Much of the time when I work with churches or nonprofit organizations they are often emphasizing the wrong problem or problems. Accordingly, I try to help them refocus and realign by emphasizing the importance of properly diagnosing the problems.
One thing is for sure, everybody in the Southern Baptist Convention seems to have something to say these days. Today there is a lot of finger pointing and labeling going on with either “Calvinist” or “non-Calvinist.” Of course, “Calvinist” being defined historically from the Five Points of Calvinism and the “non-Calvinist,” or “Traditionalists” as they’re being called these days, generally do not align fully with all of the Five Points of Calvinism.
Yet, this “labeling” of folks within the SBC has added fuel to the fire of the largest divide in the Convention. Yet, I submit that this Calvinist versus non-Calvinist is not the genuine problem at all. Yes, it is a problem if you allow it to be a problem. But even then it is not the real problem.
Apply your own discernment and you will soon discover that Calvinism or non-Calvinism is not the invisible elephant in the room. Calvinism versus non-Calvinism is simply the thing on the surface level that is the easiest to point at. In other words, a lot of SBC folks are pointing fingers to something that is really only a surface level issue. What is underneath this issue being much deeper and much nastier in reality.
Calvinism has been a part of the Southern Baptist Convention ever since its founding, and what is understood as non-Calvinism, or Traditionalism, has likewise been a part of the SBC since its founding. But over the last 20 to 25 years the great Calvinism divide has hogged the headlines within the internal operations of our SBC churches.
In 2018 the SBC went through a monumental shift within itself. Far beyond baptisms and church decline, this shift has developed into “what will happen next?”
Everything rises and falls on leadership.
Overarchingly, it seems the SBC leadership continues to fall out or fall away. Not many in the upper levels of SBC leadership are doing much when it comes to the arena of unity within the Convention. So, in the midst of the greatest decline in the history of the Southern Baptist Convention there is no unity in the Convention. And all the while most of the top SBC leadership continues to be wrapped in indifference between real problems and perceived problems.
There is nothing within this war between Calvinist versus non-Calvinist that moves us forward together with any form of unity.
The root of the problem resides within the hearts of the men and women of our beloved Convention. In the sin we each continue to carry.
For some the deeper problems are because the way it has been done for 50 years cannot be done that way anymore. For others it may be the arrogance that permeates when they speak of where they stand and what they believe. For some it has even been hidden objectives or ulterior motives. For some it is feelings of powerlessness or insecurity. And then there are those that allow their anger to take control and try to mess it all up.
So, within all of this, if you are a leader somewhere within the Southern Baptist Convention today, or you are even a member of a local Southern Baptist church today, it is time to: (1) examine yourself and see if you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), (2) examine yourself to genuinely see if you are actually loving the disciples and spurring them on (John 13:35, Hebrews 10:24-25), and (3) discern what it truly means to be a Southern Baptist.
In this examination and discernment, one critical area to examine is within the Great Commission itself. The Southern Baptist Convention was specifically born for missions and to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So, from a logical outworking, if a person is within the SBC and does not agree with evangelism, discipleship, and missions then that person is in the wrong denomination.
As such, we’re not really dealing with a Calvinist thing or a non-Calvinist thing, sure it is on the surface, but we’re really dealing with a heart thing. One has to ask themselves, “Am I willing to join the Lord on His mission and live out the calling He placed on my life?” This is true no matter the vocation, whether church job or public job. The key question still revolves around, “Do I believe what the Lord commanded His church to do, and am I willing to do it?”
Are you connecting with the lost people and with the brothers and sisters in Christ and moving toward a united SBC that pushes the mission and purpose of the Convention, or have you become a stumbling block that only desires your own selfishness in life?
This division and conflict is a solvable problem and should not continue as a perpetual problem. Assuredly, God is the God of solutions and not of chaos (1 Corinthians 14:33).
Under the uniting of the mission and purpose of the Southern Baptist Convention and within the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, Calvinists and non-Calvinists can work together. Even more so, if we work together and walk in the Lord Jesus Christ as we have received Him we can do awesome things together (Colossians 2:6). The Southern Baptist purpose was brought together for a great cooperative effort, hence, the Cooperative Program (CP).
We will never identify a way to allow us to have a different focus and change our perception just a little bit if we’re not dealing with the root issue. The historian Will Durant presented that, “One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.”
If we do nothing, there will be no unity. Without an SBC United, we will implode and fall as individuals instead of connecting together in Christ to move forward in a transformational way which will ultimately change lives, change communities, and maybe even change history.