Strict//EN" ""> EAGLES' REST: It's Us or Them, Right?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Us or Them, Right?

I think if I were a new convert, serious about Jesus and the Bible, and studying denominations with which I might align myself, I doubt I'd pick Southern Baptist.

I mean it. I've never seen such an "Us vs Them" mentality, and "Us vs Them" combat, in all my years in churches, as what's going on in the SBC right now. And I've been a member of six different denominations ... and active in another ... too!

People are criticizing a new Sunday School curriculum strictly on the basis of who wrote it, not on what it says. And they are lying about what those who hold other biblical views believe and say.

Yes, lying. See, I was a Presbyterian for 12 years before my 31 years .. thus far .. as an SBC member began. And, at that, I've been well studied in what both believe. Unless things have changed drastically among my Reformed Brethren, they never do throw rocks at what Baptists believe, but look at what Baptists have been saying about Calvinists!

I must say that the Reformed folks come out 'way ahead in that comparison!

Shame on us, SBC folks! We ought to be more repulsed by our SBC rock-throwers. Vocally so.

Jesus commanded us to have unity among us. To have, and show, love for one another. I doubt He had in mind denomination-by-denomination, congregation-by-congregation, etc. I'm pretty sure he meant among all the brothers in the faith. I think we're failing at that, and I suspect I know why. We've built our own little idols to worship. Mode of baptism. Instruments in worship. Open communion. Free will. Election. Predestination. Regeneration and its timing in the salvation process. But those things seem to fly in the face of something else Jesus said.

He said if we don't come to Him as little children, we don't even get to see the Kingdom. It occurs to me, in light of this, that our unity must stem from something a child can understand. Our sin. His righteousness. Trusting Him for salvation. Things He promised the Holy Spirit would convict the world of, when He came.

That makes a lot of sense. It makes the focal point of our fellowship the Man .. the God-Man .. the real, living Savior. The Person of the One Who died for us, and yet still lives in us. Maybe if we saw a little more of Him in our activities .. you know .. where we Baptists actually get together .. we'd have less of the acrimony that keeps cropping up when "Us" go after "Them".

That seems borne out by experience, too. The real highlights of the Annual Meeting this year were times of fellowship and personal interaction with friends, including ones I'd just met. When it was "Him and Me" as opposed to "Us and Them". PLUS: we'd all do well to remember that "Them" is really just a collection of "Him's".

Maybe we should try saying everything, including what's said in the blogosphere, as though it were said one-on-one, over coffee.


At 4:10 PM, August 27, 2012, Anonymous Nathan Petty said...

Our pastor search committee met with the DOM last year seeking guidance in our efforts. His advice: paint the church every five years and don't hire a Calvinist.

With thousands of SBC churches dying we're worried about Calvinism?

Since we hired a new pastor, our biggest challenge? Folks more devoted to their own history of what it means to be a Baptist than the Gospel. When asked to justify their position from Scripture: silence.

There is little doubt from my perspective that the SBC is suffering a slow death. Sincere Christians within the SBC will increasingly look for ways to serve outside of the denomination.

Bob, hope your recovery continues with great success.

At 4:24 PM, August 27, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Man, I could write a whole 'nuther post about your comment. I'm preparing to teach a course about the Baptist Faith & Message, starting in a couple weeks. If anybody signs up, that is. nobody seems to care what Baptists believe!

And when you compare the 1925 with the 1963 with the 2000, you see some dramatic changes, and folks really wonder why. When confronted with them, which they don't seem to want to be.

I liken most folks I know to "Navigation System Baptists". They listened to the voice that told them how to get where they got, but the know very little beyond that.


Thanks for the wishes about the recovery. It has been nothing short of miraculous (6 years ago .. 2 months to stop using a cane .. this time, 2 weeks!). I can account for it no other way. That, and 127 degrees voluntary bending angle.

At 8:47 PM, August 30, 2012, Blogger Christiane said...

Hi BOB, sorry this is off-topic . .

My comment might be deleted over at SBCVoices, but I wanted to share it with you as it was inspired by something you wrote there:

"I have wondered if sometimes Christians are chosen more as targets of anger because Christians are (or should be) more trusted not to respond with venom in how they respond to attacks.

Some emotions are expressed as ‘anger’, but upon examination, turn out to be outbursts of frustration and genuine upset over other matters.
In such a case as this, a Christian can respond with some kindness toward the person who is upset.

a story: before school one morning, I am in the office and receive a phone call from a young mother who begins yelling at me over her son’s grade . . . I let her talk, and then I asked her with some kindness if her son’s grade was the real reason she had for being so very upset . . . .
It wasn’t. She began to cry. She was invited to come in to see me and talk about her child’s needs and she did that very afternoon. She talked for a long time and told me a story of being trapped in a job with a boss who was pressuring her for sexual favors, he knowing that she worked to provide health care for her very ill husband who was unemployed. It’s a story many women understand, because it is a story that sadly is not unique in the work world.

This mother was overwhelmed by a terrible feeling of upset at her situation, and I had been on the receiving end of her pain that morning. . .
had I lashed back or hung up on her (recommended by supervisor if parent is verbally abusive on phone),
then she would have been left without someone to speak with that she felt she could trust.

I suppose what Christian people want in their communications with others is to have the kindness that we would show anyone in His Name.
It’s not too late to start that. Heavens knows, the pain out there is ‘overwhelming’ and if we are sought out to bear the brunt of someone’s pain, we know Who it is that bore ours, and we know to Whom we belong . . .
so we can listen with His kindness, if we have none of our own."

At 6:59 AM, August 31, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Christiane, we don't have the "right" to respond in anger. I hear all kinds of excuses for it, but that's the bottom line. In my mind, all anger is really directed at God, anyway, for not ordering things the way we think He should. For putting us in positions we'd rather not be in. For His letting people treat us in ways we think He shouldn't .. in all cases ignoring a lot of scripture like Romans 8:28 and Proverbs 16:4.

Christiane, would it be possible for us to email? I'd like to discuss some things with you in a sane and rational manner and I promise you no one else would know .. but I'd rather not carry that on in a public forum like blog comment chains are.

Could we do that, please? My email is (which comes from Isaiah 40:31 .. a strong eagle is a mighty fowl...).

At 7:52 PM, September 02, 2012, Anonymous Lee said...

All this battling in the SBC over Calvinism is really cover for who is going to assume the mantle of leadership as the original conservative resurgence leadership dies out of power. And I say dies out literally, because it doesn't appear that any of the more visible leaders are going to let go of their part of the steering wheel until their cold, dead fingers are pried off it.

For almost three years now, I've worked for an institution operated by another conservative, evangelical denomination, and simply because of geography, wound up worshipping in one of their churches. It leans a little bit more toward the reformed side than most Southern Baptists do, largely because it was founded by a Presbyterian. But the contrast between them and the SBC in denominational operation and leadership, and in the genuine placement of missions above all else is stark. It has a domestic membership of under half a million, but overseas churches number twice as many members as the SBC, served by one of the most efficiently and effectively organized mission forces among evangelical Christians. By contrast, the SBC leadership is provincial and backward, operating more like a rural county in Mississippi than a major denomination.

This battle over Calvinism is a thinly veiled attempt to keep certain individuals out of SBC leadership. The committee selected by Frank Page to do something about it is operating in secret.

I don't see my career taking me back to the South, nor back into any SBC related institutions. I never say never, but I have no desire to return to the SBC. The larger evangelical community has proven itself to be much more committed to Christian ministry than to denominational politics, and the contrast with the ineffectiveness and bureaucratic malaise of the SBC, from where I sit, is remarkable. The SBC is aging and dying, its younger people are pouring into churches without denominational baggage or identity, and its younger, seminary trained leadership are starting non-denominational churches. Maybe Fred Luter can light a fire under the old men's club in the top level of SBC leadership, and get them to see this. Otherwise, they will follow the Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Lutherans and Presbyterians down the path of irrelevancy.

At 8:08 PM, September 02, 2012, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

It's interesting that it takes a guy who's left the SBC to say (and maybe even to see) this.

I doubt that anything is going to change it. I volunteered personally to Frank Page to be on that Committee. He thanked me to the note, and then appointed a committee that we could've written down in advance. And we could probably write their report, too.


At 10:39 PM, September 02, 2012, Anonymous Lee said...

I can think of several reasons why you weren't going to get picked for that committee:
1. You are a layperson who gives evidence of thinking for himself, not a member of one of the inner circle of mostly megachurches where the pastor does the thinking for the membership.
2. You don't have any personal connections that can be exploited to the advantage of other people on the committee, or by the executive committee.
3. You hold an opinion on the subject that would make your conclusion fair, equitable, well-reasoned and Biblically sound, rather than tilted in the presupposed direction of the committee.
4. You are not directly connected to any of the big shots who run the SBC.
The only real change in the SBC since the conservative resurgence has been that it is now definitely more theologically conservative. The names and faces are different. The provincial backwardness of its leadership is still in place, and there are still just a handful of old people with old ideas in charge.


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