American Baptists have a long history of being concerned with equality and social justice. We have many initiatives in our own right and partner with other organizations to fight hunger, oppression, and injustice, to promote equality and social well-being. One of our mottoes is “Being the hands and feet of Christ.” This is all very good. But I have this against us. We seem to have forgotten our first love.
Recently my wife attended an American Baptist Women’s conference. She was largely disappointed in the experience and told them she probably wouldn’t be back next year. One major critique was a lack of prayer. There was one pre-prepared prayer read at one of the final sessions … and that was it. Hardly a sign of a vibrant spiritual life.
In all of the ABC-USA conferences I’ve been to the message was much of a sameness; our efforts in social causes and how we can do better. The one sort-of God centered conference could be summed up as follows: “We have no idea where we’re going, but we’re sure God’s leading us there.”
We seem to have lost our focus on proclamation and disciple making. When a church meeting or conference can be confused for a Rotary or Kiwanis function, then “[s]omething is rotten in the state of [the ABC-USA]”.
I’m not just trying to bag on my chosen denomination. Baptists were born out of the English Separatist movement and it’s easy for us to continue in that vein. That’s why there are so many different Baptist groups, conventions, associations, etc. Rather I’m trying to be a Puritan, urging us to repent and return to our first love. Return to the Gospel of Jesus Christ which declares that we were dead in our sins and He brought us to life, that salvation comes by grace alone though faith alone in Christ alone, and not through all our good works.
I would love to meet and join with other Christ centered, Gospel driven ABC-USA churches and pastors. I would love to see revival in our midst, to see the fire for the Gospel of Christ rekindled in the hearts of a people who’s love of Scripture led them to stand against the established religious authority. I would love for us to be not only the hands and feet, but the mouth of Christ as well who proclaimed “…the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’”
I would love to see us return to our first love.