NASHVILLE (BP) — The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is called to equip followers of Christ to minister during a “crisis of credibility,” Russell Moore told the entity’s trustees Wednesday (Sept. 5) at their annual meeting.
Moore made his comments on the occasion of his fifth anniversary as the ERLC’s president. Trustees honored Moore during a Sept. 4 dinner on the eve of the full board’s meeting at the SBC Building in Nashville.
The “crisis of credibility” in America is similar to one John the Baptist was experiencing — as described in Matthew 11 — when he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He is the promised Messiah or should they look for someone else, Moore said in his president’s report. Because of the church’s failures, the world is now asking if Jesus is the one to come or should it wait for another, he said.
Studies show younger Americans are not posing theoretical questions about Christianity, Moore said, but questions about the church, such as: “Can we trust this institution? Or is this institution really not about Jesus but really about something else? Really about carrying out some sort of political agenda? Really about some sort of ethnic identity?
“That is a horrible crisis of credibility.”
Headlines report some Roman Catholic leaders have covered up “shocking and blasphemous abuse of children,” Moore told trustees. Some evangelical leaders publicly denounce immorality but engage in “extramarital affairs or financial chicanery,” he said.
Reports of such behavior give the world, as the New Testament calls it, “reason to blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ, because [the world is] assuming as they look at us that the church is just another human invention, that Jesus is a mascot,” Moore said.
The church also is combating not an adoption of “wholesale universalism” but a “targeted-strike universalism” that addresses some issues but not others, he told trustees.
“Talk about homosexuality, but don’t talk about racial injustice. Talk about sex trafficking, but don’t talk about abortion. Talk about adultery, but don’t talk about sexual assault. Talk about personal integrity and lying, but don’t talk about the assaults on the poor that come with casino gambling or predatory lending,” Moore cited as examples.
“When the outside world sees us doing that, they see us magnifying the things that are acceptable to our tribe, downplaying the things that are not,” he said. “They recognize what we are doing, which is not following a King but following a herd and seeking to be a chaplain to that herd by simply attaching Bible verses to where the herd is already going.”
In his public ministry, Jesus consistently provoked a crisis and called people to follow Him, Moore said.
“It is the calling of all of us in an era in which we are all priests to one another, speaking and pointing to the grace of God, and in which we are all prophets to one another, pointing to the truth of the Word of God,” he said.
With the “crisis of credibility” and this calling as realities, the ERLC is “about speaking into the culture and to the authorities what the Word of God says” about numerous issues and “making much of Jesus Christ and His Gospel,” Moore told trustees.
A victory for the ERLC is not simply the passage of a bill or a win in court, he said. “A win is being able to speak to the legislator who is on the other side of an issue and saying, ‘Can I share with you the Gospel of Jesus Christ?’ A win is to be the people who are carrying out the Great Commission while carrying out the great commandment.”
Moore said, “We do not know what the next 100 years may hold,” but “generations and generations” will be sent into that future. “[W]e must equip them with the ability to be a minority…, but not simply a minority — a minority that knows the prophetic writings that are able to lead one unto faith and godliness,” he said.
The ERLC’s calling in the year ahead includes addressing not only marriage and parenting but the pressing ethical questions that are coming through the family — such as technology, temptation and care for widows and orphans, Moore said. The formation of the church into a family is part of the calling, he said, adding that every Christian is a member of a family filled with brothers and sisters.
“The Cross-shaped Family” is the theme of the ERLC’s 2018 National Conference, Oct. 11-13 in Dallas. Moore’s new book — “The Storm-tossed Family: How the Cross Reshapes the Home” — will be released Sept. 15.
The dinner honoring Moore on his fifth anniversary as ERLC president included video messages from SBC, ministry and government leaders.
In the video, SBC President J.D. Greear commended Moore for “the wisdom that he has led with, the way he’s challenged us, the way he’s taught us to think about various issues through the lens of the Gospel and for the purpose of bringing people in.”
U.S. Sen. James Lankford, a Southern Baptist, told Moore, “Thank you for the great work that you have done. I look forward to continuing to see the impact that you and your team will continue to be able to have on our nation as we speak out about the truth that Scripture brings not just to what happens in the pulpit on Sunday but what happens in our daily life and in our culture as a whole.”
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said, “I love not just the message that you send but the way that you send it.”