Southern Baptists are at a crossroads, not regarding their doctrine or mission but regarding “what kind of Gospel witnesses we will be in an age like ours,” said J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
During his president’s address Tuesday morning (June 11) in Birmingham, Ala., Greear gave three defining values he believes should shape the future of the SBC.
1. Prioritize the Gospel above all.
The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15 that the Gospel is of “first importance.” That implies that other things can be important, but they shouldn’t be a barrier to the main thing, said Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C., area.
“The power to ‘do’ in the Christian life comes only from being soaked in the fuel of what has been done,” Greear said. “That’s why [the Gospel] has to be above all,” he said, referencing the annual meeting’s theme. “A church without the Gospel at the center is a church without power.”
Social justice ministries, for example, are powerless without the hope of Jesus — they’re just making people more comfortable on their way to hell, Greear said.
And that’s why Christians must show restraint when it comes to their political fervor, he said. “Political affiliations have a way of obscuring the Gospel. In our political climate, if we are known as the stooge for one party, we lose all audience with the other.”
That means forfeiting half of the U.S. mission field, Greear said. If an International Mission Board missionary wrote off half of his or her mission field, Southern Baptists wouldn’t be happy about that, so why do it at home?
He emphasized that he wasn’t saying Southern Baptists should back down from preaching the truth. On the contrary — they should be unapologetic on their views on the sanctity of life, the importance of religious freedom and their responsibility to the vulnerable and poor.
“But we also have to realize conscientious Christians can disagree about the best applications of those things, and where Scripture does not draw a line between a virtue and a policy, neither should we,” Greear said. “Every activity we engage in should be evaluated on whether or not it helps us in our proclamation of the Gospel.”
That’s also why convention leadership had sought to pay “such careful attention” to the sexual abuse crisis — at its core, it’s a Gospel issue, Greear said.
The church should be a safe place for the vulnerable, yet it’s an issue that is affecting the next generation of churchgoers, he said. One in 10 people under 35 who have left a Southern Baptist church left on the reason that this situation wasn’t being handled rightly, according to a LifeWay study Greear quoted.
“We should be the place the hurting and vulnerable know they can come for refuge, but our failure in this only drives them away,” he said.
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Source: Baptist Press