Small churches are not great simply because of their numerical limitations, no more than large churches are great because of the number of heads in the pews. One can attend a church of any size that is unhealthy and detrimental to the cause of Christ. The purpose of this series of articles is to recognize that small churches that average under 100 in worship attendance still play a vital role in the advancement of the kingdom of God and have an important role in our convention. In my opinion these roles are often neglected and/or minimized by those who report our news because the headline “100 Decisions for Jesus” reads better than “Gospel Presented, One Says Yes.”
I must tell you that as I begin this series, the articles arise from my preaching series to my local church. In many ways, 2011 marked our greatest year as a church. We sent a couple to Peru on a mission trip that saw over 1,000 commitments to Christ, sent thirty-one people (out of an average of 65) on a mission trip to Arkansas, sent two men to disaster areas in Kansas and North Dakota, actively took up various items for a Burmese congregation in our area, had members teaching Bible studies in a drug rehab facility, conducted blood drives at our church, and conducted a science camp that was the best church children’s camp I’ve ever been a part. Still, as we approached the end of 2011, a pessimistic spirit began to emerge in the hallways of our church. Why? Because even though we had the greatest outreach and evangelistic impact in our church’s history, we didn’t see the visible results in our weekly worship attendance and offerings. In fact, our attendance declined, and we had to reduce our budget for the third year in a row.
SBC Convention President Bryant Wright presented Jimmy Draper, chairman of the SBC Name Change Task Force, to the SBC Executive Committee meeting in Nashville this evening (Monday, February 20th). The task force was appointed by President Wright, and thus is making its recommendation to him, who as a member of the Executive Committee could present it to the Executive Committee formally.
The task force recommended that the legal name “Southern Baptist Convention” be retained, because of the legal liabilities, name brand equity, and huge costs of changing the name. At the same time, the task force also recommended that it be supplemented with a non-legal or auxiliary name (or descriptor of our mission) of “Great Commission Baptists.” Each church could decide which name identity best fits its identity and needs. Task force members Ken Fentress, Pastor of Montrose Baptist Church in Rockville, Maryland, and Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary spoke on behalf of the recommendation.
The task force understands this proposal to be a fairly innoculous change, one that is a “win-win” for both those who want to retain the historic Southern Baptist Convention name, and for those who want a more contemporary and non-regional name. Perhaps this is the best solution for a convention that includes so many diverse perspectives.
The recommendation will go to the administrative subcommittee of the Executive Committee tomorrow, and possibly to the full Executive Committee tomorrow. In order to be presented to the SBC in New Orleans, the SBC Executive Committee will need to approve the proposal (possibly either this evening or tomorrow, but perhaps right before the SBC in June). Since the Convention’s Constitution or Bylaws are not being changed, it would not have to be approved in two consecutive SBC annual meetings, i.e., this year in New Orleans and next year in Houston. Just one vote would be necessary.
By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
Vintage is an interesting word meaning “characterized by excellence, maturity, and enduring appeal; classic.” In the words of the first stanza of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”,
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored,
He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on.
Our text, John 15:1-8, is the seventh “I am” statement of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John, where we read,
1 ”I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 ”I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.
God the Father is the focus of our message.