These have not been good days for the Southern Baptist Convention as a whole. I’ve been a part of this denomination all my life. I’ve watched it survive and thrive in the days following the Conservative Resurgence. Now, I wonder if we will survive. As we are days away from our annual convention meeting, controversy is in the air. We’ve had resignations of major leaders over inappropriate relationships and news stories that haven’t helped at all. Truth hurts. Many of these situations can’t be glossed over or excused. Wrong is wrong. Right is right.
We’ve always had issues. We are all fallen, depraved people, saved by the grace of God, but certainly not perfect. But that’s not an excuse either. “Nobody’s perfect” is too often a copout. Owning up is the proper approach. Almost saying something is different from “I have sinned against the Lord.” Remorse is not repentance – not for me, not for you, not for anyone.
When religion becomes more religious than Christian, we will always lean toward making excuses. Or, we will say things like, “That’s not as bad as ______.” It’s hard for all of us to get that honest. But that is the beginning of restoration and recovery. I grieve for friends who have fallen and been attacked. I grieve for families who are hurting. I grieve over the injustices of life. Most of all, I grieve because I think we are grieving the Holy Spirit in this hour. All the spin in the world can’t fix that.
In the social media world in which we live, there’s little room for grace. God forgive us when we shoot our wounded, no matter who they are. God forgive us when we make excuses because someone is our friend or seek to crucify someone because we don’t like them.
I can’t see any evidence in our current climate that we can ask for God’s favor or blessings. I can’t see any reason, given the hatred, fleshly agendas, fleshly responses, and carnal motives of our current condition, that God would say, “I’m going to bless you. I’m going to let you be My voice to this generation.”
We are living in a climate where people are picking sides. Just like Washington, D.C., the atmosphere is one of attack-and-destroy. The works of the flesh are far more evident at times than the fruit of the Spirit. Like Paul to the Corinthians, I don’t think God can speak to us as spiritual, but as carnal.
Our denomination lacks a Nathan that can call kings to repent. It lacks a prophet that can say, “Thus says the Lord.” It lacks the heart of Jesus that weeps over Jerusalem. It lacks the presence of a Moses to lead us out of bondage or a Joshua to lead us into the Promised Land.
The world is mocking us, yet we just ratchet up the rhetoric. I’m embarrassed and honestly don’t know what to do. If revival doesn’t come to our denomination, we will be like all others – we will become irrelevant until we no longer exist. Our former glory will be a faded memory.
Is there hope? YES! But it begins in repentance. The wind of the Spirit needs to blow and make it obvious that some folks aren’t qualified to lead. The fire from heaven needs to fall and burn up the chaff and refine us. We are too big and full of ourselves for God to use us in our current condition.
Read these words of the prophet Isaiah: “One keeps calling to me from Seir, ‘Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?’ The watchman says, ‘Morning comes but also night. If you would inquire, inquire; come back again’” (21:11, 12).
The twentieth-century prophet for Southern Baptists was Vance Havner. Read carefully what he writes about these verses from Isaiah: “We certainly are in the middle of a pitch-black moral and spiritual night. We need a watchman. And we need to know what of the night. . . . God’s prophets are His watchmen. . . . A watchdog that will not bark is not worth having, and a preacher who will not warn men of sin is a traitor within the camp. Every pastor is God’s watchman, for he watches for men’s souls as they that must give account. And if a man claims to be a watchman, it is expected of him that he should know something about the night; how we got into it, where we are, and where we go from here. . . . It is evident to all who have eyes to see that we are in the midst of a moral and spiritual, social and political, national and international darkness. I visit the churches and find that saints who were born in revival fires are living in the smoke…that the glory has departed the sanctuary.”
Sardis had a name to be alive and was dead. Like Laodicea, we’ve left our first love. God may be pruning so we can bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. Pruning is painful, but it is necessary. Pruning is a reminder that none of us are “all that.” Our only value to the kingdom is when we abide in the Vine.
When we don’t abide, the results are disease and bugs. There is little fruit. Seeing the state of our denomination, we’ve got a lot of disease and bugs eating away at our soul. We need to get God-honest. The admission and confession of desperation will lead to God showing grace and restoration to fruitfulness. We cannot be so concerned about appearances that we forget we must all appear before God one day to give an account.
God help us. We’ve lost our ability to blush. The fact that we aren’t blushing is evidence that we aren’t humble. It’s a sign we are so in the dark that we can’t see and won’t admit we can’t see. And ask yourself, “Why would the next generation want to identify with this? How can we expect to keep the next generation in the fold when we look very little like Jesus and a whole lot like the Pharisees?”
The scoffing must stop. The supplication must start. The anger needs to turn into agonizing. The toxic atmosphere can only be cleared by aligning ourselves with truth. The erosion has to be addressed by rebuilding the walls that have been torn down. Can we admit we are in captivity to our flesh? Is it even possible for us to get on our knees and crawl to the cross and confess that we are men and women of unclean lips and we dwell in a denomination where the uncleanliness is making us unusable to the spotless Lamb of God?
Finally, let me return to the words of Vance Havner: “The need of the hour is a return to God, first of all on the part of God’s people. And we need a watchman, a prophet, to call them to repentance. . . . He is a prophet whose ministry is not so much explanation as application, who stands in the gap and calls God’s people back to the Lord. . . . He comes ahead of the evangelist, teacher, and pastor (Ephesians 4:11, 12). Right there we uncover one of our troubles in the church today. We are trying to do the work of the evangelist, teacher, and pastor when we need first a prophet to call the saints to confession and conversion. Evangelism is important, but it follows revival, and we have sidestepped revival in favor of teaching the saints, with occasional appeals to the sinners.”