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First Thoughts

SBC Survival Guide | Part 5: Hope

The previous posts in this SBC Survival Series on abuse, the ERLC, the Baptist Faith and Message, and race might all seem a little discouraging. Emphasizing all we must overcome might seem overwhelming. It is true that we have much to overcome in the serious problems we are facing as a convention. The problems are not overwhelming, however.

Our Hope in Times of Hardship

You begin to see that the problems are not overwhelming when you notice a common thread in each of the issues I addressed.

Overcoming our division on the issue of abuse requires setting aside our efforts at personal kingdom-building to focus on preaching Jesus to abused people. Division regarding politics can only be overcome as we focus on Jesus more than partisan political bickering. We must preserve our commitment to Jesus by fighting to uphold the faith once for all delivered to the saints in the Baptist Faith and Message. Regarding race, we must embrace the fact that the work of Jesus alone is the solution to our racial divisions.

The common thread, in case you didn’t notice it, is Jesus.

In these serious and threatening days, we can only afford to focus on Jesus. We must preach the grace of Jesus from the word of Jesus in the power of Jesus to the people of Jesus so that the glory of Jesus can expand. The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) will not survive if we must accommodate every demand from every person in the convention.

This requires agreement on all our part’s not to try to make the SBC about all of our preferences. We have to show up ready to fight for the truth of Jesus as it is articulated in the Baptist Faith and Message, or we should not show up. If I am looking for the SBC to be everything I want it to be, and if you are asking for it to be everything you want, then we are asking too much of it.

The convention was never meant to bear such demanding weight. The beauty of the structure of the convention is that it lets me take all my personal religious preferences and work them out in the privacy of my own heart, home, and church. You get to do the same. At the convention, we are all cooperating together to focus on Jesus, the most important thing.

When we focus on Jesus that leads to more reason for hope.

Our Hope in the Work of Jesus

The Great Commission comprises Jesus’ marching orders to the church. We are to take the gospel into all the world, baptizing people, and discipling them in the faith (Matthew 28:19-20). The commission begins with a promise from Jesus that, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). This is a guarantee from Jesus that when we undertake his commission, his very own power and authority goes with us.

The work of Jesus on behalf of his church did not stop when the cultural tide began to change. Jesus is still saving people. Jesus is still conforming people to his image. Jesus is still empowering the preaching of the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is still active, and the Kingdom is still growing.

That means we can do this.

The reason we can do this is not because we’re Southern Baptists, but because Jesus is still alive. When we show up in Anaheim—or any other city—prayed up, with our eyes on Jesus, and determined to make much of Him, the Holy Spirit will work in and through our efforts to exalt Jesus and make him famous.

Jesus Christ will turn these crises for good. Jesus can take a convention that is distracted and divided and make us focused and united. Jesus can take a convention that is going through some painful moments of stumbling and renew our strength. Jesus can lift us up on eagle’s wings.

Our power as a convention has never been in our numbers, the morality of our leaders, or in our faltering efforts at winsomeness. Our strength has always been in the good news of Jesus. The current crisis is about demonstrating the truthfulness of this reality. Jesus will accomplish a great work in our day, in our churches, and yes, in our convention. You watch and see. It is going to be incredible.

When we come together in the strength of Jesus, he will demonstrate his great power through us.

I am eager to see what Jesus does in the months and years ahead to overwhelm us with his power. It will be incredible.

I am excited because I know that, through the power of Jesus, we really can do this.

Dr. Heath Lambert is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is the author of several books, including The Great Love of God: Encountering God’s Heart for a Hostile World. 

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