Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: Is This Not Babylon The Great........

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Is This Not Babylon The Great........

That's the thought that kept running through my mind this past Tuesday, as the messengers at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention were voting on the 'Name Change Committee" report. They had recommended that the Convention adopt a "descriptor" to describe what we do, rather than change our name. A name change would cost untold millions of dollars, but a descriptor would be something that any entity or church could adopt, to describe what Southern Baptists were, did, or stood for.

The descriptor selected by the committee was "Great Commission Baptists", and I rose to speak against that motion. To the best of my recollection, here's what I told the convention...

First, WE'RE NOT GREAT COMMISSION BAPTISTS! If we believe Jesus' statement that, if we'd lift Him up (exalt Him), He'd draw all men unto Himself, and if we believe we've been doing that, then we must also confess that the 16 million people we claim as members were drawn down our aisles and joined our churches on our terms, by Jesus, for us to make disciples of. And the best we can say for ten million of them, today, is that don't go to church.

THAT is NOT making disciples!

Also, I've been asking for TWO YEARS for people to tell me why we have to be baptized to join a Southern Baptist Church. NO ONE has ever told me the right answer. Not a member, not a Sunday School teacher, not ever the Deacon Body assembled. One of the most prominent SBC distinctives, and we haven't even taught it to those of our membership who DO come to church.

Then, I've been witnessed to by many people, during my 37 years in Birmingham, when I was out and about in business and leisure. But NEVER ONCE was that by a Baptist. EVERY TIME, it was by a Presbyterian, who was telling others about Jesus, perhaps from a sense of obedience.


I also said that I'd done a little research, and that I'd searched fifteen ... one-five (didn't want them to mis-hear "fifty") cities in the North .. from Indiana to Minnesota, from Nevada to New York .. and had found 3,099 businesses with "Southern" in their name. So, apparently, "Southern" wasn't the bad word we thought it was, in the North, and if we were looking for something to blame our perceived lack of "success" in the North, we were going to have to look elsewhere.

I ended by saying that, if the Committee had spent their energy in finding ways to help pastors to assimilate new members into the church, given them a suggested track to run on, to help them assure themselves that new members would actually be made into Disciples of Jesus, and not just church members, that perhaps that local pastors could actually go back to their churches and DO that, that God would take care of the numbers, and we wouldn't have to worry about our name.


The motion to call ourselves "Great Commission Baptists" passed, perhaps 52/48. To me, it smells a lot like Nebuchadnezzar walking onto his palace roof and proclaiming "Is this not Babylon the Great, which I have built ..... ?"

Let's hope it doesn't smell that way to God.

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At 9:36 AM, June 26, 2012, Anonymous Nathan Petty said...

Bob, thank you for attending the convention. It is a kick to see "little ole you" going to bat for truth.

I've only followed the last few conventions from afar, but my impression is that little of any kingdom importance takes place in the convention (or perhaps I should say the annual meeting). I see resolutions introduced and debated by sincere folk who love Jesus.

But I've concluded that the annual meeting (and perhaps I should include the convention as a whole) will never be grown up enough to really debate the issue of regenerate church membership and discipleship which you have discussed. The fleshly inertia of funding and institutional interests are too strong.

Real gospel ministry will continue to be birthed in local congregations. It is the church alone which will display the manifold wisdom of God. And that's the way it should be.

Brother Bob, thanks again for fighting the good fight.

At 10:50 AM, June 26, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Nathan, you're right on target, in my mind. It almost seems that, no matter how altruistic any organization is, that sooner or later it grows to the point where sustaining itself becomes its primary purpose. Sadly, I think that's become the main focus of the SBC.

Thanks for the kind words, and rest assured that fighting what you refer to as the good fight is so rewarding for me, personally, that I simply view it as abundant life. I have no intention of quitting, until God moves to a more abundant one.


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