On the Effectiveness of Reforming from Within

Today I found a great site from some young culturally relevant Southern Baptists at baptisttwentyone.com. I thought the timing was interesting because of my recent post entitled "Wish you would step back from that ledge my friend." I was encouraged to find a group of young evangelicals like me who desire to reach our culture in order to see Jesus' kingdom expanded and his name glorified. I have to admit that I have pretty much written off the Southern Baptist Convention in the area of cultural relevance, and it is encouraging to see a resurgence growing among them. 

The article which caught my attention was again regarding the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll. In particular, they were responding to the Baptist Press' scathing article about Driscoll which I mentioned in a former post. What is interesting is that they too were making a plea for people like myself not to leave the convention but to stay and help reform from within:

We at Baptist21, along with several “older-40” pastors and leaders in our denomination highly disagree with this inaccurate portrait of Mark Driscoll and ask that you stay in our denomination and let your voice be heard. We desire to affect change in our denomination and the world by remaining focused on what matters…

Great thoughts, and even better motive. However, people like myself who have gotten the shaft time and time again find ourselves wondering whether there are many more than just the guys at Baptist21 and "several other 'older-40' pastors and leaders."
One must also wonder about the effectiveness of reforming from within. One glance at church history, and it seems that the cards are stacked against you. Of course the conservative resurgence worked, but could a second resurgence only several generations removed work again?
I think of Erasmus of Rotterdam. He lived during the reformation and even offered his own scathing reviews of the Roman Catholic Church in works such as In Praise of Folly. But he was committed to reforming from within. Erasmus, of course, has his place in history, but he essentially failed at his efforts in reforming the church. Marin Luther, likewise had thoughts of reformation from within. He finally realized, however, that if reformation was going to happen it was going to happen from without rather than from within. Much of what we have as protestants today, we owe to Martin Luther. Where would we be if he never decided to step outside the Convention… um.. I mean Catholic Church?
Reformation from within is possible. Reformation from outside the convention is far more likely. And with only one life to live, I'll take my chances on the outside. After all, my ultimate allegiance was never to the convention. Why spend my time fighting over it, when there is so much more important work to be done. I believe that the modern church is at a major turning point, and when the history books are written about this era, I don't want to be found on the side of Erasmus. I want be found among the Luthers, Calvins, Zwinglis, and Hubmaiers. These guys saw errors that needed be corrected and actually had the cajones to step out and do something about it. Personally, I think Erasmus was scared. Sometimes I wonder if determination to save the convention is bred not out of conviction but fear. Staying within the SBC is safe and familiar. Whatever it takes, I want to be about my Father's business. I laud the guys at Baptist21 and hope there are many more like them. Who knows, maybe the SBC is cabable of another resurgence, but I for one am not going to wait around to find out.

  • http://www.grbcsbc.com Michael Palmer

    I am sorry to hear you have left the SBC behind. Please do not let a few color your understanding of the past and hence your hope for the future. Change is coming – slowly but it is coming. I am seeing a new day that will hopefully blend the best from the past with a new vibrancy for the Gospel and the future. You may need to examine some of your heart about what transpired with you at SEBTS. Do you love the people involved who wounded your spirit? I am just asking. We have all gotten raw deals from time to time that affect the very direction of our lives. Hang in there. And remember not to view all SBC work with the lens tinted by your past experiences. My son and I (along with the guys in my church and professors at SEBTS) are having discussions about the future and the past and the work in the SBC. All is not lost. There is a new day coming…slowly but it is coming. The SBC still provides a good way for a local body to get connected to making a worldwide impact for Christ. Yes there are other ways…many other ways. But this one still works. It can be one of several choices for a local body. Just hang in there brother. God has called you and you are making a difference for His Gospel. You will always do that. You are not gone from SBC life forever. Trust me on this one. There may be other opportunities for your life and an SBC church (and other SBC ministries) to connect?? I do not know. But I do know you want to make a difference for Christ. Stick with it. And release the past and remember that each SBC church is a local autonomous church and “that big entity known as the SBC” has no authority over it. We are free and so are you to come back to SBC life at any time you are led to do so by the Lord God. Do not discount that that might happen.

  • Alex

    I hear your rebuttal Mr Palmer. I had a similar situation whereby those under the SBC nameplate gave me the shaft. It’s like they completely judged my situation and not me as a follower of Christ. My problem is, and I think Smooth would agree, that the SBC and some/most affiliated with them have turned Christianity into a rulebook. They look at the person and decide whether or not he is a follower of Christ based on the rulebook. That is what happened to me. Of course I got myself into the situation that caused their judgment, but it didn’t help to get my heart trampled on by the very group I called my own without any chance to speak with them personally.

  • http://johncheatham.com/ John Cheatham