As The Pathway begins its second decade of service to Missouri Southern Baptists, it does so with optimism running high among many Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC)-affiliated churches. MBC life in the past two decades has not been easy. The battle fought for biblical fidelity and won by Project 1000, the Missouri version of the Conservative Resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), was costly yet necessary, and set the stage for what is to come. Thank God the MBC did not go the way of mainline Protestantism which long abandoned the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of Scripture.
Had the MBC gone that way (and make no mistake it was headed there), today it would be embracing homosexual ordinations, muttering over confused gender roles and a redefinition of the family, defending big government and its utopian illusion that it can meet people’s greatest need – a Savior, while remaining silent as millions of babies are killed each year.
There are still challenges before Missouri Southern Baptists. The continuing legal battle, a lack of enthusiasm by some for the Cooperative Program and budgetary challenges for churches caught in a slumping economy are nagging realities. Yet through these difficulties a new sense of optimism is arising among Missouri Southern Baptists – for a variety of reasons.
July 25 is a day to remember. There is growing confidence that the MBC’s effort to retrieve its lost agencies and that the justice it deserves following one of the most egregious acts of institutional betrayal ever perpetrated against a religious organization is finally at hand. July 25 is the day oral arguments are presented before the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City and a three-judge panel which will decide whether to uphold a Cole County Circuit Court ruling that the Missouri Baptist Foundation belongs to the MBC and not the self-perpetuating trustees that made off with it more than a decade ago. One cannot help but be optimistic about the MBC’s chances given the strong opinion issued by the Cole County court. An Appeals Court victory will fuel hope that other victories will follow in short order involving Missouri Baptist University and The Baptist Home since key wording in their charters is nearly identical to that of the Foundation.
Undeterred by the legal proceedings, MBC Executive Director John Yeats has exhaustively, but ever “the happy traveler,” crisscrossed Missouri visiting with pastors, directors of missions and lay leaders to hear their hopes and ideas. His labor is bearing fruit and reinvigorated feelings of unity and purpose among Missouri Southern Baptists like we have not seen in decades.
Meanwhile at the Baptist Building, in response to the new fiscal realities, the convention staff has been cut to a level half of what it was in the 1990s, creating greater efficiency and a re-focusing on serving MBC-affiliated churches. Yeats has smashed all semblances of a top-down organization and created one inculcated with a heart for service to churches based on what they tell the Convention staff they need to conduct their ministries. No one can minister to the needs of local people better than a local church. No one can plant new churches better than a local church. No one can do more to advance the gospel worldwide than local churches working together through the Cooperative Program.
The convention staff’s mission is to respond effectively when churches ask for help in accomplishing the tasks Jesus has put before them.
I had the opportunity to visit with many of the 200-plus Missourians who attended the SBC’s annual meeting in New Orleans and every one of them expressed excitement about the MBC’s future. Their views cut across generations, worship styles and methodologies. A major attitude adjustment is underway throughout the MBC, one that doctrinally reaffirms The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 while pledging to be more charitable in dealing with our differences in worship styles and methodologies.
The theological battle of the past two decades is behind us. The legal battle in Missouri is closer to a conclusion than ever before. In the meantime, Missouri Southern Baptists are positioning to become a catalyst for an explosive era of effective ministry – and maybe revival. Could it be that God will use Missouri to bring revival to America?
Get ready Missouri Baptists. Let’s begin on our knees, asking our mighty God to do something through us for His glory.