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Benedict Option Baptists

America's largest Protestant church resets itself for a post-Christian age
Benedict Option Baptists

Pastor Alan Cross writes from the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention:

5,300 Baptists from all over the country have gathered for prayer, preaching, and deciding our future. It is a collaborative approach to church government as each church can send messengers (delegates) and each messenger can vote and make motions from the floor for consideration. Leaders are elected by the whole and resolutions are passed on significant issues.

I wanted to tell you that the mood here has been “encouraged.” Last night, 5000 people spent 3 hours in prayer and repentance. Leaders from different ethnic groups gathered on stage and repented of sins of racism and division, led by Caucasians. There were significant prayers for racial unity and healing in America.

Southern Baptists do not seem discouraged at all. They are realistic about what is happening in America and much mention has been made of it. There are no heads in the sand here. But, instead of panic, there is a growing joyful resolve to BE the people of God in an alien land.

Russell Moore’s sermon on Sunday night was incredible. An excerpt:

“If you frantically feel as though you are losing; if you frantically feel as though the culture is leaving you behind, then the problem is that we will become just like the culture that we are critiquing: who’s up, and who’s down, and who’s in charge, and who’s not. God is not surprised by whatever is happening right now in the world around you, in your community, or in the world at large. And maybe God is interested right now not so much in getting America in line with the church, as God is interested in getting the church out of step with America. He says to His disciples, ‘You are different. You have a distinctive calling. You have a distinctive witness. You have a distinctive future. We have a different way.’”

A summary: https://sbcvoices.com/dr-russell-moore/

This fits with a lot of what you have been saying about the Benedict Option with a clear focus on God’s sovereignty and power and a joyful resolve to engage the world with the gospel. In August, 13,000 Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville for a missions conference for America and the world. They have had to move the venue because of an explosion in registration. More churches are being planted in America and 58% are ethnic minority-majority churches.

The SBC is being reborn as a massive multiethnic denomination. Decline is happening right now as the growth from the 60’s-70’s atrophies. But, there are green shoots of growth happening among Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and immigrants from around the world. The SBC in ten years will look different than it looks now, but that is a good thing. It will be younger, more ethnically and geographically diverse, and standing firm on the gospel of Christ.

If you read that summary of Russell Moore’s sermon, it sure sounds like he’s leading his people in a Benedict Option direction: towards joyfully embracing exile and counterculture status. This is encouraging!

To recap: The Benedict Option is about both retreat and engagement.

It is retreat in the sense that it requires a) an honest and sober recognition of the condition of our post-Christian culture, and the relationship of the church to it; b) a realistic understanding of how radically Christianity opposes the mainstream post-Christian culture; c) a clear grasp of how radically Christians have to live, in community, to “push back against the world as hard as it pushes against you” (Flannery O’Connor), and d) implementing these new, and renewed, ways of living, in part to build resilience for the trials to come, and to guard against assimilation.

It is about engagement in that the church has a mission to serve the world, through evangelism and works of charity. The church can only fulfill its mission if it knows who, and what, it is. The early Benedictines lived in community, behind monastery walls, so they could pray as they were called to pray. But they also served the people outside the monastery walls. The former had everything to do with how effectively they did the latter.



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