Now what?

The essentials of a future Great Commission SBTC

December 17th, 2018 / By: Jim Richards | Executive Director / comments

Now what?

The 20-year anniversary celebration of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was awesome! Rejoicing in God’s abundant grace toward the ministry of the SBTC was truly a joyous event. On that Monday night, we looked back on the founding of the ministry. Some of those responsible were able to be present and others we remembered for their contributions. Some have already gone to be with Jesus after faithful service. On Tuesday we turned the page to the future. A new logo was unveiled. It was a symbolic gesture—a logo can do nothing of itself—but it represents that a new day and the next decade have dawned for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

There are some things about the past that must be constantly reiterated. George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In the spiritual realm this is true as well. 

Therefore, I affirm the inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of the Old Testament text. Paul told the Corinthians about the Old Testament, “These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Paul said in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that we may have hope through endurance and through the encouragement from the Scriptures.” We are to learn from the Old Testament. It is an object lesson that we are to learn from the past.

There is an account in the Old Testament that I think of often. Hezekiah was considered one of the “good kings” of Judah. After being given 15 extra years of life, Hezekiah foolishly allowed Babylonian spies to see his treasures. The prophet Isaiah said the Babylonians would take everything, including his family, into exile. Hezekiah’s outlook was extremely self-centered. He thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security during my lifetime?” (2 Kings 20:19). Hezekiah seemingly did not care what would happen to his children, grandchildren or nation after his death. As long as everything was smooth during his lifetime he was not concerned about the future. 

I realize I am closer to the end  than the beginning of my race. I am not being melancholy; I am being a realist. I do not want to have Hezekiah’s attitude. I want to plant some trees under which I will never sit. Whatever time I have left in my ministry, I want to be positive and productive. I am optimistic about the future.

Where does the SBTC go from here? Now what? 

Technology is constantly changing. We can resist or adapt. We must use various media to enhance the delivery of the gospel. Social media and more rapid and efficient means of communication enable us to be better servants to our Lord. But we must guard against the culture of the world. Crudeness on these platforms only shows the low-level condition of spiritual discipleship. Instead, we are to harness these tools for the glory of God. The SBTC will improve in all areas of relating to its constituency. 

Keeping the focus on serving the church is the purpose of the SBTC for the future. Jesus established the local church. Only the family supersedes the church in importance. Without strong families there can be no strong church. With that said, the convention apparatus must constantly seek to assist the church in carrying out the Great Commission. Jesus did not give his directives to a convention; he has one bride, the church. 

Leadership will change. One day the founding executive director will transition to another ministry; it might be babysitting grandkids. Until that time, a diverse group of young leaders are being involved at the highest level of leadership. Any organization that does not prepare the next generation to take charge is one that will die. I intend to do all I can to get the rising generation prepared to take the SBTC into the coming years.

Flexibility in structure must remain an SBTC hallmark. Our annual meeting of messengers has stylistically changed through the years. Programming has adjusted to the needs of attendees. A constitution review committee is in place to evaluate how we do business. Staff reassignments are taking place in 2019. The SBTC looks different than it did five years ago, 10 years ago, and definitely 20 years ago. The SBTC should look different in five years and beyond.

Something that must never change is the commitment to being a confessional fellowship. If ever this is altered then the SBTC will no longer be what it is. A faith statement such as the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 must remain the foundational element of our work together as a group of churches. Compromise is already rising up around us. Some Baptist organizations present themselves as being no different than the SBTC. The danger of not being perceptive about subtle deviations from truth would spell the decline and eventual death of the SBTC.

I have long been an advocate of changing the name of the Cooperative Program. The nomenclature has not communicated for some time. I do not have the creativity to suggest the appropriate name, but a new way of conveying our common giving plan must be discovered. A unified budget is out of vogue now. Direct appeals are going out from various entities in Southern Baptist life. Like our faith statement, once we change the appeal of an undesignated giving channel, we will cease to be who we are. Find a way to relate to the rising generation the value and biblical principle of shared giving!

There are so many more exciting possibilities for the future. Pray for God’s direction as we step into the coming years. Plan to be a part of God’s work by joining your church with others to grow the kingdom. Should Jesus tarry his coming and I have 20 more years to live for him, I never want to adopt Hezekiah’s outlook. Lord, help me to keep looking to the future for your glory!