A fractured convention?
The statistics are in and prove the point that many of us have tried to make for sometime and that is that the SBC is becoming increasingly irrelevant to younger leaders. In fact, according to these stats, they appear to be leaving our convention as fast as they can get their feet under them. It is far beyond time that we simply look around and write off those leaving as if they are doing so because of their immaturity or unorthodox doctrinal positions. Too many are leaving for that to be true. Those, and other excuses like them, are merely convenient opportunities to avoid the real issues. The question we must ask now is why they are these younger pastors &/or staff people leaving and can we adjust our convention to retain them? If we do not, our convention, and worse than that the Cooperative Program, will be reduced to denominational rubble in a matter of two to three decades. In his "Presedential Perspective" article, LifeWay President Thom Rainer asks some good questions that I think are worth considering. He writes three paragraphs in particular that I am convinced are right on target. Consider these words:
Younger leaders see a decreasing relevance in the denomination and older leaders are not adequately casting a dynamic vision. Whereas older leaders connect tradition with loyalty, younger leaders connect loyalty with purpose. They want to see tangible reasons for engaging in the denomination’s effort. The denomination desperately needs an infusion of their creativity and passion.
There is cause for concern. The lack of involvement does not bode well for the legacy of the SBC. Our denomination is more than 150 years old and the Cooperative Program is 75. A significant amount of gospel-proclaiming work has been done throughout the world in that time. God has been so gracious to bless us with each precious soul won to His glory. We really can do more together than we can do apart. How I pray younger generations can get that. How I pray older generations will teach that in edifying and encouraging ways while incorporating the best of what younger generations have to offer.
How I pray we will rise above the things that distract us for the sake of the gospel.
Rainer is absolutely right. The younger generations, of which I am a part, are not satisfied to remain loyal for the sake of remaining loyal. There must be purpose infused into our activity if we are to be seen as relevant, and even more importantly, if we are to actually be relevant.
This is not a denominational issue, however, in my opinion. No, this is a local church issue. Our denomination does nothing more than reflect the norms of our churches. If we are to fix this problem all the Executive Board decisions in the world will not advance our cause if they are cut off from local church application. We must, at the local level, say that "enough is enough". We must ask the hard questions and be ready to absorb the hard answers if we are to change and become effective again.
Thank goodness there are still men like Rainer and Ed Stetzer in the SBC, who find the gospel important enough that they are committed to pursuing its advance, regardless of the cost that may come their way. Surprisingly enough, they even like to hang out with Acts 29 churches. Hmm, I wonder if they're on to something?
When it comes down to it, the ultimate question that must be asked is how important the gospel is to us? Is it important enough that we can allow each other to disagree on nominal issues and work together, unified by our common agreement on the essentials of the faith or are we so concerned with "doctrinal unanimity" that we stand by arguing points of eschatological or sociological differences while our neighbors die and spend eternity separated from God?