Mission Lab

The SBTC is inclusive but exclusive

February 11th, 2014 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments

From the very beginning the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has been exclusive and inclusive. That may sound paradoxical but let me explain.

Churches formed the SBTC intentionally with doctrinal parameters. We are a confessional fellowship. We believe in basic Christian truth like the inerrancy of Scripture, the exclusivity of salvation, and the triune nature of God. We espouse Baptist distinctives such as baptism by immersion as a church ordinance and the Lord’s Supper as a symbolic act memorializing Jesus’ death and anticipating his second coming. Another Baptist doctrine is that all true believers endure to the end. This means that once a person is saved, that person can never be lost again.

We believe cultural issues are settled by the Word of God, not by popular vote or on personal whim. The Baptist Faith and Message (2000) is derived from Scripture and addresses the family. To quote Article 18, “Marriage is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime.” There is no compromise on this position if you believe the Bible to be totally true and trustworthy. Article 15 says we believe in “the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.” Abortion is not an option. By the way, neither of these statements is found in the 1963 BF&M.

There are some churches that do not believe nor practice within the doctrinal parameters of the BF&M 2000. Some non-Baptist churches are wonderful gospel preaching stations that do believe the Bible. They simply do not accept some of the specifics of our Baptist identity. Others would not want to be a part of the SBTC because we are considered too narrow if not too narrow-minded. Doctrinally sound churches usually wear their beliefs on their sleeve while liberal churches equivocate and obfuscate in order to at least appear acceptable to unsuspecting believers. The SBTC is a confessional fellowship; this makes us exclusive.

On the other hand, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention has always had wide latitude concerning church practices. There are Cowboy, Purpose-Driven, Willow Creek, Acts 29, traditional, and contemporary churches. This is only the beginning of the list. I cannot name all of the varying philosophies among our churches. There are affiliated churches that sing hymns. Others sing exclusively high-energy praise music. The beauty of methodological inclusiveness is that it allows us to reach all types of people. Sub-cultures and personal preferences often become barriers to the gospel. We need all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. The SBTC is inclusive.

It is not enough to mention only style when it comes to diversity. Racial and ethnic diversity has also been a hallmark of the SBTC. The second president of the SBTC was Rudy Hernandez, a Hispanic. Our immediate past president is Terry Turner, an African American. Regularly the messengers elect officers who reflect the inclusive nature of our convention. Barry Calhoun serves as a senior ministry staff member working in missions mobilization but also relating to the fellowships that exist within the SBTC. Mike Gonzales has a specific assignment to serve the Hispanic churches. Staff associate Bruno Molina assists churches in language evangelism. There are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Lebanese and other non-Anglo staff at the SBTC.

There are 297 known ethno-linguistic people groups in Texas. Thirty-four percent of households speak some other language than English. Racial, ethnic and linguistic challenges abound, but the SBTC provides resources to reach each group. The SBTC has a free mobile app (1Cross) featuring video presentations of the gospel in numerous languages. Many of these people groups in Texas have churches that are affiliated with the SBTC. There are 584 non-Anglo churches out of the 2,450 affiliated congregations.

Representation on SBTC boards and committees is not mandated by a racial or ethnic quota system. People from all walks of life, gender, church sizes and racial groups comprise the boards and committees. Some are elected. Some are appointed. This allows everyone to know they are truly a part of the inclusiveness of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

The SBTC is inclusive when it comes to style and personages. The SBTC is exclusive when it comes to what causes us to be one. Jesus Christ is the foundation and chief cornerstone. Biblical inerrancy is the basis of our beliefs. The doctrine that flows from the belief in inerrancy as expressed in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 gives us unity.

The gospel is to be preached to all. The churches of the SBTC have this as their commission. Despite living in a fallen world with a fallen nature, we as believers have Christ in us. This means we are compelled to love one another. As the children’s song goes, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Loving like Jesus is our mandate.