Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several non-Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) pastors about partnering with the SBC for the advancement of the gospel. Not all of them have locked arms with us, but several have. In just about every conversation – no matter the state – the largest stumbling block to partnering with Southern Baptists is the state convention. Many times, it is the reason why a like-minded pastor will not partner with the SBC.
I know that state conventions, like any organization, need to make improvements. I’ll mention a few suggestions in the following post. But I also think state conventions give us a number of reasons to love what they’re doing. So I thought I’d mention a few of the things I’ve told those non-SBC pastors.
I love that state conventions are steadfastly organized for the advancement of the gospel. State conventions represent an attempt by the people of God to do more together for the kingdom of Christ than they can apart. Decades ago our fathers and mothers in Christ looked at the overwhelmingly large task of spreading the gospel and decided to partner together. I love this. I love it for the picture of unity and stewardship that it is. Organizations who have been on mission for decades in a world that seems to becoming darker and darker spiritually, should be recognized and celebrated.
I love that state conventions have systems already in place and working for gospel advancement. If state conventions didn’t exist, we’d still try to find ways for our churches to partner together. In order to create the necessary systems and infrastructure, we’d have to use tons of money, energy, and time – all in a way that was pleasing enough to all people involved to move forward. That’s not easy. As a church planter who had to create (is creating) a lot of new systems, I appreciate the work it took to put everything in place that state conventions have like never before. I love pre-existing, time-tested systems that are already in place and proven. Churches have been planted, conferences have been had, leaders have been trained, people in need have been helped, orphans have found homes, and so much more.
I love that state conventions are filled with people who love Jesus and the advancement of his kingdom. The tendency of all our broken hearts is to think the best of our intentions and the worst about the intentions of the people with whom we disagree. I’ve certainly seen this in the way people talk about people in state conventions. I have known several state convention employees over my lifetime – Gary and Tammy Ledbetter, Lewis McMullen, Dan Ferrill, and my father and grandpa, immediately come to mind – and I admire their love for Jesus and passion to see the kingdom advance.
I love that state conventions are willing to make difficult changes for the advancement of the gospel. State conventions have a reputation among many younger pastors for being keepers of a status quo that isn’t worth keeping. While there may be some validity to these concerns (I’ll address them later), I want to make sure people know that state conventions do make some difficult changes. I think about the way my Dad chose to remove a layer of management at the Indiana Baptist Convention when he was the executive director. That wasn’t easy. Those people had families, aspirations and a heart to spread the gospel like the rest of us. It wasn’t easy, but he made the decision for the advancement of the gospel. I also think about how Randy Davis has led the Tennessee Baptist Convention (TBC) to downsize their property in order to be better stewards of funds given to them. I think about how Randy Davis walked off the platform at the TBC annual convention to speak in favor of moving to a 50-50 Cooperative Program split. Those are courageous moves for the advancement of the gospel. While we won’t always agree on which, how, and when decisions should be made, I love that I see some movement in this direction.
These are a few of the reasons I love state conventions. These are a few of the reasons why some non-SBC pastors have become SBC pastors. While I’ll mention in a following post a few changes I’d love to see, I want to be sure that I celebrate the grace of God evidence in their midst.
What would you add to this list?
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jedidiah Coppenger is the lead pastor of Redemption City Church in Franklin, Tenn. and contributor to BaptistTwentyOne.com. He also blogs at jedcoppenger.com.)