Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has announced the release of a book featuring key Southern Baptist leaders addressing the Southern Baptist Convention, its heritage, identity and future.
Three North Carolina Baptists contributed to the volume: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS) President Danny Akin, SEBTS special advisor to the president for kingdom diversity and instructor of theology Walter R. Strickland II and Tony Merida, pastor for preaching and vision of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, N.C.
The 269-page work, “The SBC & the 21st Century,” was edited by Midwestern Seminary’s President Jason Allen. The idea for the project resulted from the seminary’s 2015 symposium, “The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal & Recommitment.” LifeWay Christian Resources’ imprint B&H Academic released the book on June 1.
“I cannot be more pleased with the way ‘The SBC & the 21st Century’ has turned out,” Allen said. “It has been a privilege to partner with the B&H Academic team and so many of our denomination’s brightest minds to publish a book that, I pray, will be used for God’s glory and to further the work of Southern Baptists to the ends of the earth.
“Each of our contributors provided insightful assessments of the SBC’s past and present and hopeful exhortations for our future,” Allen noted. “As each chapter developed, I was encouraged by the thoughtfulness of each author’s work and became increasingly confident that this book would substantially impact the work of the SBC for years to come.”
Contributors to the book include SBC leaders such as Frank S. Page, Ronnie Floyd, Paige Patterson, Thom Rainer, R. Albert Mohler Jr., Daniel Akin, David Platt, Kevin Ezell, David Dockery and several others. Additionally, Midwestern Seminary authors were Allen, Jason G. Duesing, John Mark Yeats, Christian T. George and Owen D. Strachan.
The primary audience for the book includes pastors, denominational servants, laypersons, and anyone else who cares about the collective work of Southern Baptists, Allen said.
“For all those who care about the SBC and its future, this is the book to read this year,” he said. “We designed the book for key SBC stakeholders to speak to urgent denominational matters in a way that serves the entire SBC. I believe that God is going to use this work in a profound way to impact our Southern Baptist Convention.”
Issues addressed within the volume include: Will the SBC grow more unified around shared convictions and mission or will it fragment over secondary concerns and tertiary doctrinal differences? Will the SBC be able to maintain a distinct Baptist identity while engaging and partnering with the broader evangelical community? Will the SBC be willing to reimagine its structures, programs and efforts to effectively reach the world for Christ or will it risk being a past-tense denomination?
“Here is a collection of prescient essays on the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, written by a superb team of scholar-activists,” said Timothy George, founding dean and professor of divinity, history and doctrine at Beeson Divinity School.
“Beyond the analysis and perspective offered here, there courses through this volume a common theme: the urgency of declaring the gospel of Jesus Christ to all persons everywhere. This is the historic mission of the SBC and its future.”
Nathan Finn, dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University, said, “Southern Baptists are at a critical moment in our history” as they face declines in membership, giving, their missionary force and baptisms.
“Yet there are signs of spiritual renewal among us,” he said, “evidenced in the ongoing theological renaissance and missional revitalization taking place in SBC congregations all over our nation. This is a time for hope, not despair.
“I’m grateful that ‘The SBC & the 21st Century’ brings together some of the wisest voices among us to help Southern Baptists think through how we can best pursue faithfulness for the glory of God, the health of our churches, and the sake of the lost world that God so loves.”
On Sept. 28-29, 2015, leaders from across the SBC gathered on Midwestern Seminary’s Kansas City, Mo., campus to present papers in what Allen said would be the first edition of a triennial symposium which is designed to address significant topics about the denomination’s past, present and future.
Of the event, Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, said, “We desperately need this kind of event to have a clear understanding of where we have been, where we are, and where we need to go. My prayer is that it will result in our being more effective in accomplishing the Great Commission of our Lord.”
Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary said, “This generation of Southern Baptists stands at Ground Zero of cultural transformation, missiological opportunity and theological emergency. This is the right time for Southern Baptists to ask hard questions, think seriously about the future, and talk about what faithfulness to Christ will demand of us. ‘The SBC and the 21st Century’ is the right conversation at the right time.”
Allen said, “Like every other evangelical denomination in America, the SBC is facing a future of significant challenge and great transition. I am hopeful this book will help us navigate through the season before us.”
To purchase the book through Amazon and B&H Academic, please go to http://jasonkallen.com/sbc21book/.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Seth Brown, BR Content Editor, contributed to this story.)