Jeffrey Weiss has an interesting story at PoliticsDaily.com on the declining media coverage of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Weiss argues that the SBC has taken unpopular stands over the years and as a result has become increasingly irrelevant to the mainstream of American culture. Even though media coverage was overblown in past years, he argues that the coverage is too little now.
One particular part of this report caught my attention, and I thought it worthy of comment. Weiss asked Baptist historian Bill Leonard for his take on the current state of the SBC, and here’s how Leonard responded:
If you set yourself against the mainstream, eventually, the mainstream will move on and leave you behind, Leonard said.
“As they lost culture privilege and numbers, their evangelism failed on them. Their sectarian rhetoric drove people away. They sounded like they didn’t like you,” he said. “What they missed is that they can’t have it both ways.”
Which leaves the SBC at a fork in the road, Leonard said. In one direction are, say, the Mennonites, who separate themselves from the larger culture to ensure their own doctrinal purity. In the other direction might be greater popularity but a dilution of the doctrine.
Leonard’s “fork in the road” is a poor analysis of the SBC in my view. He apparently defines relevance as “popularity” in the culture. God help us as Southern Baptists if we ever measure gospel success in terms of our “popularity” in the culture. This is not what God has called us to do or to be. He has called us to be in the world, not of the world, for the sake of the world (John 17:15-21). That means that “Mennonite” disengagement is never an option for us, nor is diluting our message of Jesus Christ crucified and raised for sinners. Leonard gives us a false choice.
It may be unpopular to spread the news that “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12), but that should never diminish our resolve to preach that message. At the end of the day, God has called us not be please men, but Christ (Galatians 1:10). That means preaching the gospel in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), not trimming our sails to accommodate the cultured-despisers of our faith. In the last day, God will not judge us according to our popularity, but according to our faithfulness. Our faithfulness to the gospel will define our relevance to the culture, not our waxing and waning media coverage. Even though Leonard misses this, I hope and pray Southern Baptists won’t.
(HT: Jim Smith)