February 21, 2020

Healing Division Within the Southern Baptist Convention

Some believe that healing division within the Southern Baptist Convention is impossible. I disagree.

The last few years have been unsettling for Southern Baptists. These days, we’re more apt to be defined by our differences than by our common cause. As a result, some believe that healing division within the Southern Baptist Convention is impossible. I disagree. It will, however, require using reason over having reactions. We need to admit what this division is costing us and be willing to pay the price of reconciliation.


Our driving purpose as Southern Baptists is rooted in personal evangelism and global missions. The SBC is at her best when our focus is on the Great Commission and our function is in the Great Commandment. Unfortunately, those seasons have been few in number and short in practice. Although we have two of the greatest mission agencies in the world, our collective evangelistic zeal is currently anything but zealous. The very thing that brings us together is in danger, and that’s a cost too high. We are sabotaging ourselves with public arguments and convention politics. Why?


Personal agendas are overshadowing our purpose.

Southern Baptists are blessed with many gifted and dynamic leaders. But they often find themselves at odds with one another over how to handle the issues currently dividing the SBC. As a result, the gospel is redefined to further a desired agenda, whether it be political action, racial reconciliation, sexual abuse, cultural understanding, Baptist polity, Baptist history…and so on. When personal agendas take precedence over exalting the Savior, edifying the saints, and evangelizing sinners, then our faith is compromised, our dealings are corrupt, and our plans are confused.


Do we need to address these dividing issues? Absolutely! Sexual abuse and racism are evil and cannot coexist with Christianity, regardless of denomination. We are duty bound to defend the innocent and to defy hate in any form, something I believe the vast majority of Southern Baptist ministers do. And yes, we need to deal biblically with those pastors and churches who do not. Yet, as long as these peripheral issues remain our primary focus, we will continue down the road of division and dysfunction.


We’re talking at one another, not with one another.

Rather than getting together for the benefit of the denomination as a whole, we get on social media. Verbal assaults and salacious accusations fly back and forth, as others join in and pile on. Many even justify their behavior by claiming to represent the gospel through their social media crusade. All the while, posting things that are incredibly grievous to the Holy Spirit. For all our intellectual grasp of Scripture, our practical application of it is almost non-existent. If our cause is rooted in biblical conviction, then certainly how we present it should reflect the mind of Christ. Every Twitter war further divides us from our biblical mandate. It’s usually difficult to tell who the winner is, but the loser is always the SBC.


Pay the price of reconciliation.

Healing division within the Southern Baptist Convention will take a big dose of humility – for everyone. As I’m writing, my mind goes to Philippians 2:1-4, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”


I fully understand that the division is deep and the dysfunction is widespread. Still, paying the price for reconciliation is simple obedience to Scripture. What an incredible testimony to the power of Christ that would be! I believe it can happen, even today. Healing could begin with a phone call or a meeting between people who desire to exalt Jesus and to see souls saved. If you’re at odds with someone you consider to be “on the other side of the aisle” in the SBC, why not pick up the phone, message, or seek a face-to-face meeting? Otherwise, I’m afraid that the cost of our growing dysfunction will prove higher than any of us want to pay.