I just came home from the 60th annual gathering of pastors and leaders of the Luzon Convention of Southern Baptist Churches, and I am forcing myself to reflect on what I have seen.
I want to be able to say that the Luzon Convention is in good shape, but that would be dishonest. I want to say that we can all look forward to working together as local churches towards the Great Commission as our main goal, but even that has caveats. There are things to be hopeful about, but a lot of work needs to be done in the hearts of the pastors and leaders for the future of the Luzon Convention to be secure.
As honestly as I can put it, I came home tired, concerned, but hopeful.
I came home tired. The annual gathering is supposed to be a time of refreshing for pastors who all year long are toiling for the local churches. It is supposed to be a time of encouragement for church planters who are scattered throughout the country, evangelizing and planting churches, working under less than ideal funding and circumstances. It should be a time when we who work in the ministry of Southern Baptist churches are energized by feasting on God’s Word and encouraged by preaching from wise and godly men.
Instead we were “entertained” by pomp and pageantry, hoping that it could refresh us who work in ministry. But what good will this do to those whose spirits are drained and need fuel for ministry? We were forced to deal with politics from old men who want to protect their images and positions. We were witnesses to the maneuvering and manipulation of men who, in all honesty, should not even be in leadership positions anymore. No wonder this gathering took more energy from us than it was supposed to supply.
I came home concerned. Front and center in this gathering was teaching that stepped on and spit on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Wherever prosperity is preached, the true Gospel disappears, and I am afraid that it has in the Convention. Pastors from all over the country were “encouraged” to look at prosperity and church numbers as the goal of pastoral ministry. This is AN INSULT to the God who called these men to ministry — and called them to lead simple lives and called them to contentment and satisfaction in Christ. I am concerned at why this kind of teaching is even allowed on the pulpit of the convention. What have we become? What goals are we targeting? Have we stopped considering Christ-like ministry as the primary model for ministry in our church? Has financial security taken over as the main goal of our ministry?
I shed tears openly when I realized that the younger men in Luzon Southern Baptist pastoral ministry had so few mentors. We need to look up to older men who have fought and struggled for the primacy of Christ and the Gospel in their lives. We need to look up to older men who will tell us to love Christ above all else, and fight for this our whole lives — poverty and suffering be damned. I mourned for a good while, because there are so few. I have been blessed because I know some of these pastors who are still focused on personal holiness, godly ministry, and the power of the Gospel to change lives. But I fear for younger pastors in the convention who do not have mentors.
But amidst all this, there is hope.
There was a loud preaching for the convention to repent from its ways. There was a clear exposition that the convention was not doing well. There was a word of discipline from the word of God. And herein lies my hope:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.Hebrews 12:7-8
My hope lies in the fact that if God is disciplining the Luzon Convention, then somehow, the Lord is still being merciful to us. God will not discipline those who are not his sons. Oh Hallelujah! Praise the Father for his discipline upon us, because he disciplines those whom he loves. He wants us back! He wants our hearts to return to him! He wants us to forsake our foolish ways and return to Him! Oh what hope and joy!
I praise God for the preaching and admonition of godly men who courageously took the pulpit to speak against the rot of prosperity and the false hope of church numerical growth. I praise God for these men who called out for faithfulness and personal holiness as the correct barometers of successful ministry. I praise God for men who trembled and stepped out to wade into the murky waters of the convention leadership politics — as God has called them to be instruments of godliness in there. I praise God for you.
I read a recent comment on a thread that “the young millennial pastors will make the Southern Baptist Convention great again.” I suppose I am part of that group, and I should be flattered. But that is a lie, and I do not want to put my hope in a lie.
The hope of the Church is not on the young pastors — we are stupid and naive and prone to wander. It is not even in the wisdom of the elders — they struggle with pride and lust and ego like we all do. Our hope is not here; we are not supposed to look inward to ourselves and find hope.
Our hope is in Christ. Only he is able, and he will execute his will upon the Luzon Southern Baptist Convention with or without us. The hope for the local church is Christ. The hope for the young pastor and the old pastor is Christ. Only he is God, there is no other. Far be it from us to entrust the bride of Christ to the idolatry of self.
***This article originally appeared here.