Charles Dickens’s memorable opening line in A Tale of Two Cities comes to mind when I think about the past two months from my perspective as editor. For it has been “the best of times” and “the worst of times.” It has been a time of blessing and sadness.
The Pathway co-hosted our sixth prayer service for state government leaders in January, an event in which I believe our Lord was honored and where our leaders were assured that Missouri Southern Baptists are praying for them. The convention’s testimony – that we are a people of prayer and faith in our sovereign God – was laid bare for all to see (The Pathway story on the prayer service – along with a picture of us praying with Gov. Jay Nixon – went national and then worldwide on various Christian news services.) The blessing of that service gave way to sadness with the death of Cindy Province, our “Margaret Thatcher” who had a profound impact on The Pathway and me personally. As we continue to lift Cindy’s family up in prayer, we also realize there are tasks still to be completed in this world and before our Lord returns to make things perfect and rule over the next.
As February came to a close, two matters with momentous implications for the future of Southern Baptists and our beloved state surfaced. The first was the Great Commission Resurgence Task Force’s (GCRTF) preliminary report. The second is the remarkable, bipartisan request by leaders in the Missouri General Assembly to Missouri Southern Baptists and other Christians throughout the state to pray about the growing budget crisis facing the state (see the stories on page 1 and 3).
By now many of you have read the voluminous information circulating concerning the preliminary report issued by the GCRTF at the Feb. 22 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) Executive Committee meeting in Nashville, Tenn. Baptist Press has done its usual stellar job of providing fair, balanced and accurate coverage. Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director David Tolliver and I attended the Nashville meeting. Tolliver will offer his thoughts about the report in the next issue of The Pathway. Meanwhile, The Pathway devotes more than 20 percent of this edition to the subject (see pages 1, 10-13) and much more will be in future editions. I pledge that we will be fair and balanced in coverage so that you may thoroughly understand what is being proposed and vote as your conscience dictates.
I have chosen not to express my opinion until after the task force releases its final report on May 3. There will be plenty of time for examination and commentary on their proposal before messengers vote on them at the SBC’s annual meeting June 15-16 in Orlando, Fla. I will say this, however, about the process: It is imperative the SBC Constitution and bylaws be followed. Do not misunderstand. No one to my knowledge is attempting to circumvent the SBC’s governing rules. I want to offer a gentle reminder that Satan tempts us to not play by the rules. We are followers of Christ. Our God is a God of order, not chaos.
I am reminded of the words of Russell Kirk in his influential book, Enemies of the Permanent Things. “Civilized man lives by authority; without some reference in authority, indeed, no form of truly human existence is possible. Also man lives by prescription – that is, by ancient custom and usage, and the rights which usage and custom have established. Without just authority and respected prescription, the pillars of any tolerable social order … is not conceivable.” Our “just authority” is Christ and His Holy Word. Our “respected prescription” is the SBC governing documents. Let us debate the matter before us with enthusiasm, accuracy and in a manner that is Christ-honoring.
As for the prayer request by General Assembly leaders, I believe it is an extraordinary opportunity for the Church to offer a remedy to man’s unjust and flawed ideas. This request marks the first time I can recall since being Pathway editor that “Caesar” – the government – has asked the Church to exert its influence in such a spiritual way. Usually it is conservative, evangelical Christians like Missouri Southern Baptists who are ridiculed and accused for mixing politics and religion.
I believe it gives us the privilege to once again say to the world: Yes, Missouri Southern Baptists will pray. We are people of prayer and we pray to the one, true, sovereign God who hears our prayers because we place our faith and trust in Him. We believe His promise as articulated in 2 Chronicles 7:14. Please join me in praying for our state during this time of financial trouble and for our leaders, that they will repent and seek God for His wisdom and mercy.