparative contributions the SBC was making to the Body of Christ at large, I would have to reconsider my position.

For now, I remain a loyal Southern Baptist, and ask you to please continue to support the IMB and the Cooperative Program. But my "bottom-line loyalty" is to the Church Universal, the Body of Christ around the world.

2 comments:

Steve said...

David,

I know where you are coming from on the SBC, but I would rather SBC'rs see our mission in a different way. Why must we see ourselves as a ship and the only way out is jumping off? I know it's just a word-pic, but it's important. Wouldn't it be a healthier, more biblical view to say that there are many ships and we should get into ones that fit our role in ministry/mission better? Our loyalty should be with Jesus and His Body, and with that view I think the SBC and other denominations and movements will grow healthier.

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear David,

I think your ideas in this post are right on. My favorite word to use when discussing this issue is "inasmuch." I am a loyal supporter of the SBC INASMUCH as we are biblical in our theology and in our missions efforts. When unbiblical theology takes control, then I am not a loyal supporter anymore.

Brother David, if you keep writing like this, someone in the IMB BOT is going to come after you in some way, magic last name not withstanding. Be ready.

Love in Christ,

Jeff