Friday, October 30, 2020

You are what you do. . .

I read where J. D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), announced that his congregation, The Summit Church, will from now on describe itself as a “Great Commission Baptist” congregation and not a congregation of the Southern Baptist Convention. Apparently in 2012 the Southern Baptists okayed a dba as Great Commission Baptist.  Indeed, the theme of next year’s annual Baptist convention will be We are Great Commission Baptists. Some former SBC presidents -- James Merritt, Ronnie Floyd, and Jimmy Draper — agreed and others have also given their support to the “Great Commission Baptist” nomenclature. 

It reminds me of the many who not only would like to change their name but drop the whole idea of church.  The Southern Baptists have never been a real church body anyway.  With strict congregationalism in what is believed, how it is lived out, and how it is governed, the SBC has always been on the fringe of any definition of a church.  Now they appear to join those who not only eschew denominational identification but also the whole concept of church.  They are fellowships, communities, and whatever else will substitute for the dreaded word church.  We have them all over our community.  I expect you know them where you live.

Part of me thinks it is about time.  They are not churches.  Without creeds, confessions, liturgies, sacraments, and a ministerium, they are nowhere near what most folks think of when they think church.  You can be a Baptist and disdain creeds, ignore confessions, do what you want on Sunday morning, practice ordinances (occasionally except baptism and then within strict parameters) and accept nearly anyone who wants to be called a pastor to serve as your minister.  Come to think of it, there are probably groups within every denominational family like this.  Even Lutherans have a version of this with the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission to Christ).  It is less about being a church than it is about cooperating in some areas while maintaining a strict congregational independence and identity.

Could it be that some of these groups have decided what they are good at and used this as their reason for being?  Baptists, particularly Southern Baptists, have always been seen as professionals when it comes to eliciting the sinner's prayer, a profession of faith, and a desire to be immersed in baptism.  It is what you do after that which is not always clear.  But for Lutherans conversion is never for conversion sake but always for the sake of life within a church where creeds, confession, liturgy, and a ministerium are at least as important as the folks in the pews.  

Interestingly, the LCMS sited statistics that showed it took fewer LCMS Lutherans to create a Christian than it did Southern Baptists to make one.  I am not at all sure the benefit of such statistics but it would seem to me that planting the seed and even watching it grow is far easier than tending it and making sure it desires tending.  But it is the tending through Word and Sacrament that sustain the growth and enable the fruit bearing.  So if you are going to be good at something, I guess I would prefer being good at keeping and growing the Christian through the means of grace than tallying up the numbers of those who gave their lives to Jesus because of me.  I guess I am being a little snarky but it does seem that the title Great Commission Baptists is almost an admission that they are their to win people for Jesus but not necessarily to nurture those won with the Word and Sacraments of the Lord.  And it is that latter part that is more about being church.

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