By Randy C. Davis
President & Exec. Director, TBMB
The Southern Baptist Convention is facing a Nehemiah moment.
Put your sandals on and let’s take a walk through the rubble known as Jerusalem. Nehemiah wasn’t a preacher, or evangelist or any other type of vocational minister. He was a godly layman who heard the distant city was in ruins and the effort to rebuild the walls and reestablish the Jewish center of life was stalled. There appeared to be no hope that the nation of Israel would return to prominence and be the testimony to God’s greatness that the Lord had called it to be.
Nehemiah was broken hearted. He was crushed, and he wore his devastated spirit on his sleeve. The Babylonian king noticed and through Nehemiah’s humility, repentance, boldness, faith and determination, God used him to restore the nation.
Now slip on your favorite shoes and let’s walk a lap around the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the past several months we’ve seen the Southern Baptist Convention take some significant blows and many are wondering aloud about its future.
People are speculating about a split with many churches going one way and the rest another. Some wonder if there will be a mass exodus, and still others seem to dwell on the eventual collapse, making statements like, “Well God doesn’t need the Southern Baptist Convention to do His work.”
While it is true that God doesn’t need Southern Baptists — or anybody else — to do His work for Him, I believe it is premature to write us off as cast-to-the-side useless. We need to press the pause on the fatalistic downward spiral some are beginning and remember who we are and and how God has used us.
Let’s begin at our core. We are Bible-loving, truth-proclaiming followers of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the singular hope of salvation for all humanity and for all time. “For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In an increasingly relativistic culture that is consistently trending more anti-Christ, we have that clear biblical message and a solid doctrinal statement, the Baptist Faith and Message.
Upon that biblical foundation, together we send thousands of missionaries across our country and around the world. We care for widows, orphans and precious people with special needs. We engage in compassion ministries that serve the desperate, destitute and hopeless. We start churches and work to revitalize others. We provide quality education and theological training through our colleges and seminaries.
We serve others in countless other ways big and small, all done with the purpose of making Jesus’ name known among the nations. There is no need to be ashamed to be a Southern Baptist.
Many point to the challenges created for the SBC over the past few years by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and more recently by the controversy surrounding the SBC Executive Committee. They cite these as reasons to walk away from being a cooperating church joined with thousands of other churches collectively in pursuit of the Great Commission.
For literally a little more than a penny on a dollar, and less than a penny in the ERLC’s case, they are willing to endanger all the good we do as a network of churches.
Friends, the knee-jerk reaction to chuck it all and walk away in a time of adversity stands to leave us in ruins and disqualify us from the Kingdom impact we have when we work together. Like Jesus, we must work while it is day, and we must ask ourselves, “What would Nehemiah do?”
(1) First, we must start by humbling ourselves and genuinely ask God to grant individual and corporate repentance. Nehemiah recognized it was the people’s sin and arrogance that put them in their sad position. “We confess the sins we have committed before You,” he prayed. “We have acted corruptly toward you.” Nehemiah recognized God’s restoration of His people began in their hearts. Let us start there also.
(2) We must lay our hand to the work and participate in the restoration of the denomination. Nehemiah took responsibility, then he acted. He trusted God and moved in a direction of God’s will, challenging and inspiring others to join in the work. Each of us can do the same.
The Southern Baptist Convention is facing a Nehemiah moment. Yes, things are a mess right now in the SBC, but there’s a wall of trust to rebuild and the need to refocus on the Great Commission. Now is the time to restack the stones, not throw them. That’s what I plan to do. Will you join me?
It is a joy to be on this journey with you.