Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s for the Church Initiative Tackles Southern Baptist Unity

Engaging the topic of unity within the Southern Baptist Convention, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Jason Allen moderated a panel discussion during the fourth annual For the Church Regional Conference June 12.

More than 1,000 people filled the room to hear a spirited discussion by J.D. Greear, Thom Rainer, Mark Dever, H.B. Charles Jr., Vance Pitman, Noe Garcia and Micah Fries during the SBC annual meeting at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas.

Allen queried the panelists on four points: the general state of the SBC’s unity; whether social media can be used in a healthy manner in creating unity; the state of unity in the local church; and whether the denomination should be hopeful about unity.

Fries, pastor of Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tenn., noted two trends he finds troubling regarding unity within the SBC.

“There has been an emphasis on performance over piety,” Fries said. “As a result of this, I feel we’ve lost our moral and ethical center to some degree…. What ultimately results is a lack of Christlikeness in our lives, and particularly in the way we engage with one another.”

Also of concern, Fries said, is that many at the national level engage one another in a way they would never do at the local church level. “We treat each other differently, again, because of a lack of a moral and ethical center that needs to be reclaimed through a commitment to holiness and piety.”

A more personal perspective, said Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, could get to the root of the issue. Instead of wondering what the denomination or local church might do to address such issues, he noted personal introspection might be the greater need of the day.

“When I begin to ask, ‘God, what would You have me to do?’ about a certain issue, I realize I have so far to go that I don’t have the wherewithal or integrity then to criticize others because I fall so short myself,” Rainer said.

“I wonder what would happen,” he said, “if several million Southern Baptists would simply say, ‘I want to be a Gospel-bearer; I want to be a man or woman of integrity; and I’m going to worry about myself first, and then my church.’ As a result, you’ll see the church and denomination become much happier.”

Garcia, pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church, thinks of Ephesians 4 when the subject of unity arises. Particularly within the passage, he noted, are the words, “be eager to keep the peace.”

“Unfortunately, we have failed somewhat to do this in the SBC. Here is my fear. It is that the LDS tells a better story than the SBC does,” Garcia said, referencing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons. “We’re doing so much good, but you wouldn’t know it because social media gives ‘feet’ to the bad.

“We’re so concerned about being right on social media that at the same time we disregard the bride of Christ. We have to be more eager to protect the bride of Christ than being right in the SBC.”

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Source: Baptist Press