The Strength of the SBC Lies in the Local Church

The Strength of the SBC Lies in the Local Church

“What will you do if your side loses?” That was a question a reporter asked me at a Southern Baptist Convention in the late-1980s as I was getting into an elevator at the Convention headquarters hotel. Waiting in line for the elevator, we started a conversation that continued until he got off. Right before he got off, he asked me the question I led with. I replied, “I’ll go back and do church as we always have. That’s the beauty of local church autonomy. We don’t follow orders from Nashville or this Convention. We follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The strength of the SBC lies in the local church.” Local church autonomy is one of the strengths of the SBC.

I always know when it is about Convention time by perusing social media. Liberal! Heretic! Reprobate! Sell out! Those are basically the text of tweets and posts as each side tries to win hearts and votes for their side of whatever issue is front and center at this Convention. Let me be clear that all the issues we discuss are important. My issue is with how we handle ourselves as we discuss these issues.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Leave Your Guns at the Door. Here is some of what I wrote.

“Leave Your Guns at the Door.” That’s my newest Brooks Mantra. It is also the title of this post.

I’m writing this after #SBC21 Southern Baptist’s recent Convention. I didn’t go. But looking at it through the lens of social media, as most did, it was ugly.

You are reading this because you believe I can help your church, organization, or denomination improve stewardship and giving. If you’re a pastor, you just want help to make budget this week. You come here for insight and help in all things generosity related. That’s what I am committed to bringing you every week.

I work with anyone committed to fulfilling Matthew 28:18-20, The Great Commission. You don’t pay me the big bucks for my political opinions. You want to know how to keep the proverbial offering plate full so you can do what God has called you to do. Some of you simply want to keep abreast of what is happening in the stewardship field. Then you are in the right place.

If all of the above prattle fits you, then Welcome. But, here is the thing, you gotta leave your guns at the door. Guns? All that denominational, political, societal, etc. stuff that can quickly divide us. “Stuff? Those are crucial issues that must be addressed!” Yes. Just not here. Bring up a topic like women in ministry or CRT, and everyone draws their theological pistols and look out. Your guns are your talking points, barbs, and holy slights against your foes. If you want to talk about giving, you’re welcome. But if you want to talk about other things, especially things I am passionate about, let’s take that somewhere else.

Here, we talk about all things stewardship and generosity related. And we do so with dignity and respect for one another. Even if you and I disagree about denominational issues, shouldn’t we still be able to help each other in other areas of ministry?

So, please leave your guns at the door. I am your guy if you want to build financial security for your church. If you want to talk politics, head back over to Twitter.

I wrote that in 2021 but could have just as easily written it all today. Some will like what I wrote, while others will accuse me of not taking a stand. Just so you will know, I spent the 1990s in the backroom and board rooms of the SBC’s Conservative Resurgence and have the scars to show. Looking back on it all now, I learned a few things.

First, that “liberal” Southern Baptist isn’t liberal compared to true liberals. My conservative UMC pastors, who have scars on their backs standing for biblical truth, hold a vastly different view of women in ministry than we do. So, a conservative in one denomination is a liberal in another. I differ from them in their view, but I still hold them dear as brothers in Christ. We should hold all we disagree with in the same way, with love and respect.

Secondly, I learned to focus on the positive benefits of being in the SBC. I understand and believe that theology is important. Yet, at the same time, I have grown to recognize the value of partnering with those I disagree with. I like that a part of my tithe to First Baptist Broken Arrow, OK goes to support worldwide missions. We have much to celebrate as Southern Baptists and a lot to bind us together.

Finally, let me return to the reporter’s question about what I would do if my side lost. My answer then is my answer now. Your church decides its destiny. So, whether your side wins or loses at this Convention, you can return home and continue your ministry as you sense God is leading you. The strength of the SBC lies not in our Convention agencies but in our local churches. We strengthen the SBC one church at a time, starting with your church.

I think I can speak for all of us here at the Stewardship Journal by saying we are committed to helping your church develop and maintain a culture of generosity built on biblical stewardship. After the smoke clears from this Convention, we will be here to help you because we know the strength of the SBC lies in the local church.

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