Tuesday, November 11, 2008

NC Baptist State Convention Annual Session Highlights: Part 1 Young Leaders

An easily made observation of the Southern Baptist Convention is that we are a grey, balding, pasty white group of people. The plateau in growth within the SBC over the years has left many leaders scratching their heads over what to do and where the future of the denomination is heading.
This week is the Annual Session of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. Today our Executive Director Treasurer gave an address and had a few comments which he directed to younger Southern Baptist. I found these words to be encouraging:

Finally – let me speak to the younger generation of pastors who are here or who might read these words later.
We know you are there. I wish more were actually here with us today.
There is research to indicate that we are now living in a post-denominational time in the history of the church. I have read that research and I believe much of it to be true.
But lovingly I want to say to you that denominations are here to stay. Please notice what I didn’t say. I did not say that this denomination – the Southern Baptist Convention – is here to stay. I did not say that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina is here to stay. I do believe denominations are here to stay.
I can look to Scripture and see that believers denominate together. That is they cooperate based on certain key theological principles and ideas which help them in their ministry.
This has always been the case. The churches in Corinth helped other churches. The church in Jerusalem helped other churches and other churches, in turn, helped them. They were bound together not by geography, but theology not a party spirit but the Holy Spirit who worked in and through their church to reach out to other churches to strengthen and support them. This was commonplace in the early church.
If I were to count the new networks, denominations, pastor’s schools, church planting movements, or other organized efforts to cooperate in a common mission I could easily present you at least 50 new denominations.
They may not be denominations in the formal, organized, and incorporated sense with offices and large staffs, but Christians will denominate until the Lord returns. It is at the heart of what it means to live in a community of faith.
As you know the main-line denominations – the United Methodists, the Presbyterian Church USA, and the Episcopal Church have experienced dramatic declines over the past thirty years.
And as you probably know – the Southern Baptist Convention has now reached a growth plateau which has many concerned that the denomination is dying a slow death. If demographic trends hold, they are right as we are losing young leaders at a faster rate than we can re-produce them to assume positions of leadership in our current structure.
It would be easy for me to say in fact many of you probably expect me to say - that we are changing things to reach a new generation (and we are) or that we are streamlining our ministries to better reflect the needs of the churches (and we are) or that we are working to better serve churches and actually see ourselves as their servant not the other way around (and we are), but there must be more. Something must happen to us as God’s people as North Carolina Baptists which is beyond the boundaries of what human beings can produce. The latest corporate strategy or tactic can never duplicate or even resemble a genuine work of the Holy Spirit.
We have much for which to repent. We can no longer ignore the obvious, and it is difficult to hear your sins plastered in the Press, but I am thankful that we are again getting serious about regenerate membership in our churches. I am thankful we
are once again concerned about our methods of evangelism to such a degree that we are prayerfully looking at the way we communicate the gospel to a lost world.
We must repent of denominational pride and call to God in the assurance that He will never turn away hearts that are truly broken in sin. And that is what we are attempting to do while God gives us breath and strength.
I call you to help in that mission - to advance God’s mission on this earth through the churches of this Convention to the glory of our God and the advancement of His Kingdom.

The entire message can be read here.

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