The ethnic and cultural diversity of the Southern Baptist Convention, unified by the truth and purposefulness found in the Gospel, gives the SBC its strength. The SBC churches are just a microcosm of God’s love of both variety and unity. The Gospel excludes no one based on external qualifiers.
The Real Story of the Southern Baptist Convention Engages All Generations
by Ronnie Floyd
July 28, 2014
I will never forget what a man told me weeks before our most recent annual meeting in Baltimore. He said, “The most troubling thing about our convention at this time is that in our very diverse denomination, many want the Southern Baptist Convention to become like their subculture.” His words were insightful and a great warning for each of us.
The Southern Baptist Convention is comprised of 15.7 million people who represent over 50,000 churches and mission congregations. Some of our churches are in rural settings, while other churches are in metropolitan areas. Some of our pastors are serving their respective churches full-time while others also hold an additional job in the secular world. Theologian Timothy George stated in an article he released on June 2, 2014, entitled Troubled Waters that, “Southern Baptists have become one of the most ethnically diverse and multilingual denominations in the country.”
Therefore, we must hold high the real story of the Southern Baptist Convention that engages all generations. I believe our real story as Southern Baptists is appealing cross-generationally. What is this story? We are a people that are:
1. Reaching the world for Christ.
Everything we do is about reaching the world for Christ. Just as any person, leader, or church experiences mission drift at times, our convention has also had moments of this. Yet, again and again, we always return to the very core of who we are and why we do what we do – and that is to reach the world for Jesus Christ.
2. Theologically balanced and committed to biblical integrity.
Our Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is our confessional statement as a convention of churches. When this was presented to our convention, in his letter to Southern Baptists, the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, who was chairman at the time, wrote:
We have sought to retain all the strengths of that noble heritage to clarify the truths there expressed, and to address the needs of our own times.
Clarity about what we believe about Scripture and the doctrines of Scripture are absolutely imperative. I am so grateful our convention is solidly committed to the inerrancy and infallibility of Holy Scripture and committed to biblical integrity. At times, we may be pulled from side to side, but we always stand on the strengths of our theological past while addressing the needs of our own times. This helps us to be theologically balanced in this unbalanced world in which we live.
3. Advancing the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world.
Standing upon the shoulders of our theological and missional history, we are launching aggressively to unreached peoples internationally. The Great Commission is not something we simply talk about, it is something we do. Can we do more? Absolutely, and we are committed to do more by planting churches, evangelizing all peoples, and making disciples. As we work together to push back the lostness of our world, we must always keep in our vision the need to be intentional in reaching the unreached peoples internationally. This is why we have 10,000 plus full-time missionaries around the world.
4. Strategically planting gospel churches nationally.
As we identify unreached peoples in our major cities and underserved, unreached areas in our nation, we are strategizing to plant gospel churches in North America. As we move toward a goal of planting 15,000 new gospel churches in North America over the next decade, we know we must equally do all we can to revitalize the churches we have established already. Our passion is to evangelize all people and plant gospel churches in North America.
5. Preparing the next generation of spiritual leaders.
Through our six Southern Baptist seminaries, we are equipping over 16,000 next generation spiritual leaders. These leaders will one day lead our churches, serve on our mission fields, and teach in our academic institutions. What God has done and is doing through our seminaries is a major part of our grand story as Southern Baptists.
6. Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We have seen since our meeting in Baltimore how Southern Baptists are engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are there, speaking to issues in the public square for the protection of religious liberty and human flourishing. From the recent decisions from the Supreme Court to the crisis on the border of Texas, I have seen first-hand that Southern Baptists are engaging the culture with the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.
7. Extending compassion through our disaster relief ministries.
One of the greatest parts of the grand narrative of Southern Baptists is our commitment to be on-site when people walk through disaster. You will find us present after hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or any time people are in great need. Southern Baptists are a very compassionate people, and anywhere disaster hits, we are on the ground within hours, loving, caring, protecting, and providing for people. During this, we are always faithful to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is our story that engages all generations
The grand narrative of our Southern Baptist story is so powerful when we are able to keep each of these things before us. This is who we are. This is what we are doing. When we tell our real story, all generations are excited by it and are willing to support it.
Therefore, do not forget, we are a people that are:
• Reaching the world for Jesus Christ
• Theologically balanced and committed to biblical integrity
• Advancing the gospel to the unreached peoples of the world
• Strategically planting gospel churches nationally
• Preparing the next generation of spiritual leaders
• Engaging the culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ
• Extending compassion through our disaster relief ministries
I promise you, share this real story about who we are, and we will become effective in appealing to all generations.
— Ronnie Floyd is Pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and President of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination.