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FIRST-PERSON: What if Southern Baptists ceased to exist?

A Pakistani Christian man reads his Bible during a Sunday morning worship service at Rainbow Pentecostal Church in the Muskeen squatter community in Islamabad, Pakistan. IMB Photo

More and more, I’m hearing people talk about the slow death of the SBC. Some are even saying last year’s presidential election shows a three-way separation between Traditional Baptists, Reformed Baptists and so-called Moderate Baptists.

I pray these folks are wrong. Without any inkling of pride, I remember God has used Southern Baptists to touch the world with the Gospel. Two months ago, we were told that Southern Baptists have given more than $5 billion to the cause of international missions! That’s amazing! I often run into people from all over the world who say they came to Christ through the efforts of Southern Baptist missionaries. Somehow, God has been honored to use a simple and sinful people called Southern Baptists.

But God doesn’t need Southern Baptists; He has used us because we have consistently prioritized a commitment to the Gospel and the Great Commission. As independent and autonomous churches, we have often set aside our lessor priorities to proclaim together the Gospel here in North America and to the world.

Today the cooperative nature of the SBC is threatened every day by real and exaggerated issues. We must always “contend for the faith,” but we must also be careful not to “give the devil a foothold” and “bite and devour one another” and thus be “consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15). There are always differences in a denominational family as large as ours. Issues do arise that must be worked through. Errors can arise that must be corrected. But unscrupulous blogs can exaggerate and mislead many. The ferocity of their charges draws attention that increases their power. Some of these voices seek not to correct and reconcile, but instead to demonize and destroy.

Over the years, I’ve seen Southern Baptists make mistakes. In every case, when the facts came in and things were sorted through, Southern Baptists acknowledged their error and got back on the right track. It’s often a slow process due to the complications of our polity, but there is a commitment to ultimately getting it right.

However, in this day of blogs and social media, disingenuous or exaggerated attacks can be destructive. Such innuendo can undermine the trust necessary for a voluntary association of churches to exist. Such could ultimately undermine a denomination.

If we were to the lose the Southern Baptist Convention, God’s work would go on; people would continue to be saved, and Jesus would still return. But something significant would be lost:

  • 4,500 missionaries would have to raise their own support to do international missions, costing them as much as half of their support and time simply to raise their support. Their mission impact would be cut in half.
  • There wouldn’t be six theologically sound seminaries training 16,000 pastors, teachers, missionaries. These leaders would have to pay double to go to seminary elsewhere and would be saddled with extra debt that might prevent them from serving in mission areas.
  • 4,000 church planters would be scrambling to find church-planting resources, guidance and support, and there likely would be far fewer churches planted.
  • 50,000 churches would be left to secure theologically sound Bible study materials for all ages.
  • 125,000 pastors, missionaries and leaders wouldn’t have the financial guidance to maximize their finances and to prepare for their retirement years through GuideStone Financial Resources.
  • The United States would have to find additional volunteers to replace the third-largest body of disaster relief volunteers in the country.
  • 50,000 churches would be disconnected from fellowship and support, without assistance to face ministry challenges, and without coordination and cooperation to assist them in engaging the Great Commission.
  • Churches would lose the rich ethnic and cultural diversity of being in fellowship with believers from every tribe and nation of the world.
  • We would lose the opportunity to pass on to the next generation of believers our relationships our knowledge, and our tools for reaching the nations. We’d lose the power and efficiency of the Cooperative Program system of missions funding.
  • The world would have one less missionary denomination taking the Gospel to the world!

Brothers and sisters, our predecessors passed on to us a heart for God, a commitment to the Scriptures and a passion to share Jesus with the world. I pray we don’t drop the ball.

    About the Author

  • Leo Endel

    Leo Endel is executive director of the .Minnesota Wisconsin Baptist Convention.

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