Category Archives for Interviews

An Interview with Bart Barber

December 6, 2011

Dr. Bart Barber is Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, Texas, a Trustee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and host of the PraiseGod Barebones blog.

SBC TodayWhat do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Bart Barber: I would identify three. First, the decline of support for the Cooperative Program is, I think, the greatest challenge that the SBC faces today. Just this week Baptist Press has reported that CP receipts are down over 11% from last year at this time. The CP is one of the things that defines the modern SBC. Prior to our modern phase, however, the SBC has existed without the CP, so it is not that difficult to imagine what a post-CP SBC would look like. We’ll find more and more missions money going to fundraising agents and we’ll see an overall decline in Great Commission efficiency. The CP is not perfectly efficient, but it has proven to be far more efficient than the society method that is the only real alternative. The SBC can certainly reinvent itself without the CP if it has to do so, but the implications of that reinvention will be far-reaching and entirely negative.

Second, the erosion of the Southern Baptist structures between the local church and the national SBC is, unlike the first challenge, taking the SBC to a place entirely unprecedented in Baptist life. Local associations far predate anything like the SBC, and state Baptist conventions have played a prominent role throughout the entire history of the SBC. Many local associations are in serious trouble and many state conventions are understandably nervous about the future as well. The national SBC has counted upon local associations to be the theological gatekeepers and the fraternal glue of the convention. I think we’re seeing some local associations trying to reassert themselves as the former, but by and large local associations have ceased and desisted from theological watchdog activity. The widening diversity of the SBC (both theological and methodological) has also made it much more difficult to build sisterly bonds among churches in a local association when they may have difficulty discerning what they have in common, with the result that many local Southern Baptist churches are finding kinship relationships in venues other than their local associations. This trend, if it continues, will force the Southern Baptist Convention to find other ways to fulfill these two critically important functions.

Finally, the decline of congregationalism among Southern Baptist churches poses a tremendous challenge for the SBC in the future. The polity of the SBC has been extrapolated from the polity of our local churches. If the leadership of the SBC is increasingly populated with people who need not bother with building a voting consensus in the ministries of their local churches, it is difficult to imagine that there will be no impact upon the manner of their leadership within the national denomination.
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An Interview with Rev. Fred Luter

November 22, 2011

Fred Luter is Pastor of the Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a possible nominee for President of the SBC at the Convention in New Orleans next year.

SBC Today:  What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Fred Luter: I believe the greatest challenge confronting the SBC is to not get side-tracked from our main Biblical mandate and that is to carry out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.  We have been commissioned by our Lord to win this lost world to a saving knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All of the churches in this great convention must do our best to “make the main thing the main thing”!

SBC Today: What do you see as the greatest opportunities opening to the SBC?

Fred Luter:  The greatest opportunity opening to the SBC is that the Bible is still true and accurate when it says, “the harvest is truly plentiful”! Our communities, our cities, our country, our world is full of lost people. Consequently, our convention has the greatest opportunity to make the greatest impact for the Kingdom of God. We can literally see Acts 1:8 become a reality in a powerful way in our lifetime. Wow, what a revival that would be for our convention, for our nation and for our world!

SBC Today: Some of your friends (including me) have encouraged you to allow your name to be presented as President of the SBC next year in New Orleans. Where are you on that right now?

Fred Luter: I am about 85 percent sure I will allow my name to be nominated for SBC president. There still are a few people that I respect and admire that I need to hear their counsel. I truly desire the prayers of the saints of God during this time of decision and direction for my life and ministry.
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An Interview with Bryant Wright

November 8, 2011

Bryant Wright is Senior Pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, Chairman of Right from the Heart Ministries, and the President of the SBC

SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?

Bryant Wright: This is a hard question to answer in the sense that it is so hard to get your arms around the SBC. I would say the biggest challenge is having fully devoted followers of Christ. I think we have, within the SBC, is what you have within the American church, and that is the idolatry of materialism, the idolatry of pleasure or hedonism, workaholism, and busyness, there are just so many things that keep us from having Christ as our first love. I really feel like that’s our number one challenge. For the church to have impact, we’ve got to get that priority right with the Lord. Because materialism is such an idol in the church, people are giving less to the Lord. When they are giving less and churches have less, it is affecting all our missions programs.

As I’ve served now a year and a half as SBC President, I’ve realized that sometimes your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness. With the autonomy of each local church, with the autonomy of associations, with the autonomy of the state conventions it is very difficult within our denomination to have people all going in the same direction. Amazingly, I think what happened in Phoenix with the unity that Tom (Elliff) and Kevin (Ezell) and David Platt and I and Vance Pitman with the Pastor’s Conference had about focusing on unreached people groups and focusing on church planting was supernatural. It was a unique unity that we felt was really Spirit-led. We all had the same mindset even before we began to talk together. But when you look at all the different autonomous entities within our convention, it is a huge challenge just getting communication out there about how we can better fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. Communication is a huge challenge. Every state convention has got their priorities and they are certainly going to be focused most of all on Baptist work in that state. So, from the national convention perspective, it’s very difficult to have everyone on the same page.

SBC Today: What do you see as the greatest opportunities opening to the SBC?

Bryant Wright: I’m very optimistic about the future of missions within the convention. I do think there has had to be a reprioritizing of state conventions so that more funding would go to international and North American missions rather than staying in the states. I do feel that is a great opportunity because more and more states willing to talk about that now and address it now. That is a huge, historic step. I feel that people are going to give more generously to the Cooperative Program when they see a bulk of that getting out on the international mission field as well as the North American mission field.

If you look at the dynamic spirit in all six seminaries with the students and the spirit they have of planting churches, going to the tough places on the mission field, thinking about the future of the Convention, I think it is a very exciting opportunity. Anybody that visits our seminary campuses today and sees the spirit of our students, you can’t help but be motivated and excited.
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