I came across an article in ABP recently which dealt with the current emotional state of moderate Baptist congregations. Cody Sanders offered some observations dealing with anger and grief relating to how much some Baptists have lost in their departure from the Southern Baptist Convention.
I’m kind of in that middle ground between experiencing some of this alienation without going through the depths of sadness that apparently some lifetime SBCers have gone through. Having read through Cody’s article, I couldn’t help reaching the conclusion that at some point folks have to come to terms with the past and move on with the Kingdom work. There are similarities with the grief stages as it relates to denominational loss and personal loss, and an awareness of this is helping in adjusting and assimilating the past. It may be surprising for some to note that there is still denial in the works for some Baptists who simply don’t acknowledge that a dramatic shift has taken place in Southern Baptist life. These folks keep on giving, living, and serving the institution without much thought to what has happened. This is not true of all persons, and for those who realize the current Baptist order and are supportive of it then they are the exception. I am particularly sympathetic to those churches who are trying to maintain dual alignment with the SBC and CBF (especially their pastors).
While appreciating psychological evaluations of Baptist griefwork, I don’t believe that the current lack of energy and motivation is related to that. I’m not entirely supportive of the premise that moderate congregations are locked in the past, believing their best days are behind them. At least in my particular Baptist orbit, people aren’t that concerned about SBC organizations or paradigms, except from a spectator’s position in the bleachers. Many Baptists have done their grief work and are recognizing new ways of cooperating with other Christians that heretofore have gone unnoticed.
There is good work taking place among moderate Baptists in our efforts to reach the world with the gospel of Christ. One thing I am realizing more and more is that the generation coming into influence now (millennials) doesn’t care about denominations as a whole and are much more interested in what is happening at the local church level. Churches must rise to the challenge and find ways to engage persons to impact their communities with active caring first and then be prepared to share “the reason for the hope that is within us.”
I was attending a Jr High football with my daughter recently, and got into a conversation with another parent who picked up on my southern accent. She asked about my work and as usual I braced for whatever reaction might come. It pleased me to know that she had heard of University Heights and had even participated in the Parents Night Out program we offer on occasion. One of her children attends the elementary school close to our building and we partner with them through a variety of social events held on our property. She asked if we were Southern Baptist and I said no. I also shared about how men and women serve alongside each other in our congregation and how this is a significant point of departure from the SBC. Her response makes the point of this blog. She said, “Well, that must be liberating to not be bound to those kinds of restrictions.”
We’re at a point now that this information of loss and grief may be relevant for history books, but it isn’t an excuse for not being engaged in our communities and the cause of missions. Let all “moderate” Baptists move on to new opportunities and paradigms of doing the Lord’s work. Let’s rejoice with other Baptists of other stripes as well as they move on with Kingdom work. I believe that has already happened for many of us, and hopefully it won’t take too long for others to catch up. May we “forget what is behind” and embrace what is ahead as the Holy Spirit leads.