February 2012

SBC name option proposal ‘only reasonable path’

February 27 2012 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

Bryant Wright, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), is a wise and gifted leader. I have great respect for him. Admittedly, I was disappointed when he announced last September that he had named a task force to study the possibility of changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. From my perspective the study was unnecessary and a distraction from our primary mission.
I have said little about the idea of a name change, realizing that any discussion would be unfruitful and counter productive until the task force completed its work. Shadow boxing is a sport with no winners.
Wright named persons who were broadly representative of Baptist life. And to their credit, they paid their own expenses. That’s correct. The task force was not authorized by the messengers at the annual meeting. Nor was the group given an assignment from the Executive Committee of the SBC. So, no SBC dollars were authorized to fund the work of this task force.
We should thank the group for their sacrificial service. In fact, their service may provide an immeasurable legacy far beyond their original intentions.
Before the task force gave their report Feb. 20, Wright shared with the Executive Committee, “When the Lord called me to this role, there were two main things on my heart. [That] we as a people, as individuals, as churches, as a convention – that we would return to that first love of Jesus Christ.”
His second goal was, “That we would have a radical reprioritization on the Great Commission.” Wright believed a study of our name would help.
One of SBC’s most respected senior statesmen, Jimmy Draper, chaired the task force. As expected, Draper, former president of LifeWay, provided wise biblical leadership to the group.
In his report to the Executive Committee he said, “We wanted to bring something to you that could keep us from having to do this every four or five years. We’ve looked at this [name change] 12 times in the last 50 years including three extensive studies.”
The task force had the benefits of the three previous studies, which hastened their progress. Draper reported that 585 potential names were submitted, plus 300 more that were too foolish to count.
We have reported in other stories that the task force will bring their recommendation to the floor of this year’s convention. This is the full recommendation (I bolded two areas for emphasis):
“That the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention report to the Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19-20, 2012, that it declines to study or develop a plan and implementation strategy for the adoption of a new name for the Southern Baptist Convention for all the reasons mentioned in the report issued on February 20, 2012, by the SBC president’s name change task force, as well as those in the 1999 report of the Executive Committee on the same subject.
“And, further, that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention recommend to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, June 19-20, 2012, that those churches, entities and organizations in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention which may desire to utilize a descriptor other than the term ‘Southern Baptists’ to indicate their relationship with each other and their involvement in the Southern Baptist Convention and its ministries, use the descriptor ‘Great Commission Baptists,’ a phrase commended as one fully in keeping with our Southern Baptist Convention identity, and
 that the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention report to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana, June 19-20, 2012, that it will study ways in which the use of the phrase ‘Great Commission Baptists’ might be protected and preserved for use by those churches and institutions which find its use beneficial and will assess how using the phrase in various ways in its communications and publications might be helpful to those groups.”
In a sense, the proposal is a brilliant and wise compromise of options. But in another sense, it is the only reasonable path, considering legal complications and historical advantages. I hope those who strongly desire a name change will understand.
Whether or not the alternate name gets traction depends on Baptists in the pews, not on denominational leadership. It cannot be forced, and the indication from present leadership is that it will not be forced. If it is useful in specific environments, then let it be used.
Let’s pray that messengers to this year’s annual convention in New Orleans will approve the recommendation. From that point, let’s not bring up the subject again and move on to the greater needs at hand. Let the matter be settled.
Whatever we do it should be for the glory of God and the advancement of the gospel.
2/27/2012 2:13:41 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 0 comments

Take courage in the battle

February 13 2012 by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor

As an 18-year-old who responded to God’s call, I learned that ministry can be a series of battles. Sitting in the office of a Baptist leader in our state, I shared with my respected friend some great victories I was experiencing through the preaching of the gospel. My conversation inevitably led me to say, “There is great joy in ministry, but there are many battles in this war, also.”
He quickly chided me for referring to “war” and “battles” in the same sentence with Christian ministry. Songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and similar references should be removed from all of our vocabulary, he firmly stated.
My shock was surely obvious in my facial expression. “What planet is he living on?” I thought. How can we gloss-over the obvious?
The Old Testament records the stories of endless battles in the history of God’s people. Each one is a model of the battles every believer faces today – both personally and corporately – in the body of Christ.
Paul underscored this reality in Ephesians 6:10-12, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Yes, battles are real. But sometimes we fail to identify the real enemy. Make no mistake; it is Satan and his demonic schemes. The battles are not political, but moral. They are not social, but spiritual.
Pastors have a very tough job. In the process of preaching the truth and exposing the enemy, resistance may rise to the surface. People can easily misunderstand what a pastor says and side with the enemy. They may take a comment very personally, or they may be so saturated with a secular world view that they have not properly considered the ultimate truth of God. Unnecessary battles follow.
Some issues should be clear to the believer. Unfortunately, the anti-Christian saturation of universalism, relativism, secularism and liberalism has won the hearts and minds of many Christians. Sadly, many believers do not see the threat of these forces.
Christians in the United States are facing unprecedented intimidation and opposition from every direction. I have never seen so many anti-Christian forces marshalled at one moment in time. But nothing in my lifetime has demonstrated a more blatant violation of both the US Constitution and basic Bible truth than the edict from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – with the endorsement of the White House – to force religious organizations to violate their freedom of conscience in matters of life, health and contraception.
As part of the health care mandate, beginning next year any organization that offers health insurance to employees will be forced to cover contraception, sterilizations, and abortifacients – no matter what their objections. Outrage is growing over this mandate – as it should.
The Wall Street Journal stated: “The country is being exposed to the raw political control that is the core of the Obama health-care plan, and Americans are seeing clearly for the first time how this will violate pluralism and liberty.”
Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote a clear analysis of the issue in his blog.
In summary, he says, “The edict from President Obama to religious institutions is this – violate conscience and bend the knee to the government, or face the consequences.... the Obama Administration trampled religious liberty under the feet of the leviathan state, forcing religious employers to do what conscience will not allow. Religious organizations such as schools, colleges, and hospitals will be required to pay for services that they believe to be immoral and disobedient to God.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, “In my opinion, a Baptist needs to take a stand on this issue. Our Baptist forefathers went to prison and died for the freedoms that we have, and now it’s our responsibility in the providence of God to defend these freedoms lest they be taken away by government fiat.”
The battle lines are clear. We may be battling a system of man that forces Catholics (and all of us) to pay for contraceptives and sterilization, forbids the use of public school facilities for church meetings, mandates the removal of the cross from government-owned property, removes prayer from all public meetings and seeks to redefine marriage contrary to the biblical model. But it is still the same battle against forces of darkness.
Pastors, we must be bold. We must be courageous. We can passionately express our convictions, and we can still be civil – which means “Christ-like” in our context. Church members, you can pray for your pastor and stand with him in this battle. Finally, “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.”

2/13/2012 4:35:25 PM by K. Allan Blume, BR Editor | with 1 comments