Archives For Unity

Updated May 23, 2018

By The Editors

As with most things in Texas, this gathering of Southern Baptists promises to be a bit bigger than usual, both in attendance and in the scope and possible impact of the issues likely to be discussed.

Generation and direction: The two announced candidates for SBC president are markedly different, both in age and theology. While recent conventions have concluded with some attempt at conciliation and commitment to work together, this two-man race serves to highlight the differences. Its outcome will likely be interpreted as a shift in direction.

This presidential election is marked by an increase in campaigning by the candidates’ supporters. Young and Reformed J.D. Greear was the candidate who stepped aside two years ago, rather than force a second run-off election and risk deepening divisions between younger leaders beginning to take their place and their parents’ generation, and between Reformed Southern Baptists and those who would call themselves “traditionalists” on the topics of salvation and election.

The elder Ken Hemphill’s experience in a variety of SBC leadership roles positions him as a statesman candidate. A number of other SBC leaders support him as a defender of traditional theology and the Cooperative Program.

The need for assurance: Messengers will arrive in Texas feeling some fallout from Frank Page’s departure as head of the SBC Executive Committee due to personal moral failure. And David Platt announced his intention to step down as International Mission Board president earlier this spring. Both entities have search committees working to fill the vacancies.

The search for new leaders has generated conversation about diversity among denominational leadership. One pastor said it’s “imperative” that at least one of the two roles be filled by a minority candidate (see our report from MLK50 on page 10).

Diversity: The SBC’s process for nominating trustees for its entities is in the spotlight for a lack of diversity among this year’s nominees. According to the “SBC This Week” podcast, the announced group of 69 nominees to serve on SBC boards is made up of 58 men and 11 women; 67 are Anglo, one is African-American, and one is Asian-American.
Southeastern Seminary President Danny Akin tweeted in response to the report, “We have got to do better than this. Our trustee boards must reflect the WHOLE SBC.”

The report from the Committee on Nominations is still a work in progress (the group generally has to fill 5-10 spots that come open prior to the convention). Chairman James Freeman said the committee initiated measures at their March meeting to increase diversity, a decision that he said was reinforced by the social media discussion.

ERLC AND social justice: Racial justice and unity may be raised again in Dallas. Throughout his tenure, ERLC President Russell Moore has galvanized younger Baptists with his brand of compassionate activism. Others, though, bristled at his harsh words for supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump, and have since questioned whether the ERLC’s policies reflect the majority of the SBC.

Last year the convention voted on a Moore-led resolution condemning “alt-right racism.” Now Moore has raised the issue of race again at an April conference that ERLC hosted commemorating the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The ERLC’s report to the convention is, like last year, near the end of the meeting agenda. Moore will be among the last leaders heard from before Baptists leave Texas.

Paige Patterson: The man who led the conservative reclamation of the SBC starting in the 1970s is scheduled to preach the convention sermon in Dallas and many are calling on him not preach the sermon. On May 23 at a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees at the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth he was removed as president and appointed president emeritus.

It comes after comments he made in 2000 about domestic abuse recently required a statement from the seminary offering clarification 18 years later. In the comments, which resurfaced last month, Patterson said his counsel to a woman being abused by her husband would depend “on the level of abuse to some degree.” He said he never counseled divorce, and at most temporary separation.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Patterson’s full statement is more stunning today. Fellow Texan Beth Moore, who will speak at an event for pastors’ wives in Dallas, was among the hundreds who tweeted in response, posting “We do not submit to abuse. NO.”

As the trustees met the Washington Post released an article about an incident at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary where Patterson was president in 2003. A former student said she told Patterson she had been raped and he urged her not to go to the police, but to forgive the student who was alleged to have committed the crime. Southeastern is investigating the report.

The cost of unity: Perhaps what will mark the Dallas convention isn’t which difficult conversations will be had, because there will certainly be some, but how we Baptists emerge from them. Will the meeting be marked by willingness to stand in unity because what unites us is the gospel? Or will our differences over the nature of gospel itself, and how God brings people to salvation, make the divide, largely generational, even clearer and wider?

Also read #SBCtoo: What we forgot to report may also be forgotten after the convention

– The Editors

Uphill climb

Lisa Misner —  May 14, 2018 — Leave a comment

Fifty years after Martin Luther King’s death, racial unity is more dream than reality in America. But what about the church?

I am a man

Personhood and justice were the themes of a 1968 sanitation workers’ strike memorialized today by a mural in Memphis. Managing editor Meredith Flynn returned home to Memphis to learn what has developed in racial equality and unity, as the city observed the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Meredith Flynn

In 1968, striking sanitation workers carried signs in Memphis proclaiming “I Am A Man.” They marched to protest working conditions that had recently left two of their own dead. It was their protest that brought Martin Luther King, Jr. to Memphis, and to the Lorraine Motel, where he was asassinated.

Fifty years later, people convened at the site to see what has happened with civil rights, and nearby, Southern Baptist leaders questioned the state of race relations and unity in the church. About 4,000 people met at the city’s convention center for MLK50, a conference on race and the church, co-sponsored by the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

The meeting featured a diverse group of speakers on an even broader list of topics: race and politics, systemic injustice, coming to terms with the past—and present. In their messages was this plea: Churches can no longer be silent on the issue of racial justice.
“We have expected you to be our greatest allies in the struggle against injustice,” Chicago pastor Charlie Dates told fellow pastors. “And we wanted you to shout it from your pulpits.”

In a letter written from jail in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, Dr. King expressed similar disappointment with white ministers who were either opposed to the Civil Rights movement or cautious about getting too involved. King’s words for the latter are hard to read— they “have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows,” he wrote.

“Often, we can fool ourselves into believing that somehow history itself will take care of problems of racial injustice,” said Russell Moore, president of the ERLC. “That somehow inevitably, these things will work themselves out.”

But they haven’t. Racially motivated violence took the lives of nine members of a black church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. White supremacists marched in Virginia and elsewhere, just last year. While most people don’t use racial slurs or march behind the Confederate flag, Moore said, we still retreat to the places and mindsets where we’re most comfortable.

All the while, the church has the solution: the power of the gospel to redeem sinners, and to transform  brokenness. Speakers on the MLK50 stage implored pastors and Christians to work toward a radical view of unity—one that lays down personal preference and seeks to understand others, for the glory of God and for the sake of the gospel.

It starts with courageous leaders, said Kevin Smith, executive director for the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware. “Nothing changes about the church in America without the pulpit changing.”

Lessons from Lorraine Motel
To grow up in Memphis is to be well acquainted with Dr. King and Rosa Parks and the Freedom Riders. The Lorraine Motel is a city landmark, and when the museum opened downtown in the mid-90’s, school groups started taking field trips there. Still, in a city so closely entwined with the Civil Rights movement, it’s surprisingly easy to grow up holding history at arm’s length.

On April 4 of this year, attenders at the MLK50 conference took a break to join the city’s celebration of Dr. King. At the motel, the courtyard and parking lot under the balcony where he was shot were cordoned off. Folding chairs were set up for guests invited to attend the ceremony in his honor. Other visitors to the site stood well behind them, at the top of a small hill overlooking the hotel.

Down the street, pop-up booths sold T-shirts and other memorabilia. Upbeat music poured out of an open shop door. At 6:01 p.m., the festivities stopped for a moment of silence in observance of King’s death. What resounded at the event, over the beat of reggae music and over the momentary silence, was an invitation to lean in and learn.
The same was true at the conference. A Southern Baptist pastor crystallized a call to action for the denomination: “Every time there’s an opportunity to drive a nail in the coffin of racism, every white Southern Baptist should be very quick to grab the hammer,” said Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas. He was one of four Baptist leaders who took part in a panel discussion on the SBC and race, a session that started with a look at the denomination’s historical struggle to overcome prejudice and discrimination.

This is an ongoing struggle. In 1995, Baptists approved a resolution repenting of racism and asking African-Americans for forgiveness. In 2016, messengers repudiated the Confederate flag, and in two emotional sessions last year, messengers resoundingly approved another resolution condemning “alt-right” racism.

“It’s something that we’re going to have to constantly—as a convention, as a denomination—deal with and address as we move forward to continue to work towards the kind of reconciliation that we need to see happen,” Pitman said.

The panel, which also included Kevin Smith, National African American Fellowship President Byron Day, and Iowa pastor Jeff Dodge, discussed the “missiological consequences” of not pursuing racial unity, as well as the value of individual relationships across racial boundaries. When the conversation eventually turned to leadership of SBC entities, Pitman said it is “imperative” that at least one of two vacant posts—president/CEO of the Executive Committee and president of the International Mission Board—be filled with minority leadership.

Representation and leadership are key issues on the local church level as well, said Randle Bishop, an elder of Immanuel Baptist Church in Chicago, who attended the MLK50 conference. “One area that lacks unity in our churches and other Christian ministries is the glaring lack of submission to minority leadership,” Bishop told the Illinois Baptist.

“The reason for this is surely complex,” Bishop said. “However, if whites were to join biblically-faithful black and Hispanic churches and Christian ministries, this could be an additional approach to advancing greater unity in the body of Christ.”

A biblical imperative
Many of the addresses given in Memphis had at their root the Bible’s words about unity among Christ-followers. They called racism by its name—sin—and described its effect on American society and the church. “Namely,” said Bishop, referencing Genesis 1:27, “sin has deeply affected the way we relate to one another as image-bearers.”

“One takeaway for me was seeing how clearly the Bible addresses the hypocrisy of those who sinfully act out in racism towards other people. We do not have to take our cues in this conversation from the world and we must not,” Bishop said. “Jesus has clearly spoken in his word. He has said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Throughout the conference, speakers made it apparent that how to go about loving your neighbor as yourself, especially in the realms of racial identity and justice, is an exceedingly complex matter. But, they seemed to say, it starts with humility, and a willingness to set aside personal preferences in order to pick up unfamiliar burdens.

“We’re free to love each other,” Moore said. “Free to listen to each other. Free to be led by one another. Free to serve one another. We’re free to be the church of Jesus Christ. And if we have to change our worship styles, let’s crucify our worship styles. If God’s way upsets our political alliances, let’s crucify our political alliances.

“To be a gospel people means that we don’t seek a cheap reconciliation, but a cross reconciliation.”

Meredith Flynn is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist.

hands patterned with the US flag

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the National Day of Prayer. Many of us pray for America on a regular basis, but each time this year, we are able to join together across the nation and pray together in unity.

Whether you are joining a prayer gathering for the event or praying on your own throughout the year, here are some ways you can pray for America.

1. #PRAY4UNITY in America.

“Making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

The present spiritual crisis in America is calling us to pray for and take all necessary actions to come together in our nation. God is the only One who can do this, so we call upon Him to empower us to make every effort to live in unity.

2. #PRAY4UNITY in the church of America.

“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

God is calling His Church in America to unify upon the authority of the Bible and centrality of Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world. We must come together to make Christ known to the world by advancing the Gospel to every person in the world. Ask God for local churches to unify as one body of Christ and walk together in unity, harmony and oneness.

3. #PRAY4UNITY in the families, workplaces, communities and cities in America.

“Also, the power of God was at work in Judah to unite them to carry out the command of the king and his officials by the word of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 30:12).

God’s power upon us is the only source to unite our families, workplaces, communities and cities in America. Ask God to call families, workplaces, communities and cities to look to the only One who can unify us.

4. #PRAY4UNITY among all ethnicities and people in America.

“For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14).

Since each of us are made in the image of God, we bear His image regardless of the color of our skin or uniqueness of our ethnicity. Through the death of Jesus, He has torn down the wall of division among all people. In God alone, we unify and live in peace with one another, standing against all racial and ethnic division, denouncing it as sin.

5. #PRAY4UNITY for the security of our nation and for our schools, churches, and all public venues.

“The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

Ask God to protect our schools, churches and all public venues. Plead with God to restrain all evil and secure our nation from all enemies. Ask God to move upon our government officials to work together to secure our schools, churches and all public venues.

6. #PRAY4UNITY that we agree clearly, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next great spiritual awakening in America.

“They all were continually united in prayer” (Acts 1:14).

Ask God to convict the church of America to wake up spiritually, unite visibly and pray extraordinarily for the next Great Spiritual Awakening in America to occur in our generation and shape the future of America.

EDITOR’S NOTE: May 3 is the National Day of Prayer.

Ronnie Floyd is senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas and president of the National Day of Prayer. This article first appeared at LifeWay’s Facts&Trends (factsandtrends.net).

Talking with kids…about race

ib2newseditor —  September 18, 2017

Parenting conference takes on serious discussions

parenting panel

Steven Harris (left) moderates a panel including the ERLC’s Trillia Newbell and Texas pastor Jason Paredes on how to help children view diversity like God does. Photo by Kelly Hunter

Is it ever too early to talk about race with your children? Panelists at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Aug. 24-26 conference on parenting said no, resoundingly.

“You should not wait,” said Rachel Metzger, an educator and mother of two. “Because waiting seems like a secret, or something you don’t want to talk about.” Metzger joined four other parents and church leaders for a panel discussion on how to raise children with a biblical view of racial unity.

Coming less than a month after deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., the panelists addressed the topic at a time when America’s racial divides are glaringly apparent. But, “this is not just something that we need to be talking about because something in the culture happened,” said Trillia Newbell, director of community outreach for the ERLC. “It’s something the church needs to be on top of, ahead of, because it is ultimately a biblical topic.”

Newbell is the author “God’s Very Good Idea,” a new children’s book about the diversity inherent in God’s creation. The book calls families to celebrate differences because they are, after all, God’s doing.

“That’s what’s missing in our culture—we don’t celebrate our differences; we politicize them,” Newbell said during the panel. “And we should celebrate. This is God’s good plan. It’s his idea.”

With kids, celebrating differences means acknowledging them. Newbell told the audience in Nashville that her son identified early on the difference between his mom’s skin color and his own. As her children have gotten older, open conversations about skin color have evolved into discussions about the realities of racism, division, and ethnic pride.

“It is heartbreaking, but it’s something that we have to be talking about,” Newbell said. “But even with that, we are sharing the full picture of the gospel that unites.”

The panelists shared several suggestions for fostering in children a biblically-based appreciation for racial diversity and unity:

1. Educate yourself. Dive into what the Bible says about the nations and the image of God, said Byron Day, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, Md., and president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention. “You need to know for yourself first of all what it is that you believe, and why you believe it, so that you can better then explain it to them.” Day noted two helpful Scripture passages: Genesis 10 and Revelation 7.

2. Point to real-life examples. Adoption is such a part of the culture on his church staff, said Pastor Jason Paredes, that if an outsider were to try to match parents with kids based on skin color, it would be impossible. In that environment, said the pastor of Fielder Church in Arlington, Texas, identity is based less on looks and more on family bonds, giving parents a real-life way to talk to their kids about God’s view of racial unity.

3. Lay a biblical foundation. Pastor Afshin Ziafat recalled seeing an interview with a white nationalist in the aftermath of protesting in Charlottesville. The man’s angst, Ziafat remembered, seemed ultimately to be about protecting himself.

The root of racism is the sin of self, said Ziafat, pastor of Providence Church in Frisco, Texas. “With our children, I want to teach them that all are made in God’s image, but I also want to make sure I’m teaching them that life isn’t about you. Philippians 2 is what I want to teach them: Count others more significant than yourselves; put the interest of others before yourself.”

4. Invite people in. Get to know your neighbors, Newbell advised. Ask God to give you eyes to see color and culture, and invite the people around you into your family’s life.

Ziafat said mission trips have motivated his church members to get to know the people around them. “As we’ve gone on mission trips and our people have gone to other cultures and come back home, I’ve seen them have a heart to now want to go meet my Indian neighbor who I’ve never even talked to, because I just got back from India. I think tharat’s been a huge thing for us too.”

5. Start now. Newbell acknowledged some listeners probably feel the guilt of not having had these kinds of conversations with their kids. “It’s never too late to talk about the glory of God and Imago Dei. If you’re listening and thinking, ‘Well, I didn’t do that,’ start today.”

The Illinois Baptist’s Meredith Flynn was there. Watch for more articles from Meredith from the conference.

Broadview | Whatever happens in the general election, preach the Word—and stick to the Word—speakers at the 2016 IBSA Pastors’ Conference exhorted their audience. The first day of the meeting at Broadview Missionary Baptist Church in metro Chicago coincided with the concluding games of the World Series, so several of the speakers got in on the Cubs banter, but ultimately the stuck to the Word.

david-sutton

David Sutton

“We think about what’s going on in our world today,” said pastor David Sutton of Bread of Life Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, who also served as president and organizer of the event. “So much grief,” he said, referring to a record number of shootings in the city the previous weekend. “When I think about this being an election year, it seems to further exacerbate things—there are so many things we can allow to divide us—even where we live, if we live in a rural town or a large community.”

The theme for the conference is “Crossroads, our pathway to reconciliation,” building on the “Cross Culture” theme of the IBSA Annual Meeting which will follow the pastors’ gathering.

“I believe God has called us together for such a time as this, even as we stand together in such a divided time,” Sutton said, pointing out the dichotomies of Illinois’ geography and population. “We come from so many different groups and backgrounds, [but] even in our differences we can come together…. I heard one preacher say we may not agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t walk together hand-in-hand.”

The featured preachers built on that theme, repeatedly igniting the crowd of pastors from Northern and Southern Illinois, black and white and Hispanic and Asian, in cheers and applause.

fred-luter-2

Fred Luter

“If God can change you and me, the same God can change their lives,” said Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, speaking of lost people, particularly those engaged in drugs, gang activity, and a litany of sinful lifestyles he enumerated.

“In your B.C. days, in other words, in your ‘before Christ’ days, what did it take to change you? Before you stopped drinking, before you stopped shacking up, before you stopped using the N-word, before you stopped going to casinos and playing the lottery (I hoped you stopped!)… you heard the gospel! You heard the gospel of Jesus Christ! You were transformed by the power of the gospel…. The same gospel can change our city and can change those knuckleheads in our streets!”

Luter, who served as the first African American president of the Southern Baptist Convention, urged the crowd: “Come on preachers, let’s preach the gospel of Jesus Christ! Come on teachers, let’s teach the gospel of Jesus Christ! Hallelujah, Jesus saves!”

scott-nichols

Scott Nichols

Illinois pastor Scott Nichols of Crossroads Community Church in Carol Stream, said “reconciliation is painful, hard work” but it’s our calling for “those in the grip of sin…because God’s done reconciliation in my life. Our purpose is not growing our church. The purpose is making us like Christ. The purpose is winning the world to Christ,” Nichols said.

Politics was overshadowed by Gospel in the preaching and in the breakout sessions. “Leave the political stuff alone, that is only going to divide,” said Ron Gray, pastor of The Connection Church in Chicago, in a breakout session.

“With all this is going on around us, someone should be asking ‘Is God trying to tell us something?” said H. B. Charles, Jr., a skilled expositor and pulpiteer from Jacksonville, Florida.

hb-charles3

HB Charles, Jr

“God speaks by his actions, but God also speaks by in his inactions.” There is the wrath that is due man’s rebellion, “and there is the wrath of abandonment” for those who persist in the sins listed in Romans 1, as God turns them over to the outcomes of their sins.

As several speakers said, whatever the outcome of the election on November 8, the next day God will still be on the throne and in charge. “I was tempted to label this sermon the unelected and unimpeachable king!” Charles said. “His almighty Son has already been appointed King, and he is not up for re-election.”

“Thank you, Lord!” came the reply from the pews.

Greear Floyd Gaines2

JD Greear, Ronnie Floyd, and Steve Gaines.

There are three winners at the conclusion of the SBC presidential race: Steve Gaines takes the position and the responsibility; J.D. Greear takes the mantel as most Christ-like, and Southern Baptists leave St. Louis unified behind a single presidential candidate.

Greear’s action, withdrawing his name from the race after two ballots failed to produce a winner, was a first for longtime observers of the convention. Greear guaranteed two things: many of his supporters who are young and are new to SBC life are more likely stay engaged if they do not feel pushed out by the older, traditional constituency Gaines represents. And Greear guaranteed himself a place in SBC leadership for decades to come.

Would anyone be surprised if Greear ran unopposed in 2018? The 50% of SBC messengers who had backed Gaines could easily support in the next election the young man who did the very mature thing.

Deferring to the older candidate is indeed a mature move. And, in this case, it’s wise.

Both Greear and Gaines cited the need for unity in the denomination in this decision. “For the sake of our convention and our mission, we need to leave St. Louis united,” Greear said.

Gaines said he, too, had considered withdrawing. He quoted a close friend who said to him after the first day of the annual meeting, “We’re in a mess, aren’t we.” After two ballots, Gaines was still four votes short of a majority, because 108 ballots were disqualified by improper markings. Messengers at the best-attended convention in a decade or more were split right down the middle.

“It’s tricky,” Greear joked as he stepped to the podium to make his announcement, referring to a rap music video produced by a member of his church that some had construed as endorsements by several SBC-entity heads. The crowd laughed.

But it would be tricky to lead the denomination with the membership divided into two camps: established and traditional epitomized by Gaines, and younger and Reformed led by Greear.

For the sake of unity, Greear withdrew.

Gaines had offered to make the same move.

At 43, Greear will likely have another opportunity to be SBC president. Perhaps at 58, it is Gaines’s turn. With his mid-South megachurch platform, Gaines is likely to lead the convention in renewed evangelism, which Floyd and others have said is so vital.

And Greear has a little longer to bring his half of the SBC populace into leadership to form a new mainstream and identity, rather engage in a tug of war with the old guard over theology and tactics. “We are united by a gospel too great and a mission too urgent to let any lesser thing stand in our way,” Greear said.

The two men hugged on the platform, as Gaines was declared the winner by outgoing president Ronnie Floyd.

He could have as easily said, We all win.

– Eric Reed

TentI often find myself at denominational functions looking around the room and wondering, “What is it that really brings us together here?” Is our unity based simply on an expressed common desire to reach the lost? Or do we gladly join together in mission because we have deeply shared doctrinal convictions?

I’ve found some guidelines in a couple of the smallest books in the Bible, 2 and 3 John. One way to read these short letters (which combine for a total of just 28 verses) is to put them side-by-side as two crucial lessons in cooperation.

First, here is some background to both books: a church planting movement is taking root in the Roman world furthered by traveling missionaries who depend upon support from other Christians, primarily in the form of food and lodging.

In 2 John the tone and feel is one of caution: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” “Watch yourselves.” The emphasis is on getting the gospel right. Specifically, some of these traveling missionaries “do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh,” what has been referred to as the “Gnostic heresy.” John speaks soberly of remaining in Christ’s teaching and not going beyond it. He then directs genuine believers: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home… for the one who says, ‘Welcome’ to him shares in his evil works.” In other words, don’t cooperate with everyone!

The tenor is different in 3 John. Here John is commending a “dear friend” for his generosity to certain missionaries. The emphasis in this mini-epistle is on getting the gospel out. “You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” These missionaries “set out for the sake of the Name” and trusted God to provide through his people. “Therefore, we ought to support such men,” says John. He even calls out a guy named Diotrephes for his independent spirit. “He not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but he even stops those who want to do so.” Don’t be like Diotrephes. Don’t cooperate with no one!

2 John teaches us not to make our tent too big. 3 John encourages us not to draw our circle too small. We need both messages.

Notice the disproportionate amount of times the words truth and love occur in these two short letters. We absolutely cannot disconnect them. There are people who have great drive, but do not have good doctrine. We have to be discerning about who we partner with. On the other hand, there are Christians who are cranky and overly separatist. We must be large-hearted and kingdom-minded.

Because of 2 John I know that the Apostle John would applaud the “Conservative Resurgence” in the SBC. Is it not amazing that we have six top-notch seminaries that are committed to robust and orthodox theological training?

At the same time, based on 3 John, I am pretty certain that the Apostle would thoroughly endorse the concept of the Cooperative Program and be thrilled with our North American and International Mission Boards. It is wonderful that we have state and local associations. And is it not telling that we have Directors of Mission and not District Superintendents? We are the people who come up with campaigns like “Million More in ’54.” And I love that I live in what was once a Strategic Focus City, now a SEND City.

However, we have not always gotten this balance right. At times I have seen people approved for work in the SBC based on their passion without an examination of their doctrine. And at other times I have seen people who were well qualified turned away because of a technicality.

In all of our missional zeal, may we never fudge on doctrinal clarity. And in making sure we are all on the same page about what the gospel is, may we make sure we are doing whatever it takes to get the gospel out. If we are truly faithful to Scripture, we will heed the lessons of both 2 and 3 John. But there just might be something to the fact that 2 John comes before 3 John.

Nathan Carter is pastor of Immanuel Baptist in the University District of Chicago.