CAN THEOLOGICALLY DRIVEN PREACHING HELP RESCUE THE SBC?
By: Daniel L. Akin
The Conservative Resurgence gave Southern Baptist a second chance but it did not secure our future. Has there been a Resurgence? Yes. Has there been a Restoration? Doubtful. Have we experienced genuine Revival? Clearly the answer is no.
Eight Theological Essentials for Southern Baptists in the 21st Century
1) The non-negotiable of a regenerate Church (John 3; Rom. 3; 2 Cor. 5; Gal. 3)
- First, we need to make it clear that church membership is a privilege, not a right.
- Second, we must preach against easy believism and reject any form of a compromised gospel.
- Third, we must be careful with respect to our own theological integrity concerning infant or early adolescent baptism that lacks a clear understanding and confession of the gospel.
2) The essential nature of believers baptism by immersion with a biblical appreciation for its significance. (Matt. 28; Acts, Rom. 6)
That baptism involved a particular member (a believer), mode (immersion) and meaning (public identification with Christ and the believing community) is grounded in New Testament witness and has been a hallmark of Baptists throughout their history.
We must see evidence of regeneration for those we baptize. The baptism of young children must be administered with the greatest possible care.
Baptism should be viewed and emphasized as a first and necessary step of discipleship and obedience to Christ. We will reject as inconceivable the idea of admitting anyone into our membership without believerâ€™s baptism by immersion.
3) The recovery of the lost jewels of church discipline and genuine disciple-making as essential marks of the Church.
Church discipline is clearly and repeatedly taught in the New Testament, yet most do not preach on it or practice it. Jesus addresses it in Matt. 18:15-20 and Paul does so several times in 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:5-11; Gal. 6:1-2; and Titus 3:9-11.
Theologically it is to disobey the plain teachings of Scripture and ignore the necessity of church discipline in maintaining the purity of the church.
- First, we must preach and teach our people what the Bible says about church discipline.
- Second, we must begin to implement church discipline lovingly, wisely, gently, carefully and slowly.
- Third, we must apply discipline to areas like absentee membership as well as the specific list provided by Paul in 1 Cor. 5.
4) The emphasis and practice of a genuinely Word-based ministry (2 Tim. 4:1-5)
For those of us who profess to believe in both the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, there must be in our churches what I call "engaging exposition."
We must advocate an expositional method with a theological mindset under an evangelical mandate. It is preaching that models for our people how they should study, interpret and teach the Bible.
5) The vision for a faithful and authentic biblical ecclesiology (Acts. 2; Eph. 4; Pastorals)
- First, there must be the 4 marks of 1) a regenerate Church membership, 2) the Word, 3) the Ordinances and 4) Church Discipline.
- Second the local church should be elder/pastor led and congregationally governed. Here, in my judgment, there is room for flexibility in terms of patterns, structure and implementation.
As we move forward in this century, Pastors will need to give particular attention to a theology of stewardship and discipleship.
The members of our churches must move from being shoppers to buyers to investors.
6) The continued nurturing of a fervent missionary and evangelistic passion that is wedded to a healthy and robust theology (1 Thess. 1; Eph. 4:11-16; Jude 3-4; Rev. 5)
No church will be evangelistic by accident.
First, there are multiple ways churches can do missions and evangelism. That we do it is the key.
Marketplace evangelism which can reach into the workplace is an area needing attention, strategizing and training.
Youth and student evangelism needs renewed emphasis.
Theologically and biblically, we must challenge our people to evangelize without bias or prejudice, loving and going after the exploding ethnic and minority groups where we live.
7) The teaching and preaching of a 1st century biblical model for church planting (Acts 17)
The 21st century is more like the 1st century than has ever been the case in our Western culture.
We are losing America and the West because we are losing the great metropolitan areas where there is a concentration of people.
- First, explore creative methods, but make sure that they are faithfully filtered through the purifying waters of Holy Scripture.
- Second, be wise fishers of men.
- Third, we must ask God to raise a new generation of godly and gifted church planters and missionaries.
8) The wisdom to look back and remember who we were so that as we move forward we will not forget who we are
The Southern Baptist Convention today is not the Southern Baptist Convention of your parents, and certainly not your grandparents.
We now have several generations who know almost nothing of William Carey and Adoniram Judson, Bill Wallace, Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong. They do know nothing of Boyce, Broadus, and Manly; Carroll, Robertson, Frost, Mullins and Truett.
They have never heard Criswell, Rogers or Vines preach, and they are not really sure who they are.
In creative and dynamic avenues fitting a 21st century context, we need to retell the Baptist History story in a way that will grab the attention and stir the hearts of our people. And we need to do it, at least in part, from the pulpit.
The North Carolina evangelist Vance Havner said, "What we live is what we really believe."