Midwestern Seminary’s symposium The SBC & the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal and Recommitment has now come and gone. I have received feedback from throughout the SBC and beyond, and have been very encouraged by the overwhelmingly positive feedback.
Personally, I could not have been more pleased. Each presentation was memorable, and the presenters were both insightful and encouraging.
Frank Page went first on “The Cooperative Program and the future of Collaborative Ministry.” Page was both sobering and hopeful. He documented challenging financial trends, but also pointed to causes for hope and how we can more effectively partner together in collaborative ministry.
Paige Patterson’s presentation, “Guard What has Been Entrusted to You: Counsel to a New Generation of Southern Baptists”, was a metaphor-filled list of cautions to young ministers. It was vintage Patterson, with humor, theology, and admonitions all combined for a memorable discourse.
Albert Mohler presented on “Southern Baptists and the Quest for Theological Identity–Unavoidable Questions for the 21st Century.” As usual, he was both incisive and prophetic. Mohler argued that our identity must be theological, and that cultural and tribal reasons for affiliation will prove inadequate. As one attender told me, “He opened his mouth and his brains began running out.”
David Dockery’s presentation “Who Are Southern Baptists? Towards a Trans-Generational Identity” put forth a sweeping overview of Baptist history and Baptist identity, and how we maintain the latter going forward. Of special interest was Dockery’s concluding list of markers of Baptist identity. As usual, Dockery was spot on.
I found Thom Rainer’s presentation “By the Numbers: What SBC Demographics Tell Us About Our Past, Present and Future” the most fascinating. He brought forth previously unnoted demographical data on SBC churches. Most intriguingly, he noted the “silent period” of Southern Baptist life. This 30-year era, from 1920 – 1949, shows a net decrease in new churches. He then fleshed out the consequences when evangelism and church planting are not at the forefront of the SBC.
However, SBC president Ronnie Floyd’s presentation “Kindling Afresh the Gift of God: Spiritual Renewal, Strategic Reinvention, and the SBC” took the headline. As has been widely reported, Dr. Floyd challenged the SBC to be willing to conceptualize our denominational work anew at every level. His presentation was panoramic in scope, touching on most every area of denominational life, including our funding models and national structures.
Additionally, four Midwestern Seminary men led breakout sessions, each of which were well attended. Provost Jason Duesing presented on “A Denomination Always for the Church: Ecclesiological Distinctives as a Basis for Confessional Cooperation.” From the Spurgeon Library, Christian George spoke on “Downgrade: 21st Century Lessons from 19th Century Baptists.” Professor of theology Owen Strachan presented on “Doctrine will Keep Us Alive: Why the SBC & Confessional Christianity will Thrive in a Compromised Culture.” ; and Midwestern College Dean John Mark Yeats delivered an address entitled “16,000,000 Southern Baptists? Recovering Regenerate Church Membership.”
Also, woven throughout the conference were three panels. The first on “Passing the Baton: Raising Up the Next Generation of SBC Leaders”, the second panel on “The Future of State Conventions”, and, the culminating conference event, a panel on “Facing the Future Together.”
While the symposium has passed, we trust its positive effect will carry forward. The presentations will remain accessible at mbts.edu; and, as previously announced, a book based on these presentations, and other contributions, will be released in June at the annual meeting of the SBC in St. Louis. Until then, join me in praying God will use the symposium to strengthen our collective ministries.topicsSBC Symposium, Southern Baptist