I’ve heard Tom Ascol on a few occasions say, “The SBC is not important, but it matters.” That is, the SBC has been around less than 10% of Church History. And if the Lord should tarry and the SBC should falter, that percentage could shrink even smaller. Our gracious God does not stand in need of the Southern Baptist Convention. In that sense, it’s not important.
Yet, it does matter. The SBC continues to train thousands of men for ministry every year and quite a number of those will go on to pastor in churches not affiliated with the convention. Our seminaries are influencers both inside and outside the SBC.
If I may use a sports analogy here, the SBC also matters in the way that the Dallas Cowboys matter to the NFL. A lot of people are not Cowboys fans, but everyone is watching the organization. In a similar sense, but one so much more meaningful, everyone watches the SBC to see which way it will go. The SBC remains an influencer in the evangelical world as a whole.
God does not need the SBC. God can accomplish His mission without the SBC. We will meet myriads of people in heaven who never even heard of the SBC. And yet, in God’s kind providence we all live in the epoch of history in which the SBC does matter. And so, this post is about how those inside and outside the SBC can pray for her as she heads toward Anaheim in 2022 and beyond.
Here are four ways:
Unity in the Southern Baptist Convention is vital to its survival. The New Testament writers place a great emphasis upon unity. Jesus prays for unity in John 17. Unity is a big deal to our Lord, and we must never take this lightly.
Unity outside the church is a funny thing at times. I’ve been to a few Arkansas Razorback games where when someone scores a touchdown there is “unity” in the stands. Everyone’s fist bumping and celebrating, and you really don’t care who they voted for or someone’s skin color or even the beverage they may be holding in their hand.
This is superficial unity. It is fleeting unity. It is a unity not built to last. (Trust me, I’m a Razorbacks fan!)
This is not the type of unity we are striving to maintain in the SBC. The unity we desire, and which you must pray for, is a unity grounded in the truth. We are not after “unity for the sake of unity.” No. We are after unity around our core convictions as given in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Thus, we are to be unified in not just the gospel, but in the things that make us Baptist as well. And the BFM 2000 is an expression of what we believe the Scriptures teach. We want unity around the authority, sufficiency, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. We, as the old VBS song goes, must “stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.”
Unity in these things means disunity with other things. We cannot be friends with the world (James 4:4). We must have disunity with godless ideologies that seek to undermine the gospel (cf. Colossians 2:8). Unity in the truth demands we separate from the things that attack the authority of or deny the sufficiency of the truth.
The second way you can pray for the Southern Baptist Convention is by praying for our purity. Pray that we would be a holy convention of churches. Pray that we would have holy leaders. Leaders who hate sin. Leaders who fear God. Leaders who understand the definition of repentance and model it before us.
Pray that we would have holy pastors and holy churches. Pray that our pastors and churches would seek to walk in the fear of our Lord. That we would take seriously the transforming power of the gospel.
Pray that we would recover a purer Baptist ecclesiology in our convention. That we would seek to have accurate membership rolls. That we would not allow unconverted persons to serve in areas of service or leadership within our churches.
We tend to focus on investigations and studies and task forces at the expense of recovering the purity of our churches. And if we recovered a purer Baptist ecclesiology, perhaps these other things would be far less needful.
The SBC needs to recover piety and seek conformity to Christ. Pray for us!
This is similar to the first point in the sense that pursuing fidelity will lead to unity among the faithful. But please pray specifically that we would be a convention faithful to the Word of God. That we would remember, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ…” (2 Cor. 5:10).
On that Day, we will not care so much what the 21st Century American culture thought of us. We will only care whether we listened to Him (cf. Luke 9:35).
Pray for our fidelity to the King! And we are faithful to the King when we are faithful to His Book. Pray, then, that we would submit to the Bible’s authority in all things. Pray that we would trust its sufficiency in all things. Pray that our pastors would pour over its pages week in and week out in order to preach this Word faithfully to our churches.
Pray that in 2022 and beyond, we would plant our feet steadfastly upon Sacred Writ and recover that old Baptist theme Song:
I shall not be, I shall not be moved!
Finally, pray for our:
Todd Wilson, in his commentary on Galatians, writes something that I think is fitting to our current situation in the SBC:
[H]ow can we avoid drifting? First, we must hold tenaciously to what we were taught. Tenacity is what Paul calls for here: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (1:8). When the Apostle Paul tells you to not listen to him and even to ignore an angel, you know he’s calling for tenacity. Charles Spurgeon had the right advice: “Cling tightly with both your hands; when they fail, catch hold with your teeth; and if they give way, hang on by your eyelashes!” Don’t let go of the gospel! That’s the kind of tenacity we all need if we’re going to stay the course and finish the race.
In a very similar way, I’m asking that you pray for our tenacity in the SBC. Pray that we would be determined never to let go of the gospel. Pray for our perseverance to preach the true gospel to all sinners, believing it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Pray that we would strive toward God wrought conversion for our neighbors and the nations.
We must be tenacious in our evangelism. We are seeking to win lost souls. Not coddle them. Not adapt to them. But to win them by God’s sovereign grace. To see them brought from death to life.
The Southern Baptist Convention has inroads all across the United States and throughout the whole world that no other organization has collectively. And we must use these institutions for the promulgation of the truth of Christ.
The world’s greatest problem isn’t the color of one’s skin or the size of one’s bank account or the lack of one’s education. The world’s most significant problem is that all men stand condemned before a Holy God.
But in Christ is hope. In Christ alone is hope for all who will bow the knee to Him in repentance and call out to Him in faith. We must be tenacious about our missions and evangelism.
And pray for our tenacity in standing for the truth. Pray that we would remember God is watching. The greatest commandment is still this: Love God above all. We must have a tenacious zeal for the glory of God. Pray that we would not allow the culture to change us, but that we would be like the early church in Ephesus and change the culture (see Acts 19:17-20).
Pray that we would remember the words of Christ: “The ones who conquer will be granted to eat from the tree of life” (Revelation 2:7). No, this isn’t military conquest. But this is a tenacity to remain firm till the end to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. To conquer for Christ.
Men and women and boys and girls who love Christ must be courageous in these turbulent times for the glory of our King. And really, what the lost world needs right now is courage from the church too.
Because it’s only when the church stands for the truth that sinners come under conviction, and God brings them to saving faith in His Son.
Let us pray, then, for the SBC’s tenacity.
I hope these 4 things are somewhat memorable and will be practical for you in your prayers for the SBC. Let us pray for her unity, purity, fidelity, and tenacity.
We ought to have love and hope for our convention even as we call out to God for her. God has graciously and powerfully used her in so many wonderful ways. And she has an enormously bright future ahead of her if the Lord, in His kindness, is willing to hear and answer our prayers. We have hope for our convention because we serve so gracious a God!
But if we fail to pray, and if we ignore the cultural moment that we find ourselves in, if we move away from the truths of Scripture we have seen and discussed in this post, we will not have to argue about a name change anymore, for history will ultimately call us:
The Ichabod Baptist Convention – The glory has departed.