July 2013


HOW TO HANDLE A TRAYVON-ZIMMERMAN MOMENT

BY WILLIAM DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

No one disputes that George Zimmerman initiated the communication with Trayvon Martin. No one disputes that Neighborhood Watch Volunteers are trained not to carry a weapon. No one disputes that Neighborhood Watch Volunteers are trained not to personally intervene if they observe a suspicious person or activity, but rather notify law enforcement. No one disputes that the 911 dispatcher counseled Zimmerman not to pursue Trayvon. No one disputes that Trayvon had just as much right to be on those premises in Samford, Florida, as Zimmerman. Yet, Trayvon was the one viewed with suspicion and being pursued by Zimmerman. No one disputes that Zimmerman was the aggressor in the encounter.

The truth of the matter is young people, and not so young people, will inevitably face a Trayvon-Zimmerman-like encounter. A sudden, unanticipated, confrontational situation—with the potential to escalate to a violent encounter—could happen to any one of us—even in close proximity to our homes.

Someone can deem you as suspicious. Someone can approach you without identifying themselves and ask you questions that you deem are inappropriate. Someone can engage you with the wrong attitude. Someone can encroach upon your personal space and cross your comfort zone. Someone can form wrong and premature conclusions about you. Someone can report you to authority figures based on their false assumptions. Someone can approach and address you with a superior, judgmental, authoritarian and condescending attitude and disposition. This is what Trayvon Martin encountered at the hands of George Zimmerman on that dreadful evening in Samford, Florida.

Without the benefit of any prior knowledge, Zimmerman concluded that Trayvon Martin was an “a …hole, suspicious, and a f…ing punk.” He also categorized him as belonging to a group called “they” who always get away. Either Zimmerman had a mysterious, inexplicable discernment regarding Trayvon, or he profiled him. Those are serious and sordid assessments to make upon sight regarding a total stranger.

How do you reach such strong conclusions about a person that you’ve never met? It is impossible to harbor those kinds of feelings toward a person and it not be reflected in your actions, attitude, body language and speech when you approach and address that person.

People sense when these are your feelings toward them. Trayvon sensed Zimmerman’s unjustifiable disposition and attitude toward him. Zimmerman’s profile of Trayvon was based solely on externals and perception. Trayvon’s externals were:  race, clothes, age, gender, skittles, tea, and a cell phone. Armed with only that knowledge, Zimmerman concluded that Trayvon is again, an a…hole, f…ing punk, suspicious and a member of a group called “they.”

It is my belief that we all engage in selective racial profiling at times. I certainly am no exception and neither was Zimmerman. To that extent I can identify with Zimmerman. The problem, however, is when we act on our “suspicions” or profiling. That is totally unacceptable and can easily ignite a dispute, fight and racial unrest—that can escalate to a national crisis—as we now all see.

Let me be clear. Had I been on the Zimmerman jury, I would have found him, guilty. If Zimmerman had been a 34-year old Black Man behaving in this manner toward a 17-year old White, Asian, or Hispanic child, I would also have voted—guilty.

President Obama is correct in stating the outcome would have been different if Trayvon had been the one left standing. We all know that if Trayvon would have been the one remaining alive that night, he would have been immediately arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. And that is why the vast majority of Black America are enraged by the verdict. Not having an African American on the jury exacerbates the outrage. The racial composition of the jury and the verdict reminded African Americans of an era that we’d hoped was past and gone.

As painful, disappointing and unjust as the Zimmerman verdict was, I found a sense of hope and healing from a surprising source—the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC—Dr. Russell Moore. Reading what Dr. Moore said on this matter in the Washington Post produced a therapeutic and euphoric moment for me. Moore’s words represent the fact that the SBC may truly be on the verge of systemic and substantive change with regard to race. The fact that Moore is Anglo makes his words in this instance more impactful and helpful toward healing the wounds Blacks have felt over Trayvon’s tragic death. In our mid-week service last Wednesday, we put Moore’s quote on the stage screen and read his quote verbatim. These words were like apples of gold on plates of silver:

“Regardless of what Trayvon Martin was doing or not doing that night, you have someone who was taking upon himself some sort of vigilante justice, even by getting out of the car. Regardless of what the legal verdict was, this was wrong,” said Russell Moore…”

“And when you add this to the larger context of racial profiling and a legal system that does seem to have systemic injustices as it relates to African-Americans with arrests and sentencing, I think that makes for a huge crisis.”

“Most white evangelicals, white Americans, are seeing [the Martin case] microscopically, in terms of this verdict, and most African-Americans are seeing it macroscopically. It’s Trayvon Martin, it’s Emmitt Till, it’s Medger Evers, it’s my son, my neighbor’s son, my situation that I had,” Moore said. “Most white Americans say we don’t know what happened that night and they are missing the point.”

For a White Southern Baptists to truly understand the depth of our pain and to be willing to articulate and identify with our perspective without needlessly trampling on Trayvon’s grave is truly extraordinary.

When faced with a Trayvon-Zimmerman moment, there are only three possible responses one can make.  Jesus in Scripture was also profiled based on His background. Therefore, He could identify with Trayvon. Jesus faced unwarranted and unanticipated opposition, as did Trayvon on the night of the Zimmerman encounter. By example and teaching, Jesus shows believers how to handle a Trayvon-Zimmerman encounter.

All believers of all colors will inevitably face an adversarial person that could be any race or color. Before we encounter that person(s) we need to make sure that we are armed and equipped with the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Lessons from Jesus and Trayvon’s legacy can guide believers through an unanticipated moment of potential conflict.

The three options available when faced with a Trayvon-Zimmerman moment are to (1) fight; (2) finesse; or (3) flee. Jesus addressed all three.

1.  The option to fight should only be employed when there is absolutely no other possible way to remedy the situation. And even then one can take the option of not fighting back and hoping that the aggressor will relent. Jesus taught that you should turn the other cheek. I know that sounds archaic and unrealistic in today’s culture; but this was the method employed by Jesus and Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a matter of fact, Jesus told Peter to put up his sword, because he who lives by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). Jesus taught that responding to aggression with aggression is not wise. Trayvon responded to aggression with aggression, and that proved to be fatal and tragic for him. We all need to learn a lesson from that. The option to fight, according to Jesus, is not the best option to take.

2.  The option to finesse when faced with a Trayvon Martin situation is also available. By finesse I mean to respond with conciliatory, constructive, non-threating dialogue. Jesus said in Matthew 5:25:

“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.”

To finesse when faced with a Trayvon-Zimmerman encounter, simply means to seek common ground in the dialogue—not battle ground. Jesus makes it clear that the consequences are weighty if the two parties don’t find—common ground. Jesus also makes it clear that the right kind of dialogue can lead to a peaceful resolution.

3.  The third option available when faced with a Trayvon-Zimmerman encounter is to flee. This is probably the best option. Especially in the kind of situation Trayvon faced on that dreadful night.

Jesus said if peace don‘t abide, flee (Matthew 10:14). Jesus fled when he faced an aggressive group that was prejudiced against Him for false reasons. If Jesus fled in this situation, you and I can flee (John 10:39).

My mother warned her children that we would face a Zimmerman encounter in life. And again, we all have. Her advice was “It is better to be a live coward, than a dead hero.” And I believe mother was right and so was Jesus.

There comes a time, when you don’t allow someone else to take your life. By fleeing and finessing, you freely lay your life down.

You are to fight only if this is the only option that you believe is available to you.

Zimmerman was wrong. But to respond to the jury verdict with violence would be equally wrong. Two wrongs will never make a right. Innocent Hispanics and Whites who have been verbally and violently assaulted in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict—have been racially profiled, and we need to cry out against that kind of senseless violence as well. The media should publicize the names of the victims and perpetrators in these instances as they have done Trayvon and Zimmerman.

Ironically, the SBC may be the only ecclesiastical body that can bring our nation together for prayer and dialogue surrounding this issue across racial lines. The SBC sanctioned the segregation of American society from her inception through the first century of her existence. Perhaps, now the SBC can lead the way to the healing of racism and racial distrust in American society in the 21st Century. Zimmerman may have gotten by, but he is not going to get away. Remember O.J.? Maybe out of Trayvon’s death will evolve a resurrection of constructive racial dialogue and healing that could lead to the prevention of unnecessary racially motivated deaths in the future.

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A BIBLICAL BASIS FOR SPEAKING IN TONGUES IN PRIVATE

BY WM. DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

The primary purpose for addressing this topic is to answer the question: Is there a biblical basis for a Kingdom citizen to pray in tongues in private?

The late Dr. Manuel L. Scott, Sr., said, “There is an orthodoxy within him that would not permit the sermonic broadcasting of an idea that the Bible would not back.” Not only do I share Dr. Scott’s orthodoxy regarding sermons, but I believe that this orthodoxy extends to worship practices—including tongues—publicly or privately. If the Bible does not back the practice of speaking in tongues, then no believer—period—should speak in tongues at any place or at any time.

It is not my purpose, desire, or place to attempt to persuade all Baptists or all believers to speak in tongues. I do not believe that it is God’s will based on His Word for all believers to speak in tongues (1 Cor. 12:30). Although it is debated among those of us who speak in tongues, neither do I believe that every believer is capable of speaking in tongues—even if they desire to. God sovereignly determines which believer gets which gifts (1 Cor. 12:7-12).

There are those who would argue strongly against my viewpoint that all believers are not capable of speaking in tongues. Again, God sovereignly bestows and distributes spiritual gifts according to His will. And there is no one gift that is given to every believer. When Paul raised the rhetorical question, “Do all speak with tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:30), it is obvious that the answer is, No! The implication is that it is not the will or intent of God for all believers to speak in tongues.

A few years ago I read in Newsweek Magazine that 20% of all Christians worldwide speak in tongues. If my memory serves me correctly that was based on a Pew Poll. Furthermore, only 50% of the persons who are faithful attendees and members of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches speak in tongues. They all are open, desirous, and believe in speaking in tongues, yet only 50% or less have experienced speaking in tongues. Those figures are consistent to me with what the Bible teaches—all do not speak in tongues.

Please don’t misconstrue anything that I say here as meaning that I am on a campaign to get Southern Baptists to affirm, embrace, and practice—speaking in tongues. That is not my goal or intent. Nor is it my calling. If I am on a campaign it would be to simply, respectfully and humbly ask the IMB trustees to simply return to the pre-2005 policy on tongues; that would resolve this issue. Because the SBC in session has not addressed this issue, I believe that IMB, NAMB, and SWBTS have usurped the will of the convention.  It is only because the aforementioned entities have established these anti-tongues policies, without one iota of SBC sanctioning, that I have also asked the SBC in session to weigh-in on these matters. I would be very pleased if the SBC policy was one of neutrality, which had served the SBC well prior to the adoption of the cessationist policies.

I want to address the question regarding the biblical basis for praying in tongues in private from a biblical and biographical perspective.

I.  Jesus affirmed speaking in tongues. He told the eleven that they could expect as one of the signs that would be visible or audible among those who believe is that  “they will speak with new tongues” (Mark 16:17). No matter how one etymologically and theologically parses this statement by Jesus, they would have to conclude that Jesus’ statement here is an affirmation of speaking in tongues. He did not elaborate, give details, qualify his statement, define tongues, or distinguish between public or private tongues here. He did not say if it would be a one-time occurrence among certain people groups or an ongoing experience among certain believers. But what He did say is this:  Counted among those who name His name should be those who speak with “new tongues.”

I will leave it to those much smarter than I am to figure out exactly what Jesus meant by this statement. I simply take His Word at face value.

It is disheartening to me that so many otherwise wonderful and Spirit-filled SBC institutions and individuals would discount and devalue here the words of Jesus.

To categorically deny IMB missionaries the freedom to receive and experience what Jesus said here is to trample on the words of Jesus or to define and qualify Jesus’ words here in a way that He chose not to define and qualify His words. That is a bold, presumptive move, from my perspective, for the IMB to take.

Based on the context of Jesus’ statement, coupled with Paul’s statement on the subject (1 Cor. 12:30), Jesus clearly did not teach that all believers everywhere, would speak in tongues—but He certainly was saying some believers, somewhere would speak in tongues. How can the IMB disqualify, what Jesus qualified? And that is speaking in tongues. Neither did Jesus preclude or promote the notion that his reference to “new tongues” would be limited to public forums—to the exclusion of private worship and devotion. What is clear, again, is that our Savior, Lord and King of His Kingdom affirmed speaking in tongues.

II.  The eleven disciples (Acts 1:13) and presumably the 120 (Acts 1:15) all spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1, 4).  The content of their tongues speaking, or what was heard by the Jews assembled from every nation under heaven (Acts 2:5) was—“the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11).

If what the devout Jews from different language groups heard on the day of Pentecost, when the 120 spoke in tongues was “the wonderful works of God,” it does not seem unreasonable to me that in a time of private devotional prayer and praise one could also speak—“the wonderful works of God” to God, about God.

You may ask, why would God allow this? God requested, allowed and required many things in scripture from our perspective that does not compute to the modern rational mind—nevertheless, He’s done so. Neither did He ask our permission to do so, nor is He interested in our opinion about what He’s done. The point here is simply this:  If the early believers could speak in tongues “the wonderful works of God,” it is not a stretch from my perspective they could also speak in prayer to God these same “wonderful works.” Why? The answer is:  For God’s own sovereign purposes.

Having experienced tongues as they did on the day of Pentecost, I can assure you that their speaking in tongues was not limited to that occasion only. Those of us who speak in tongues often during times of intense worship, devotion, prayer, and praise spontaneously often speak in tongues as the Sprit gives utterance (Acts 2:4). It is my opinion, but, I don’t believe their tongues speaking was limited to Pentecost only. I believe it carried over to their private devotions.

It is not an insignificant factor here that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 involved exclusively Jews and Jewish proselytes (Acts 2:5, 10).

In Acts 8 we see where another people group was introduced to Christ and received the Holy Spirit—the Samaritans (Acts 8:4-8; 14-17). Some scholars have referred to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans as—the Samaritan Pentecost—although there is no mention of tongues specifically being heard at Samaria.

Likewise, scholars have referred to the conversion the Ethiopian Eunuch as the Ethiopian Pentecost (Acts 8:26-39). There is no mention of tongues in the Ethiopian Eunuch narrative, but clearly the Holy Spirit was at work in his conversion. God used a Greek-speaking man—Phillip—to share the gospel with an African man—who was reading from a Jewish Bible while riding in a Roman Province. Truly the Holy Spirit was at work.

There is no record of the Ethiopian Eunuch, Phillip, or the Samaritans speaking in tongues. In Acts 2:4, the 120 were filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. In Acts 4:31 the 3000 that were converted on the day of Pentecost were “all filled with the Holy Spirit and they spoke the Word of God with boldness.” There is no indication or record here of the 3000 speaking in tongues, although they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

One of the errors of Pentecostalism—or at least among many of them—has been to insist that all who are filled with the Holy Spirit are to also speak in tongues. That was not true in the Book of Acts, neither is it true today. I am convinced though that the private devotional lives of the Samaritans who were filled with joy (Acts 8:5), Phillip and the Ethiopian were all invigorated by the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus prophesied that tongues speaking would be an occurrence among His followers. Indeed His disciples spoke in tongues declaring the wonderful works of God.

III.  Paul affirmed speaking in tongues as an act of private devotion.  We find the strongest support for praying in tongues in private in Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 14.

“Different kinds of tongues” (1 Cor. 12:10) are mentioned as being manifest by the Holy Spirit and “given to each one for the profit of all” 1 Cor. 12:7). Paul then lists several gifts (12:8-10) and includes “different kinds of tongues.”

In Chapter 14 Paul admonishes the church at Corinth to, “pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.” Although Paul does spend the remainder of the Chapter contrasting the gift of prophecy with the gift of tongues, Paul does not forbid speaking in tongues—publically or privately (1 Cor. 14:39). He does place guidelines around its use in public worship.

In 1 Cor. 14:2 I believe Paul addresses the primary way tongues was practiced by Christians at Corinth; this is also the primary practice of those who speak in tongues today.

In Acts 2, although they were speaking the “wonderful works of God,” men heard it and were pricked in their hearts. In 1 Corinthians 14:2, Paul is clear and specific in spite of scholars and commentators desperate attempts to explain this verse away.

“For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him, however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

No one would read that verse without the aid of any other explanation and conclude that speaking in tongues as practiced among believers at Corinth included—“not speaking to men but to God.” Speaking to God is the most basic, simple definition of prayer. Paul further explains while the believer’s speaking to God—not man—in prayer—“no one understands him.” The reason that no one understands him Paul explains is because, “In the spirit he speaks mysteries.”

The prayer that Paul described in 1 Cor. 14:2 had to be done privately because he later forbids this type of prayer without interpretation in a public assembly (1 Cor. 14:27-28).

Paul taught that one who speaks in tongues in the 1 Cor. 14:2 manner “edifies himself.” The fact that he “edifies himself” is another indication that the 1 Cor. 14:2 type of praying in tongues was private. Prophecy by its nature is public or at least directed to one other person. Prayer as in 1 Cor. 14:2 by its nature is private and is directed to God. The nature of private prayer is self-edification, that results in God’s glorification, and spirit-filled ministry to God’s people.

Jude taught that when believers “pray in the Spirit” that they build themselves up (Jude 20). No one views that verse as a negative. It amazes me that when Paul says that when one prays in a 1 Cor. 14:2 manner that they “edifies himself”—then it is viewed by some Southern Baptists as negative. That defies all logic, rationale and consistency.

When a believer builds himself up praying in a 1 Cor. 14:2 manner, or Jude 20 manner, they are then better equipped to “fight the good fight of faith” and “earnestly contend for the faith.” Built-up believers can then go, strengthen and encourage other believers to be a better witness to the world. Private prayer, be it I Cor. 14:2 or Jude 20, builds up the believer. And a built-up believer is better suited for Kingdom work. A built-up believer can build up the church.

“I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all:

Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (I Cor. 14:18-19)

Here Paul makes it clear that he speaks in tongues more so than anyone reading his letter (1 Cor. 14:18). He follows his admission of being the #1 tongues speaker with a contrast statement: “yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19).

Question: If Paul preferred understood language in the church, where was he speaking the language not understood (1 Cor. 14:2)? The implication is that this was being done in private, where he was building himself up, but it was not being heard in the presence of those who didn’t understand. To those whom it might matter, Dr. Jimmy Draper also in his book, The Church Christ Approves, interpreted these verses as Paul expressing a preference for private devotion tongues speaking, and publicly spoken understood speech.

“But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in the church, and let him speak to himself and to God.” (1 Cor. 14:28)

Those of us who speak in tongues can certainly relate to this verse. It is not uncommon for unintelligible speech to flow to your mouth if you are in a time of praise, prayer or even preaching in a public worship service. Although it flows to your mouth, according to Paul, and I know from experience that you have control over it until it comes out of your mouth. If no interpreter is present, Paul said—don’t cease praising, praying or giving thanks—simply do it within—“speaking to himself and to God.” This is another indication that a believer so gifted by the Holy Spirit to pray, praise, and give thanks in tongues can also pray even in tongues under his breath, or in a manner where it is not publicly heard, but yet it is occurring. Surely if one can do that while at church, they certainly could do it while not in the presence of others. These verses affirm praying in tongues in private.

I begin by quoting the words of Jesus: “they shall speak with new tongues.” I want to close by looking at the example of Jesus.

In Hebrews 5:7 we get an unusual glimpse into the prayer room of Jesus. Jesus is often depicted by the gospel writers as going away to pray alone. Even in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus placed some distance between Himself and His disciples as He prayed. Commenting on the prayer life of Jesus, the Hebrew writer says,

“who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him, who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear.”

I am in no wise suggesting that Jesus prayed in tongues. I am suggesting that this verse probably describes His prayers in the Garden, perhaps at the cross and at other times when the disciples were not with Him. We learn at least three things about Jesus’ prayers in this verse:

  1. They were high volume [“vehement cries”].
  2. They were tear-filled.
  3. They were emotional.

My point is that private prayers often take on a different style and nature then public prayers. Jesus told us to go and pray in our secret closets.  And in that closet, prayers are often prayed with words understood, words not understood and even without words.

REFLECTIONS AND RUMINATIONS ON THE SBC AND HER FUTURE

BY WM. DWIGHT MCKISSIC, SR.

PART II (PART I)

WHAT THE SBC IS DOING RIGHT AND HER SINGLE GREATEST NEED?

Nathan Finn referred to the vital statistics health decline of the SBC as a “Free-fall.” Because Dr. Finn is not just a casual observer, but a critical thinker, historian, and seminary professor regarding SBC life and history—I found his description, “Free-fall,” fascinating. When I prodded him to give an analysis and antidote of the “free-fall,” he gently pushed back and said that the critique and construct relative to the free-fall from him would come at a later time.

I have been a casual observer of SBC life, and a participant—at varying levels of intensity and engagement—for at least forty years. By the grace of God, I successfully planted a SBC church, thirty years ago that I am privileged to currently serve as Pastor. The SBC has invested a lot in my ministry; and until recent years, our church invested a lot in the SBC. While anxiously awaiting the scholarly and critical analysis and antidotes of the free-fall that Dr. Finn will eventually give, in the interim, I feel burdened to share reviews and remedies for the free-fall from my neck of the woods.

It has been reported that Ed Stetzer will also address the SBC statistical concerns in the not-to-distant future. The Stetzer analysis needs to be read widely and carefully and taken very seriously. I’m convinced that he has his hand on the pulse beat of American Evangelicalism. Our convention would be wise to pay careful attention to what Finn and Stetzer will have to say on this subject.

In the name of full disclosure, much of what I say here was inspired by a message that was recently preached by a guest preacher at our church, Dr. Julius Malone of Milwaukee, WI. He is an independent evangelical. He was not addressing the SBC and her issues in the slightest way. He was teaching an adult VBS class when he gave these remarks. But certainly they were applicable to our church and to the SBC.

The truth of the matter is that the SBC is in decline because many, if not most, of our churches are in decline. The church that I pastor is no exception to this decline. Pastor Malone’s message was very encouraging to our church; and I trust that what the Lord has laid on my heart here will be encouraging to the SBC.

I.                    WHAT THE SBC IS DOING RIGHT

  • I give God praise that there are still thousands of souls being won to Christ through SBC churches, even if we aren’t reaching as many as we once did. SBC churches minister the word of salvation to God’s people faithfully and consistently, year after year (I Cor. 1:2; 6:9-11). KFC often advertise, “We do chicken right.” The SBC could as easily say, “We do salvation right.” There will be multiple thousands of saints from throughout the world in heaven—some already there—because the SBC has ministered the gospel of salvation all over the globe.
  • I give God praise for the multiple thousands of souls that have been water baptized through the ministries of SBC churches (1 Cor. 1:13-16). The Great Commission specifies that those who receive the gospel ought to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Multiple thousands are still being baptized in SBC churches, although we are not baptizing nearly as many as we once did. But praise God for those who were won to Christ and baptized just this past year. Cornerstone has baptized about 2500 souls in our thirty-year history. But until 30 souls (primarily children and a few adults) recently came for salvation and baptism at our VBS, it was appearing to become the lowest baptismal year in the history of our church.
  • The SBC does Spirit Baptism well (I Cor. 12:13). One of the reasons that the Lord continue to bless the SBC and her churches is because we make it clear that “by one Spirit, have we all been baptized into one body.” We believe that there is, “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:6). And we believe that “one baptism” occurs simultaneously with salvation. The SBC believes that there is one baptism in the Holy Spirit—again, that occurs at salvation—but many fillings. Multiple thousands have been baptized by one Spirit into the Body of Christ, and have united with SBC churches. For that, we give God praise.
  • Multiple thousands in SBC churches have discovered at least one gift given to them by the Holy Spirit. It can be said of the SBC as Paul said of the church at Corinth, “…you come short in no gift” (1 Cor. 1:7; 12-14). The SBC is second to none when it comes to gifted persons in our congregations. I believe that the apostolic gift is a missionary gift (Eph. 4:12). I believe that our Disaster Relief Program is an example of the “helps” gift on display (Mt. 5:16). Every spiritual gift that’s listed in Scripture, we find in large measure in SBC churches. Even to the dismay of some, most SBC churches have members and some leaders who regularly pray, praise and give thanks in their private devotions in tongues (I Cor. 14). The IMB was led by a person who openly acknowledged his practice and belief regarding tongues. Current and past IMB missionaries regularly exercise the gift of tongues in their private devotions. There is not one gift listed that we don’t have represented in most SBC churches. For that, I give God praise.
  • The indwelling of the Holy Spirit means when I have Christ, I have all of Him. The filling of the Holy Spirit means that, he has all of me. The SBC is comprised of multiple thousands who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, some are even filled with the Holy Spirit (II Tim. 1:16, Rom. 8:9).
  • Good preaching, sound doctrine, and exposition of Scripture are what SBC preachers are known for (I Cor. 1:11-12; 3:21-22). The decline in the SBC is not because of a lack of good, solid, scriptural preaching.

The church at Corinth had every characteristic that I’ve mentioned thus far. Like the SBC, they were saved, baptized in water, Spirit baptized, spiritually gifted, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and they had good preachers—Paul, Peter and Apollos (I Cor. 1:11-12).

So what was missing from the church at Corinth? The answer to that question may identify the problem and the solution that our convention and many of our churches are missing.

II.                  THE REASON(S) AND REMEDY FOR OUR DECLINE

The main missing element from the church at Corinth is addressed in that great love Chapter, I Corinthians 13. The reason love (agape) was missing from the church at Corinth is because the filing of the Spirit was missing. We know that the filling was missing because the fruit was missing. The filling of the Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit; and the first fruit is love—agape (Gal. 5:2). The fruit of the Spirit was missing from the church at Corinth because the filling was missing. The key to everything is the Spirit-filled life; and the key to the Spirit-filled life is obedience.

Although there are many biblical, positive, spiritual and wonderful things going on in the SBC, what is missing across the length and breadth of our convention—and I certainly include myself and congregation in this—is the filling of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. We can dissect, dialogue, or deploy a research team to determine our malady. We can organize, administrate, mobilize and pontificate until the cows come home. But, until we become desperate for God and seek a moment by moment, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, filling of the Holy Spirit—and then start over every new year—walking in the Spirit and walking in obedience, we will not be filled; and we will continue the decline.

When the filling is missing, we become known for something else other than for our love for Christ and His Kingdom. Jesus said, by your fruit you shall know them. Jesus said, by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by your love.

The SBC is not known by her fruit or her love. She is known for many things that has caused her branding to need a rebranding—a Kingdom branding.

The SBC is known for battling over the Bible. As important as this battle was and is, it is not the battle that the Lord told us to be known for. We are to be known for our fruit and the filling of the Holy Spirit. The SBC is known for neither.

We are known to have been formed for the propagation of the gospel and slavery. The SBC still has not overcome this branding. Until at least one African American, Asian, and Hispanic occupy entity head positions in SBC life—as exemplified in Acts 13:1-2—then we will not be known by outsiders for what the church at Antioch was known for:  “Christians,“ Christ-like behavior consistently. We are known for our racial animus. Significant progress has been made. Ken Weathersby and the EC, Gary Frost at the NAMB, and Dr. Fred Luter, our illustrious President—represent quantum steps in the right direction. But we still fall short of the Kingdom inclusion at all levels—particularly at the entity head level.

We are known for hyper-complementarianism. We should be known for holy complementarianism. We are known for telling women what they can’t do. When will we be known for telling women what they can do? God promised to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). God promised to equip and empower sons and daughters. When will the SBC equip and empower a Lydia to play a key role in church planting. Lydia was the first person to plant a church on European soil. When will we empower a Phoebe to serve in a highly visible capacity under the leadership and authority of God’s Word and God’s male servant (Roman 16:2)? When will we empower a woman to prophesy with her head covered as Paul did in I Corinthians 11? When will the SBC become known for releasing women, not restricting women?

We are known for “spiritual gift(s) profiling”—singling out certain gifts of the Spirit to enact an emotional prejudice against. This defies all logic, rationality and the plain simple reading and understanding of Scripture. When will we appreciate and affirm all the gifts of the Spirit?

The SBC brand is suffering greatly from many years of battling over these issues. We are bruised and battle-scarred. We abandoned the bold mission thrust for the inerrancy battle. Now that this battle is over, can we return to the bold mission thrust and become known for what Jesus said we would do when we are filled: “Be witnesses” (Acts 1:8)? We are still fighting battles and causing our brand to be tarnished. We need to focus on spreading the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The key to the renewal of the SBC is one thing and one thing only:  And that is, the filling of the Holy Spirit. Every pulpit, every choir member, every Sunday School teacher, every state member, every deacon, every elder, every usher, committee member—we all need to understand the Spirit-filled life and daily seek and surrender to His filling. And that my friend is the reason(s) and the remedy for the SBC decline.

A moment by moment filling of the Holy Spirit is the key to spiritual victory in the believers’ life, congregational life and the SBC. That, my friend, is the only hope for our declining churches and convention. If the SBC can answer the question, “How to be filled and keep on being filled?” our setback was only a set-up for a great spiritual comeback—that will take us to heights that we’ve not known before. May it come to pass, Lord, according to your will, way and your Word! In Jesus’ Name, Amen!