Admittedly, the call was disappointing: another local church pastor, frustrated by the news about our national partners and the August 15 Department of Justice subpoena of the SBC. We are all disappointed that a zealous federal entity has breached the protocol of religious liberty and, in the least, created a public relations nightmare for our cooperative mission work.
Another frustration is the reality that the Department of Justice launched an investigation, and the details of the process are currently closed to discussion. Because of past litigation, Missouri Baptists know, all too well, the importance of confidentiality in an active case, and we’ve learned to hold our tongues and defer social media pontification until the courts complete their findings.
That doesn’t mean we cannot speak to the root of this mess. We look at multiple locations in our Bibles and learn from the sacred text that the root is moral impurity. Not by the courts, but behavior among the people of God. Simply put, some people sinned grievously. When the people of God have bad actors who engage in wicked behavior, there are consequences for the whole tribe.
Wicked behavior – sin has a way of making a mess.
I’m reminded of the story my mentor, Tom Elliff, tells about how his wife knew he loved the taste of cold pineapple juice. It was not uncommon for her to drain a can of pineapple slices and capture the juice in a glass and place it in the fridge.
He was on an out-of-state preaching assignment and got in late —after she had already gone to bed. The house was dark and he tried not to wake her.
He opened the fridge, and there was the glass of pineapple juice. Without hesitancy, he grabbed the glass and began to slug down its contents. As the liquid crossed his lips, he realized it was not pineapple juice after all, but egg whites.
After realizing his expectations were not met, he attempted to spit the stringy egg whites out, but they were halfway down his throat already. To stop the flow of the egg whites, he tried to use his fingers to pinch off the egg whites. That didn’t work very well — the substance latched hold of his fingers. He flicked his fingers, but that compounded the mess — a mess that took work he hadn’t planned to do to clean it up.
Sin has a way of destroying your expectations, distracting you from your mission and creating a mess. We fool ourselves when we think sin will go away quietly into the dark and it won’t impact others. It takes energy and resources you really don’t have to clean it up.
Sin distracts. Moral impurity in particular damages people and organizations. God’s call is for His people to live holy lives that give a testimony of His own character.
On the whole, Baptists are a people that have held tenaciously to local church autonomy. We cooperate together to build out systems and ministries that are larger than any one local church. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of lost people who die every day without Christ. Our mission is the reach them with the gospel.
Missouri Baptists join with other state conventions in supporting the most comprehensive mission strategy in Christian history. It is amazing what the Lord has done through our state convention of churches with our state initiatives for fortifying local churches, strengthening associations, three universities, Baptist Homes & Healthcare Ministries, the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home, and the Missouri Baptist Foundation. Every state convention missionary, and every leader of these ministries, is committed to a biblical worldview and committed to the mission of reaching the world for Christ.
In good times and in troubled times, we are committed to work in relationship with all our SBC partners — their leaders and trustees (IMB, NAMB, six seminaries and the ERLC) to fulfill the mission of reaching the peoples of the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The unified Cooperative Program is the common funding stream that engages us all in the common mission to reach people with the gospel. Our cooperative work does not exist for anything other than the mission. There is too much lostness and brokenness for us to be distracted. We must maintain our focus on what Jesus told us to do.
Still some local churches believe escrowing CP funds will make a difference. For those churches, Missouri Baptists created “Plan B.” Plan B gives local churches the option to exclude particular SBC entities from their Cooperative Program giving. No one wants to see this.
Let’s walk together. We will persevere through this hour by faith and focus on what the Lord Jesus has told us to do — reach the peoples of the world.