Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Why Does a Reformed Baptist Remain in the SBC?

Keeping in mind that the majority of Southern Baptist churches are not Reformed, the question needs to be asked: Why does a Reformed Baptist remain in the SBC?

I certainly cannot speak for all Reformed Baptists within the SBC, but I'll give you my answer. The sole reason that I remain in the convention is international missions. Frankly, I see this as the only reason for the current existence of the convention at all.

Having served with the International Mission Board (IMB) in South Asia, I can say that I am still impressed with Southern Baptist work overseas. Both Alice and I are pleased that the focus of the IMB is church planting. This seems to be the only strategy that will be effective in reaching the thousands of unreached people groups with the gospel. Church planting relies on little outside support, depends upon national pastors, and allows the gospel to be understood within any cultural context. Although we are no longer with the IMB, we will continue to support it financially and through prayer.

Within the SBC, most of the local churches are small. We are a convention of small churches. Most of these churches cannot afford the expense involved in sending even one person overseas to serve as a missionary. This also does not take into account the training the person will need prior to going. The local church can, however, give to the SBC's Cooperative Program (CP). Fifty percent of CP income goes straight to the IMB; the remainder is split up among other SBC entities.

The money from the Cooperative Program, combined with the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, supports the IMB. This money allows the IMB to adequately train missionaries to live overseas, adapt to new cultures, and work with nationals to plant indigenous churches.

I'm sure that other evangelical denominations/associations/conventions/sending agencies do a fine job with international missions. I praise the Lord for their efforts and hope our IMB people will work with them. The reason I support the IMB in particular is that I have seen IMB folks in action and I remain impressed.

As for many of the other large SBC entities (such as NAMB, ERLC, Lifeway), I think the local church can do almost all of what those large and expensive agencies do. We do need to ask within the SBC why we are spending so much money in areas where the local church should be taking the lead. Alas, that discussion remains for another post.

So the answer for me is clear. There is one, and only one, solid reason for a Reformed Baptist to remain in the SBC. That answer is a large and important one - international missions.

8 comments:

Rhea said...

Eric:

It's great to see that you're willing to put away your differences in order to advance the Gospel. Clearly as a Reformed Baptist you have some major differences with your non-reformed brethren, yet you're not willing to let that interfere with the spreading of the Gospel. Too often individuals will spend all their time and energy arguing over the smallest of issues (that really is completely inconsequential) instead of proclaiming the Gospel. Great to see that that's not the case with you :-)

Eric said...

Rhea,

Thank you for the kind words.

As for the SBC, it is such a large denomination/convention that there are bound to be some theological differences among the churches and certainly among individuals. Those differences are important, but not so important as to get in the way of the spread of the gospel. I wish the churches in the SBC would just "agree to disagree" on the issue of Reformed theology, and continue to work together to share the gospel abroad.

We can hope and pray that this will happen.

Paul W. said...

"As for many of the other large SBC entities (such as NAMB, ERLC, Lifeway), I think the local church can do almost all of what those large and expensive agencies do. We do need to ask within the SBC why we are spending so much money in areas where the local church should be taking the lead."

I couldn't agree more with the above statement, though I do not think I would do away with the NAMB entirely. I believe it could use a serious overhaul. Lifeway should go, their materials are such a hindrance to serious biblical thinking. I would love to do away with it at our church and write our own curriculum. I think Lifeway is a waste of money for our congregation. I am sure some may find some positive elements of Lifeway, though not here. Yes, you are right, the local church can and should do what these three entities are doing.

Eric said...

Paul,

It is good to hear from you. I hope all is going well for you and your family in the mid-west.

As for NAMB, I am glad that they assist with church planting.

My main concern with most of the entities is two-fold. First, they cost so much money to support. Second, I think it hurts the local church to have certain responsibilities taken away - like the curriculum writing that you are talking about.

When I wrote this post, I should have mentioned one other good reason for the SBC besides international missions. That would be affordable and good seminary training. I can't imagine having to pay tuition at places like DTS, Fuller, Trinity, etc. Some people would say that the local church should be teaching its own pastors, but I just don't think this could happen in most of our small churches.

Anyway, I hope all is also well at your church.

God bless, Eric

Alan Knox said...

Eric,

You said, "Most of these churches cannot afford the expense involved in sending even one person overseas to serve as a missionary." I'm not sure that I would agree with this statement. I think most church can afford to send one or more people overseas, but they choose to spend money on other things.

-Alan

Eric said...

Alan,

Excellent point. I should have said that most churches, with their current budget structure, cannot afford to send anyone overseas.

You are right that many could afford it. However, we know where most of the money goes these days.

Thanks.

Brian said...

missions is a good reason to affiliate with a denomination in my opinion. The AG also has a strong mission focus and takes care of its missionaries.

Eric said...

Brian,

I'm glad to hear that about the AG. If denominations don't care for those they send out, then I see no reason for their existence at all.

I realize that our denominations differ over some secondary doctrinal issues, but I'm thrilled that we serve the same Lord.