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FIRST-PERSON: For Christ’s sake, stop!

EDITORS’ NOTE: A statement by International Mission Board President Jerry Rankin follows this article by Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page.

TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)–Do we love one another? Do we love our pastors? Do we genuinely care one for another? Do we care for the lost? Obviously, the list could go on and on, but the question remains, “do we love and care for one another?”

I have been greatly burdened in recent days. Our lost world, our lost continent, hurting churches and hurting pastors are crying out. A few days ago I had the opportunity to share Christ with a young man on an airplane. At that very moment, I had to decide whether to continue writing this article or talk to this young man. Obviously, I put the writing material down and spoke with this young man who is in desperate need of Christ. He, like our world, is looking for authenticity and for love. I point this out because I believe we often are making the wrong choice.

Our witness is being diluted and energies expended on other activities, especially on internecine conflict.

Church conflict is rampant. Seldom does a day go by that I do not receive a call for help from either a church, a pastor or staff member. Recently I received three in one day. And, there seems to be a new way to deal with church conflict. These days, increasing numbers of church members launch websites detailing allegations, accusations and complaints. I ask church members this question: Do you think lost people see this? When newspaper reporters are called and church conflict becomes known in the newspaper, either locally or nationally, what do you think this does when lost people read it? For Christ’s sake, for the sake of the lost, stop!

Personal attacks are on the rise. I recently removed my endorsement (as did David Dockery, Thom Rainer and others) when a hoped-for and needed place for dialogue on the Internet degenerated quickly into a place of personal attack against denominational leaders as well as those who are advocating reform. For Christ’s sake, stop!

Phone calls, e-mails, and hallway conversations continue to take place with the bottom line being character assassination. For Christ’s sake, stop!

Yes, as you can tell, I am sick and tired of all of this. But guess what? What I think or feel matters little, if at all. However, what does matter is what our Lord Jesus thinks. He states his heart in John 17:21, where he prays, “May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.” He also states in Galatians 5:20 that the works of the flesh are “strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions and factions.

What must we do?

1) We must beg God for forgiveness. We have spoken ill of brothers and sisters of Christ in ways that should never occur.

2) We must pledge to avoid personal attacks in the future and not to support an activity or conversation in which this occurs. By the way, there is an individual in our convention with whom I have disagreed and have done so publicly. I personally think that is fine. However, I will not be a part of a personal attack of any brother of sister in our convention.

3) We must learn to disagree using the biblical mandates in Matthew 18, Ephesians 4:15, etc. Most church problems and convention problems could have been overcome if we would have followed these biblical mandates.

4) We must learn to listen to one another. This applies to all of us. It is time for leaders, trustees, pastors and people in the pew to listen to the concerns of others, even those with whom we have serious disagreement. The pattern of totally ignoring others with whom we disagree has led to a stone walling and given many the encouragement to become extreme.

5) We must learn to talk to each other, not just about each other. I challenge you to do this. I also promise to you that you will find new friends in so doing.

What is at stake? Certainly I am concerned about the future of our convention, its great mission work, and the educational work in which we are involved. However, even more importantly, I am concerned about lost souls and new believers. Lost people are seeing the deep division and sometimes hatred that is flowing forth among churches and among those who are involved in convention discussions. For Christ’s sake, stop!

Grace & respect
needed in dialogue
By Jerry Rankin

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Within the diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention, we desperately need dialogue to take place in which we can listen and learn from each other, even to the extent of respecting differing viewpoints. However, the Bible gives us clear instruction of how we are to deal with disagreements with others.

As a leader of a Southern Baptist entity, I find there is no lack of those who have disagreements with the work of the International Mission Board and issues with me personally or my leadership.

I welcome direct communication that is intended to result in understanding or corrective actions. But discussion of such issues publicly without making every effort to deal with me or the individual involved is inappropriate and unbiblical. There can never be justification for communicating, even areas of serious concern, without grace, respect and a Christ-like spirit.

I regret that SBCOutpost.com, which I and others earlier endorsed, has not fulfilled its intended purpose. This had the potential of being a forum for an objective interchange of ideas and opinions that would contribute in a constructive way to the Southern Baptist Convention. While I continue to endorse and advocate the value of open communication and understanding that comes from a free exchange of ideas, I am retracting my endorsement of SBCOutpost as the place for that to happen.

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  • Frank Page