Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Rick Lance on the Future of the SBC and Calvinism in SBC Life

Some have suggested that the Southern Baptist Convention is likely to decline in the near future. What is your assessment of the future of the Southern Baptist Convention?

The future, by its very nature is uncertain, but I believe that those who forecast a decline of Southern Baptists are grossly mistaken. Obviously, we have our innate challenges as we go forward, but that does not mean diminishment for us. There are those who predict the decline of the U.S. as well. I am old enough to have been around when the predictions on both fronts were made in earlier decades. As a card carrying Baby Boomer, I have heard that when my generation came of age that we would see the decline of all foundational institutions in government and in denominations. The boomers are not as loyal as the World War II generation, but we have not destroyed those foundations on which we were built as a people. As you can see, I am sometimes disturbed by naysayers who want to bury the best of the past and present in order that they can create their view of the future.

What would you say to a young (or old) pastor who is considering leaving the SBC? Why should they stay a Southern Baptist?

The younger pastors with whom I meet and fellowship don't seem to be as negative about the denomination as much as those I read about in the blogosphere. However, to those younger men who seem inclined on going it alone, I would say that there are times when you will never know you need a denominational family until you don't have one. During the desperate days of disaster relief on the Gulf Coast, I talked to numerous people who were most appreciative of the organized efforts we have in our state conventions in this vital area of ministry. The young church planters in our state are very appreciative of assistance which comes their way in salary and site commitments made possible by the gifts of Alabama Baptists through our Cooperative Program. The Southern Baptist Convention and the state conventions do not exactly fit the definition of a denomination in the old world sense of the term. We are more of a network of churches united in missions and ministry than a denomination like some of the others we know in the past or present.

The resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC has been a controversial issue in some ways. What is your perspective on the resurgence of Calvinism in the SBC?

As a child of the fifties and sixties, I lived through the dominance of humanism in popular culture. Although, I am not a theologian or a sociologist or as some would say a culturist, I believe that the resurgence of Calvinism might be best explained as a response to the over emphasis on human centered thinking in our culture. I am not a Calvinist as interpreted by the acrostic TULIP, but of course as a Baptist, I am highly influenced by the Reformation. As a state missionary, I travel extensively in my state and beyond. Therefore, I do know something about church conflict in the present manifestations, and I will have to say that, in some cases, the promotion of the so called Calvinist view has caused some strife in churches. I believe that any pastor, who is committed to the propagation of the Calvinist view of theology, should make that view very clear in the beginning of the process of discussion with the search committee and with the leaders of the fellowship. If the theological perspective is that serious of a matter to them, then being upfront about those convictions is the best and most healthy approach to take.


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