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FIRST-PERSON: SBC: synergistic connectedness

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–It is just my opinion, but since an editorial is just my opinion, here goes. The 2005 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville will serve as a pivotal year in the history of Southern Baptists. All organizations, including churches and church-type ministries such as a denomination, experience identity phases. Since the late 1960s through the mid-1990S, the Southern Baptist Convention experienced reclamation of its historical biblically conservative roots.

In recent days, people have been asking some powerful questions about what’s on the horizon for Southern Baptists. Some are worrying and wringing their hands with fear that the SBC will deteriorate into the status quo and will eventually be relegated to a denominational bone yard, a bone yard filled with once great and glorious Christian groups who settled for personal pleasure and theological accommodation instead of passionately pursuing lost souls for Christ.

Researchers have produced plenty of text attempting to explain that Southern Baptists are on the downside of a former growth curve. We have lamented the fact that the number of our baptisms, for all intents and purposes, is flat. However, I am more convinced than ever we are on the precipice of a new era, a new day, a new passion for the souls of men and women in our nation and our world. The Southern Baptist Convention is not a huge organization going nowhere. Our SBC president, Bobby Welch, has challenged Southern Baptists to be fully engaged in doing everything everyone can to reach the lost with everything we have, now!

To help us in the process there are a couple of terms we need to know. One is the word “synergy.” This word is technically defined as the simultaneous action of separate agents. When they work together, they have a greater sum total effect than the sum of their individual efforts. Charles Lowery in the May issue of SBCLife tells of a Canadian horse-pull. During the contest, one horse pulled a 9,000-pound sled. Another horse pulled a sled of 8,000 pounds. Common logic would assume that if you yoked these two horses together they could pull something like 17,000 pounds. However, they actually pulled 30,000 pounds. Why? Synergy.

Southern Baptists are learning new ways to practice this term. Churches are working with churches. Suburban churches are sponsoring churches in the inner city. Churches and associations are learning how to share equipment resources. Churches and associations are discovering partnerships with the state conventions and national entities to accomplish far more together than they can individually. President Bush has his “No Child Left Behind” education initiative and Southern Baptists need a “no church without baptisms” evangelism initiative.

Another wrinkle of meaning with this word is the concept of pulling in the same direction. There are very few left in Southern Baptist ranks who embrace a “soft” view about the authority of God’s Word. For the most part, denominational employees are as theologically conservative as the churches that provide the resources for cooperative work. While we must remain theologically vigilant, it is time for us to appropriate the energy we used to reinvigorate our Southern Baptist theological identity and focus our passion on winning souls and on cooperative missions.

For example, Crossover 2005 in Nashville was amazing. Although final figures are not complete, more than 7,300 people participated in a two-hour door-to-door blitz in Nashville. More than 18,100 homes were visited and more than 575 people prayed to receive Christ. After a visit, a reporter asked the resident what he thought about these people visiting his home, invading his privacy in the middle of the Saturday morning. His response was priceless. He told the reporter that at just the right time the Southern Baptists came to his home. He and his family were in a crisis and they desperately needed help and that is what the Southern Baptists offered. Needless to say, the reporter found it difficult to ask another question.

Imagine what could happen when Southern Baptists leave the convention, journey back home across America and challenge their local churches to set their hearts on blitzing neighborhoods and communities in the name of Jesus. Many people will say “no thank you” but how many other people need help at just the right moment?

The other term for consideration is a “culture of connectedness.” What Baptists across the country are discovering is that by renewing and strengthening the things that connect our churches, associations and state conventions, we collectively make a greater impact on our culture for the cause of Christ. Interestingly, at the same time we attempt to strength our connectedness with fellow Southern Baptists, renewed strength and vitality simultaneously begins to emerge in our personal lives and our local churches.

God is at work. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Southern Baptists have the privilege to work synergistically with other Southern Baptists to obediently fulfill God’s purposes for our generation. By connecting with others, we maximize our effectiveness for the sake of the Kingdom of our God.
John L. Yeats is recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention and editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, online at www.baptistmessenger.com.

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  • John L. Yeats