More than sixteen thousand Southern Baptists will begin their annual convention today in Nashville, Tennessee. The event is generating national headlines as those attending confront Critical Race Theory, women’s roles, how to handle sexual abuse, and serious allegations regarding racism and misogyny on the part of denominational leaders.
I’d like to make three predictions today which I believe to be biblical and relevant to every biblical Christian in America, whether you’re a Southern Baptist or not.
One: Southern Baptists, like other conservative Christians, will be portrayed as negatively as possible.
I did an internet search for “Southern Baptist Convention” (SBC) this morning before writing this article. Here’s what I found: the Washington Post headlines, “Secret recordings, leaked letters: Explosive secrets rocking the Southern Baptist Convention.” ABC News adds: “Southern Baptists meet amid controversy over leaked letters.” The New York Times reports: “‘Take the Ship’: Conservatives Aim to Commandeer Southern Baptists.”
All of that is true. Letters leaked after Dr. Russell Moore resigned as president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC have indeed been “rocking” the denomination since they contain references to misogyny and racism among denominational leaders that, if true, are grievous (more on this in a moment). And a group at the convention is hoping to steer the denomination in an even more conservative direction.
However, I have seen no coverage in the mainline press of the event that preceded the convention, the “Send Conference” at which Michael W. Smith led worship and renowned pastor Tony Evans brought the keynote message.
Dr. Evans likened Christians to referees on a football field: they know they may be booed by angry parties on both teams, but they understand that they are not meant to be liked and seek to abide by the rulebook that dictates the game. He added: “Our true calling is not to be part-time saints but full-time Christians, pulling heaven down to earth as true reflections of the imago Dei. We have watched our nation decline because there aren’t enough accurate reflections of Christ invading the culture.”
I wish his profound words had been widely reported along with the controversies that are making news. But I’m not surprised that they were not.
Biblical Christians have been marginalized in recent years for our commitment to biblical morality. Now we are being stigmatized and ostracized. A secular ideology that seeks to reject and replace biblical truth with its self-centric idolatry is rising. Media that seems to clearly endorse the “progressive” over the “conservative” in our culture are complicit in this narrative.
None of this should surprise us. Jesus was clear: “If the world hates you, know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
Two: Our cultural credibility will depend on our personal character more than ever.
We can complain that the media is laser focused on allegations surrounding this week’s convention, but we should also acknowledge that such allegations reflect leadership failures that, if they are being reported accurately, are grievous. Columnist David French describes these horrific allegations in detail.
As the culture grows increasingly antagonistic towards evangelical Christians, the last thing we need to do is give skeptics more fuel for their fire. These are days when we must double down on the urgency of personal integrity and Christlike character. What was always a biblical imperative is especially vital in this day.
Let’s start with ourselves. Have you asked the Spirit to take control of your life today (Ephesians 5:18) and manifest his “fruit” through you (Galatians 5:22–23)? Would those who know you say they see in you “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8)?
If you were to be more like Jesus today than you were yesterday, what would need to change?
Three: God will continue to use his people in surprising ways.
No school in the evangelical world has been more ridiculed in recent years than Liberty University. Allegations regarding its former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., made global headlines and continue to make news.
However, a graduate of Liberty is making headlines these days for a completely different reason.
Jane Marczweski, aka Nightbirde, took the stage last week on the television show America’s Got Talent. She is a cancer patient—with malignancy in her lungs, spine, and liver, she has been given a 2 percent chance of survival. Nonetheless, before she sang, she said, “I’m so much more than the bad things that happened to me.”
After she sang a song she wrote, Simon Cowell, known for being the harshest critic among the judges, told her, “Your voice is stunning.” She replied, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Cowell looked shocked, then he gave her the “golden buzzer” that ensures she will compete in the semifinals. After she sang, Terry Crews, the host of the show, told her, “You are the voice we all need to hear this year.”
I don’t usually watch America’s Got Talent, but my wife and I saw a rerun of the episode last Saturday. I was astonished by Jane Marczweski’s story, so I looked further. Liberty University did a profile of her life, faith, and music a few years ago. She has a website with blogs that tell the story of her cancer, the loss of her marriage, and the challenges her faith has faced. They are some of the most moving, picturesque, powerful essays I have ever read.
I urge you to watch the video of her performance and read her blogs, especially if you’re facing difficult days or know someone who is.
God’s word teaches, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10).
What is your gift?