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9Marks panel on church influence, culture, SBC

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) — This year’s 9Marks panel discussions tackled the current state of the Southern Baptist Convention and whether or not the health of a church is enough to sustain itself in this cultural moment during two evenings of discussion in conjunction with the SBC’s annual meeting in Birmingham, Ala.

The Monday evening (June 10) discussion was led by Mark Dever, co-founder of 9Marks and senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C, and Jonathan Leeman, 9Marks editorial director. Conversation centered around the topic, “Are Healthy Churches Enough for Today’s Problems?” Dever and Leeman’s discussion was a live recording of their Pastors’ Talk podcast, which they record weekly to discuss practical aspects of pastoral ministry and Christian life.

“Is the church enough? No, if you’re trying to use it for what it’s not built to do in this world,” Dever said. “But I’ll answer yes it’s enough for God’s purposes, for what He needs to do with the church, for displaying His glory.”

Leeman and Dever discussed how churches can be influential in today’s culture, using Dever’s nine marks of a healthy church.

“It’s a temptation for all of us to use the church for things it’s not quite built to do,” said Dever, explaining that the church was not meant to be and do everything to fix societal problems. Pastors must pay careful attention, Dever noted, to the morality they are preaching from the pulpit to make sure it lines up with Scripture and is being drawn from a place of understanding who God is first.

He called the lack of the indicative informing the imperative a “gospel-less moralism that will not run well; your engine will overheat over time.”

State of the SBC

Tuesday evening’s panel, sponsored by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, featured a discussion on the state of the SBC. Panelists included Dever, who moderated the panel; Danny Akin, president of SEBTS in Wake Forest, N.C.; H.B. Charles Jr., pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; and R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Among conversations regarding motions presented on the floor during Tuesday’s business meeting, panelists addressed some of the hot-button issues at this year’s SBC annual meeting. Among those issues were complementarianism, racial reconciliation and sexual abuse.

Panelists spoke about the history of complementarianism, noting that the idea has been around since Genesis 1 but the word itself has only existed for a few decades.

Charles explained that the SBC’s view on complementarianism — that men and women have unique but complementary roles in the church and the home — was one of the aspects that attracted him to the convention.

“One of the issues that leads me to the Southern Baptist Convention is that this was a settled issue and I just needed to be around brothers and sisters where I did not have to argue about this issue,” Charles said.

Akin added that there is a strong tie between complementarianism and biblical inerrancy.

“The word may [have] become more prominent since 1978, but the concept goes all the way back to the Scriptures themselves,” said Akin, explaining that debate over complementarianism and inerrancy were happening at the same time.

In relationship to racial reconciliation, Mohler applauded the historical moment in the life of the convention to pass a constitutional amendment that would allow for the disfellowshipping of churches in the SBC on the basis of racial and ethnic discrimination. He noted the irony that discriminatory churches in 1845 would have been in good standing with the SBC, yet on June 11, the SBC “would now rule out the very people who established the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845.”

As the topic turned to the issue of sexual abuse, Mohler noted that messengers’ vote to establish a standing Credentials Committee was a strong move, but that it is only the beginning of a longer process of listening and learning from survivors.

“This was not all we needed to do, but this was at least what we needed to do at this meeting to be able to do the right thing in the future,” said Mohler of the new Credentials Committee, which will seek to make inquiries and recommendations for action regarding instances of sexual abuse, racism or other issues that call a church’s relationship with the SBC into question. See related Baptist Press story.

The “9Marks at 9” panel is an event that happens annually during the week of the SBC’s meeting. 9Marks seeks to provide resources to churches nationally and internationally that help develop healthy, growing congregations. For more information, visit 9marks.org.

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  • Lauren Pratt