Skinner goes straight at disunity problem
By Brian Koonce
ST. LOUIS – Kerry Skinner dispensed with niceties and went straight to the heart of infighting in the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC): anger and lack of forgiveness.
Skinner is an author and lecturer who co-founded the Biblical Counseling Institute. He specializes in calling Christians to a more Christ-like fellowship through repentance and spoke during the theme interpretation at the 174th MBC annual meeting. His message was on target in the midst of close elections and a mixed report from the MBC Peace Committee.
“In John 17 Jesus prayed we’d all be one as He and the Father are one,” he said. “Before we can reach people we must restore fellowship. It’s absolutely critical. We know how, we have the originations, we have the funds, we have the plans. Why aren’t we reaching people? It may be that our hearts are not prepared.”
Skinner identified two specific sins that are holding Missouri Baptists back: anger and a lack of forgiveness.
“Jesus said love your enemies,” he said. “Missouri Baptists, your convention would grow stronger if you’d love your enemies. It’s killing our churches, it’s killing our ministry and it’s killing our witness.”
According to Skinner, there are two words that have almost disappeared from Christians’ vocabulary, two words that are perpetuating conflict in Missouri Baptist life: “sin” and “repentance.”
“We’ll never reach the peace God intends us to reach until we forgive others in our hearts,” he said. “Forgiveness has nothing to do with other people. It’s between you and God. You keep blaming everyone around you and keep looking at everyone else’s sin, but not your own. There is anger, bitterness and resentment in your heart.”
Instead of living in forgiveness, Skinner said Missouri Baptists often look to excuses, blaming problems on political systems, who holds what office, or the sins of past generations.
“They’re not your problem,” he said. “The fruit of the Spirit has nothing to do with other people.”
The answer, Skinner said, is to look inward.
“If you’re not careful, the best of the best in Missouri will get off track,” he said. “We keep blaming everyone around us, looking at everyone’s sin but our own. If sin is the problem, there is no human remedy. Instead we manage it. We are comfortably sick. A lot of God’s people, pastors and leaders included, are comfortably separated from God because they have reasoned away their sin as ‘righteous indignation.’”
Skinner then offered a five-step process to deal with sin. The first step is to say “I am wrong.” Next, “I’m sorry.” Third is “Forgive me.”
“This is where most Baptists get hung up,” he said. “Most of us don’t want to change, they just want to feel better about not changing. Jesus came to save us from sin, but we want to deal with relief and blame it on someone else.”
After that is “Cleanse me of my sin” and finally, “Empower me to live Your way instead of mine.”
“Missouri Baptists, God loves you,” he said as he called the crowd to a time of personal confession and repentance. “But He needs a people whose hearts are made perfect before Him.”