Leading with joy means leading by what God commands rather than tickling the itching ears of the masses (see 2 Timothy 4:2-5). Every denomination and organization comes to proverbial forks in the road as to which direction they will take.
As a lifelong Southern Baptist, many of the disputes that have arisen are from tribalism. Any comment that cuts against the established grain is met with vitriolic ad hominems rather than having a conversation regarding the particular issues at hand. Whether it’s the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, the comments Russell Moore made regarding the words and actions of then-presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, or a 1001 other debates that have arisen, all seem to stem from a notion of “That’s not who Baptists are.”
An example will help.
One time, someone wrote in to a Baptist newspaper that the advocacy of elders in Baptist churches was, well, un-Baptistic, even as a case could be made from Scripture. I was floored. I basically responded, “If we start looking at what’s Baptistic rather than what’s in the Bible to see what’s right, we’re in trouble.” I still feel that way. We are people of the Book, not people writing our own ‘book’ of unwritten codes and laws that may or may not be supported by Scripture.
How many pastors struggle week-in and week-out trying to preach the Bible, and find out the difficulty when it comes up against long-held traditions that have pervaded unhindered and unquestioned in many-a church’s culture? Many times, pastors find this out by accident only after preaching something from Scripture that exposed and ran counter to a culture a church had unknowingly developed?
Could this be exposing an underlying problem within the SBC? We can talk about the Calvinism vs Arminianism divide all we want, or how a Baptist leader questioned the actions of a candidate, etc., but I believe there’s a bigger divide that needs addressing: mandates of the majority vs the mandates of Scripture.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks that we have in evangelizing unbelievers, especially those in the cities, is the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention is seen as an arm of the Republican Party. While we do agree on some policy markers, this has harmed the cause of Christ more than helped. For decades, Southern Baptists higher-ups have yearned for a seat at the political table. Now, we don’t have many leaders left ready to bow the knee to Caesar or wanting a place at with the academic elite. As a result, the culture looks upon the denomination at large and feels they sold out.
But we haven’t. Not all of us, at least.
Think about this: you do not see any writer in the New Testament lamenting who is Emperor and who isn’t. Not one of them believed that the cause of Christ would be helped or hindered based upon who was on the throne in Rome. No, the writers continued to point the church away from the seemingly inescapable circumstances of Christian oppression and persecution and toward a sovereign God who puts these men in place (Romans 13:1-7) and who takes them away (see the end of Acts 12).
Even my beloved Southern Baptists can be keeping our eyes more on what we see than don’t see, and succumb to fears with which all other citizens struggle. I get it. But when we have leaders who try from the Scriptures to show the inconsistencies of our actions, and knowing God is no respecters of persons, we must listen to the Word first and not to the unwritten code of our tribalistic machine.
Let’s pray for our new President, but rally around our King Jesus.