Accentuating the Positive

January 6, 2014

by Jim Davis, pastor
Grace Bible Church (SBC)
Oxford, Miss.

My name is Jim Davis. I am a Southern Baptist pastor, and I am reformed.

Somehow, introducing myself that way in this context feels like an Alcoholics Anonymous introduction. I don’t, however, believe that God predestines people to hell; I do believe we have real, urgent decisions to make; I do believe our prayers matter; and, I don’t believe anyone comes to faith without the preaching of the gospel. This is what I believe constitutes the vast majority of reformed people in the SBC.

During the recent Advent season, the Lord renewed in me a deep sense of gratitude for many different people in very different seasons of my life. For my parents, my wife, my children, for the Campus Crusade staff person who shared the gospel with me while a I was very lost student at Florida State University, for the Presbyterian church in Tallahassee that took me in as a new believer, and the many men who have invested in me since. I am also very thankful for my non-reformed brothers and sisters in the SBC.

I moved to Oxford, Mississippi, a year and a half ago and asked Dr. Eric Hankins to lunch mostly because I was incensed with his writings. During the past 18 months — after many lunches, coffees and, yes, arguments — the Lord has allowed a very dear friendship to develop.

Yes, Eric and I still disagree on some things, but I am convinced we agree on much more. I lived in Italy for five years where evangelical Christians make up 1 percent of the population and have no doubt that in that context, Eric and I would go to the same church. I’m deeply thankful for the theological freedom that exists in the southern United States today, but it does come at a cost. That cost is gospel unity. There are places in the world where Baptists, Pentecostals, and Methodists band together because they are the 1 percent surrounded by the 99 percent who deny our Savior.

I am challenged daily by my non-reformed friends to pray more vigorously, to share my faith more boldly, and to strive for personal holiness more diligently. I look at other denominations and see that what divides them cannot co-exist with what works to unite them.

I praise God for what makes some of us unique in the SBC, but I praise Him so much more for what unites us. I pray that in 2014 this conversation would continue and, as it does, what unites us would be all the more clear and that more unusual friendships would develop thanks to an even more unusual message of salvation.