SBC Today: Dr. Turner, what do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Dr. Turner: An organization as large and as diverse as the SBC will face a number of challenges on different fronts or areas of ministry. In my opinion, we face two great challenges. Our greatest external challenge is reaching the vast number of urban poor people in America. Our greatest internal challenge is our loss of focus on cooperation as a means of reaching them.
SBC Today: What do you see as the greatest opportunities opening to the SBC?
Dr. Turner: The economic crisis in our country opens the door to effective ministry by many of our churches. To capitalize on this opportunity we need to enlist our members and the lost people under our influence to meet the needs of disadvantaged people. In Arkansas, we have found that these “church to community” type ministries not only reach their specific target groups with the gospel, they also reach those who want to help but have no reliable way to do so. Many of these are lost and unchurched, and can be reached as we serve those with needs.
SBC Today: What are some of the best things happening in the Arkansas Baptist Convention?
Dr. Turner: A number of churches have experienced a special movement of God in the past few years: FBC, Beebe, AR, and Central in Bald Knob, AR. This is exciting to see. In addition, we are beginning to see some progress in planting Southern Baptist African American churches. This has been slow, hard work, but we are seeing encouraging results. Our young church planters seem to have caught a vision for cooperative ministry and this is encouraging. Our convention has effective ministry through partnerships around the world. Arkansas is a great place to serve the Lord.
An Interview with Dr. Frank S. Page
President and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the SBC?
Frank Page: I think the challenges confronting the SBC today are different than they have been in decades past. I think one of the issues which is a tremendous challenge for us is the theological divide of Calvinism and non-Calvinism. Everyone is aware of this, but few want to talk about this in public. The reason is obvious. It is deeply divisive in many situations and is disconcerting in others. At some point we are going to see the challenges which are ensuing from this divide become even more problematic for us. I regularly receive communications from churches who are struggling over this issue.
I believe we face serious methodological challenges. There is an increasing divide between those who are more traditional, more contemporary in mindset, programming, and funding methodologies. Sometimes this division is between age groups, but more often between people of various philosophical positions. This is leading to deep questions about what we should do, what we should not do, and how we should do what we decide we should do. I believe this is the area of greatest challenge concerning the SBC at this present time.
There are also cultural challenges which are facing us. Demographics are shifting dramatically in many ways. Culture is affecting our churches far more than it should as far as mindset, understanding, and acceptance of certain lifestyles. Instead of us dramatically affecting our culture, I am afraid it is having an opposite influence.
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest opportunities opening to the SBC?
Frank Page: I believe there is a great opportunity opening to the SBC right now. Having gone through the GCR Task Force, I can assure you that for the first time in a long time, people are seriously evaluating all that we do as Southern Baptists. Personally, I think this is good. I think we have an opportunity to do better than what we are now doing. I believe we have an opportunity to effect Kingdom change for Kingdom issues. I believe for the first time in a long time, we are seeing a change in how people perceive the Cooperative Program. I believe there is a window of opportunity for the building of relationships, the rebuilding of trust that will allow us a great ministry future together. While I may sound like a denominational servant expressing hope for a program, I have hope for the Kingdom!
SBC Today: What do you think are the greatest challenges confronting the SBC?
Dr. Richards: Other than a spiritual awakening, perhaps one major challenge to the SBC is cooperation. The monolithic structure of the Southern Baptist Convention is long gone. We no longer have the stack poles of uniform Sunday school literature, hymnody, or Training Union. As we made huge strides in diversifying to reach people for Christ we changed some aspects of our convention. This is not necessarily bad. However, we must find commonalities to share in order to stay together.
Three simple core values will enable us to meet the challenges. We must be biblically based. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is not a maximal statement but it does provide general parameters. Being Kingdom focused by keeping missions and evangelism in the forefront is essential. Minimizing bureaucracy and maximizing accountability by Southern Baptist ministries beyond the local church builds confidence and participation. Missional funding is the third value. Having a unified budget for missions and education enables us to function as a group of churches. Without the Cooperative Program or something very similar it is impossible to maintain the infrastructure to do many of the ministries we celebrate. Some ministries that depend on missional funding are coordination of an international and North American mission strategy, quality theological education, services to churches and ministers, and disaster relief to name only a few.