I was about to go into a chicken wing restaurant with my father-in-law when his phone rang, stopping us in our tracks. His long stretches of silence let me know that the person on the other end had a lot to say. The concern on his face told me that something was wrong.
Both of my suspicions were correct.
The person on the other end was my father-in-law’s brother. He was calling to say that he had just found out that he had cancer. If, like me, your first inclination is to ask whether or not the cancer is serious you should know that a non-serious cancer has yet to be discovered. This particular type was in the bones.
Over the next few weeks I would watch my father-in-law launch an impressive evangelistic assault on his brother-in-law. The fact that the two lived on opposite sides of the country made no difference. My wife even got involved by writing a letter explaining the gospel to her uncle.
And then I was asked to help out. The request seemed simple enough. All I had to do was find a church in Washington state that my father-in-law’s brother could go to and hear the gospel. The only problem is that I live in Georgia and have never been to Washington state.
I’ve spent an overwhelming majority of my life in the Southern Baptist Convention. I was saved, baptized and discipled in a Southern Baptist church. My first full-time ministry job was in a Southern Baptist church. I graduated from the flagship Southern Baptist seminary. I am currently the pastor of a Southern Baptist church.
But when I started looking for churches in Washington, I couldn’t bring myself to find the nearest Southern Baptist church and send my father-in-law’s brother there. Would it be the kind of Southern Baptist church where all he would hear about is what’s going on in the local association along with a rundown of all the bad things Obama is doing? Would it be the kind of Southern Baptist church where a message of simple morality is preached followed by an appeal to bow heads, close eyes and raise hands? Maybe it would be one of the legitimate, gospel-saturated Southern Baptist churches but I wasn’t willing to place a life on that possibility.
As I saw it, we had one chance to make a connection here. Time was running out. This had to count.
There are several key leaders who think that Reformed Theology is a big threat to the denomination. I think they’re missing the real threats.
I have friends that grew up in the Southern Baptist Convention, that love Jesus and that want to lead their families in being a part of a local body of believers but who just can’t do that in the Southern Baptist church in their town. For them, it’s a matter of hearing a gospel of morality in a familiar setting as opposed to hearing the gospel of Christ in an unfamiliar one. Shouldn’t this be a concern to those who claim to care so much about their denomination?
In my own town, when the phrase Southern Baptist comes up in conversation, talk immediately turns to the two things Southern Baptists are known for, around here at least: no drinking and no dancing. For the record, neither of those prohibitions are actually prohibited in the Bible. Isn’t this reason for alarm? Shouldn’t those that are so worried about the future of a denomination be a little more concerned that most people associate that denomination with extra-biblical prohibitions?
I eventually found a church for my father-in-law’s brother. His first visit went really well. A few weeks later he repented of his sins and put his faith in Christ and was later baptized. Now he’s bringing his family with him to that church. A few weeks ago my father-in-law forwarded me a text from his brother.
I am 99.97 clear of my disease so I will go back on a chemo pill… doing a lot of scripture reading on healing.
I’m really thankful for news like this. I’m thankful that my wife’s Uncle Steve has a new heart and a healed body. I’m thankful that my father-in-law cared enough to pursue his brother with the gospel. I’m thankful that there was a church nearby that valued the proclamation of that same gospel.
I just wish that some of the leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention would worry less about turning secondary issues into primary ones and worry more about establishing churches that are ready to serve people like Steve with the ultimate primary issue – the gospel.