Particularly in the last decade, new models of “doing church” and churches working together (networks rather than denominations) have arisen. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many of these churches and networks are preaching the gospel of Christ, seeing people come to faith, and taking the gospel to the world. Much has been written about the rise and fall of denominations – often couched in terms of “older vs. young.” There is no question that the rise of the Millennials into young adulthood and church leadership has helped to drive the popularity and publicity of these new paradigm ministries. Established churches and established denominations are struggling to adapt to the new paradigms. The denomination the church I serve is part of – the Southern Baptist Convention – was started in 1845. As a result, the other day a fellow pastor told me that Southern Baptists would continue to struggle because “younger people don’t want to be associated with us” and then he listed the reasons why.
While I believe some of this brother’s criticism to be valid, such as the fact that Southern Baptists have been defined more in terms of what we oppose rather than the good that we do, I also believe that there are great reasons to continue to be Southern Baptists for the foreseeable future. Unless something drastically changes, I intend to make the Southern Baptist Convention my home for the rest of my life. Please allow me to list some good reasons why you and your church should be Southern Baptist.
1. MISSIONS. It isn’t even close. No other denomination is involved in sharing the gospel, planting churches, and meeting needs in as many places in as many ways as Southern Baptists are. The International Mission Board, the North American Mission Board, state conventions, and local associations all provide “boots on the ground” for the front lines of gospel advance. Southern Baptists are “doing missions” in our community and all over the world.
2. Training pastors and missionaries. Southern Baptists operate six theological seminaries. Each one of them unapologetically teaches the Bible as God’s inerrant word, personal faith in Christ, the great doctrines of the Christian faith, etc. Thousands of students are being trained right now to serve our Lord in the future. Through the Cooperative Program, the Southern Baptist Convention underwrites the education of every student at one of these seminaries – allowing our young men and women to attend at far less cost than would otherwise be the case. While I do have a couple of “favorites” among our seminaries that I personally identify with in a greater way, I believe that all of our seminaries are led by men who love Christ, have integrity, and desire to take the gospel to the nations.
3. Disaster relief. In recent years I have heard this over and over again: “After the Red Cross, the next people we saw coming were the Southern Baptists.” Because we are such a large denomination (16 million members in all 50 states) and because we are organized down to a local level (state conventions and associations), Southern Baptists are able to mobilize and respond quickly in a great way. Southern Baptists help EVERYONE when a disaster happens – showing love in tangible ways. God has used our disaster relief efforts to open doors for the gospel in profound ways. What Southern Baptists do in disaster relief is nothing short of incredible.
4. Investment in people. Here in Alabama, we have three wonderful Baptist universities – Samford, Mobile, and Judson. Out of these three schools, Christian leaders have emerged in every vocational discipline. Furthermore, Alabama Baptists also operate the Alabama Baptist Children’s Home, which provides care for abused and neglected children from all over our state. This ministry has multiple locations and services it provides to these children. In addition, the Children’s Home offers professional counseling at a reduced rate to hurting individuals and families from locations throughout Alabama. Every single day, church leaders contact the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions for help with issues ranging from a pastor search to best practices. So much of our missions dollars go to a tangible investment in people. This is true in many other states where Southern Baptists have a strong presence as well.
5. Increasing diversity and a national presence. Even though our name is Southern Baptists, the reality is that we have churches in all fifty states. We are a national denomination. In addition, the fastest growing area of our work involves predominantly ethnic churches. Each year that I attend the Southern Baptist Convention, I am encouraged to see more diversity in age, ethnicity, and geography. We have churches in the major cities, and we have churches in the small town. Slowly but surely, our denomination is beginning to look more like our country, and that is a great thing.
6. Biblical convictions. Southern Baptists have determined to be a people who have firm convictions based on the Word of God. To be Southern Baptist is to believe some things. We will not bend to the cultural pressure to conform to the new morality. We will not bow to those who wish to portray us as ignorant, hateful, or worse. The Lord has called us to His cross and told us to stand there until He comes. Here we will stand until we draw our last breath. Southern Baptists have made our convictions clear.