I have continued to ponder this question that was posed to me by a good friend recently:
“Are Southern Baptists relevant?”
I believe that it is difficult and unfair to lump all the Southern Baptist churches into one pot and say that they are either relevant or not. I have seen some churches that are faithfully carrying out the Great Commission and being used by God in great ways in their community and through the world. I also have seen some Southern Baptist churches that had about as much life in them as the local funeral home. In the latter churches, it truly seemed as if God had removed their lamp stand and they were just going through motions of what they had done for years.
I had said in my previous post that for Southern Baptists to stay relevant in these ever-changing times, they will have to learn to speak the language of the community that God has placed them. I really don’t believe that the relevant issue is about “traditional” or “contemporary”. I think that it is simply a communication and being intentional on reaching your community.
It is sad to me how, in the church, we will ride a “horse” (program/ministry) way past the point of the grave. There comes a time when you have to step off the “horse” and let it be put to rest. Strangely enough, you do not read about many of our ministry programs within the New Testament. I’m not saying that they’re wrong. I’m just saying that a point in time came when a new approach had to be taken. If a program/ministry is really doing what it was intended to do, reaching people with the Gospel, and you are seeing constant fruit, then by all means, ride that “horse.” If you can honestly evaluate the program/ministry and see nothing but glory days from way back when, then it might be time for a memorial service and new direction.
Before the IMB sends missionaries all across the world, they put them through a serious time of training. This training consists of learning the language and customs of the people they will be ministering among in their field of service. The IMB takes great precaution in making sure that these servants know who they are trying to reach. This just seems like common sense to me. Why would someone not take the time to understand the field that Jesus is sending them to? Why wouldn’t that person do everything that they can to get the Gospel in the most plain language so that the “locals” can understand and apply it to their lives?
If the IMB takes such great care and dedication in making the Gospel easiest to understand, why can’t the local churches? There are so many “languages” that are spoken here in the United States of America (and I’m not talking about English, Spanish, Chinese, etc). There is “white-collar”, “blue-collar”, city, country, redneck, urban, artsy… the list could go on for days. The truth is the Gospel is for each and every one. We need churches that will speak the language of these people and take the Gospel to them in their language.
As long as there are churches that are deliberately taking the time to make sure that they are sharing the Gospel with their communities in the language that they speak, then Southern Baptists will be relevant.