Every once in a while I get like this. And every time I do, I start to write a post like this. If you’re reading this, my thoughts finally made it for public consumption.

This morning I read Jenny Pope’s post about not calling herself a Baptist. A moment ago, I read Ben Cole’s farewell to the Baptist world.

Both filled me with a sense of sadness. More than that, they strike a deep pinging pain inside me. I am heartbroken. Two more people in my generation who have decided to distance from the term Baptist. They’re just the latest in a series of people, including some of my friends, who are moving away from using the term.

I can understand where they come from. First and foremost, all of us are Christ followers, not Baptists. We seek to grow in our relationship with God each day.

Baptists haven’t, don’t and will never have sole possession of righteousness. We are human, and we are fallen. We have fought in ways that do not honor God. We have not always treated each other like we should, hurting brothers and sisters in the faith. At times, some Baptists have been arrogant, self-righteous and greedy.

But without Baptists, none of the three of us is the person we are today. More pointedly, without one particular Baptist’s willingness to share her faith, I may never have found Christ. Without the help of a Baptist church in San Antonio, I may never have started growing in my faith as I did. I may never have discovered the joys of fellowshipping with the family of Christ.

Like Jenny and Ben, I attended a Baptist school. Without Baptists, Baylor University never would have been founded. The school that I love dearly shaped me in so many ways. It was there I spent long nights crying over worn pages of a Bible in trying times. I was called to ministry there. I met my wife there. When I need a pick-me-up, I still go there.

I go to a Baptist church. The people there have supported me, my wife and my young daughter through difficult and sometimes emotional times. They are my family. I will raise my daughter in a Baptist church, hoping she has the same positive experience I have had with those who call themselves Baptists.

I work for a Baptist convention. I see how money dontated by Baptists helps hurting people around the world every day. I see and hear of people coming to Christ through Baptist efforts daily. It’s an honor to serve at the BGCT.

As a generation frustrated with labels and institutions, I think we forget all that we owe to the people who fall under those labels and those institutions. We take them for granted, especially when someone under that banner or that school hurts us or doesn’t live up to our expectations.

I owe Christ my life. There is no underestimating what He has done in me, is doing in me and will do in me in the future. When I am smart enough to contemplate it for a moment, I am amazed.

While I owe Christ everything, I’m also indebted to a group of people who call themselves Baptists. Because they allowed Christ to work through them, my life is forever changed. Because of them, I met Christ, grew in my relationship with Him, became educated, met my wife and am now raising my daughter to have a relationship with Christ.

The least I can do is call myself a Baptist. I only hope I can live up to the term.

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5 Responses to “Mourning”

  1. Ken Coffee Says:

    Right on, John. Like you, I was saved in a Baptist church, educated in a Baptist school, worked for 30 years in the Baptist denomination and for fity-six years have preached to Baptists in Baptist churches all over the planetand, God willing, I will die a Baptist. By any definition I would be considered Baptist to the bone. However, there is nothing sacred about the name “Baptist.” While I love Baptists, I love Jesus more. I abhor what some have done to the Baptist name to make it undesireable to call oneself a Baptist. Because I am the father of two young Baptists, I understand the reticence some of these young people have in calling themselves by that name. I wonder what “Father” Buckner would think about Baptists today. I wonder what George Truett would think about where we are as Baptists. Yes, I understand Jenny and Ben, and I am sad about their attitudes. But, whatever it was that turned them off to Baptists, we did it ourselves.

  2. Wackypreacher Says:

    I too owe a deep gratitude to Baptist. Saved in a Baptist church, went to a Baptist college and Seminary. Have served as a Baptist minister for over 25 years. Yet, on many levels I am ashamed of Baptist. We have thrown many Godly men and women under the bus because they wouldn’t or couldn’t sign man-made documents. They could not kiss the ruby rings of the hiearchy and feel right about it. With so many forced resignations of ministers in churches, is it any wonder why the younger generation wants nothing to do with the name Baptist? We are seeing the fall-out from all of the in-fighting from the late 70’s and 80’s. It has all come back to haunt us. Young people will continue to impact our world, they are just not comfortable with the Baptist label anymore. Maybe they understand what the lost world sees, that Baptist means–judgmental. Tow the line and jump through the hoops that it takes to be officially labeled a Baptist in good standing and then we will accept you. This is not true of all Baptist, but the majority it is. The newer congregations still support Baptist causes and such, but choose to call themselves something other than Baptist. We are Christians first and foremost, who may attend a Baptist church. It is the newer congregations that give me the most hope for the future of Baptist.

  3. Ken Hall Says:

    My heart and soul rings with the message of John’s post. I also have my Baptist heritage as one of my greatest treasures.

    However, my challenge to our Baptist workers who see young adults becoming disenchanted with our denomination is not to mourn. Let us rejoice that individuals like Jenny (twenty somethings) chose to dialogue about what would make us better. Let us welcome their insight. Let us learn from their passion for the local body of believers. Let us make sure our response to their criticism is welcoming and open. When sixty percent of the children who grow up in our local churches leave when they become young adults, we obviously have something to learn.

    Being defensive and protective will only make us reactionary. I challenge us all to be open and welcoming. From that mindset comes creativity and growth. Jesus was never about protectionism in religion, He was about Kingdom expansion.

  4. David Says:

    One way or another, the Lord will cause those of us He’s made family in Christ to behave like it; it’s better, I think, without the remedial judgment He sometimes must administer. You’d think we’d have learned by now that all of us are better together than any one of us can be alone–and we’re smarter, more capable, more spiritual, etc. It’s true that, in the end, each of us must mind his own business and follow Jesus (the Lord’s reply to Peter, John 21:21-22) and each will stand alone at judgment one day; still, God’s expectation is for a body behaving like a body and exceptional ministry results (not just results) are in a team’s work only.

    We never are going to agree with each other entirely–and it doesn’t matter whether or not we do; we can have unity without having uniformity. For the sake of souls now and in the future, every generation of today’s Christians had better get that message (the young ones aren’t completely right, even if they’re completely discouraged with the older ones; the older believers aren’t completely right or wrong, even if they’re completely de-motivated for whatever the reason); it’s still iron that sharpens iron–not Jello that sharpens iron.

  5. Ferrell Says:

    Just so everyone knows, John is 28 years old. He always pushes those of us who are older to see things through the eyes of his generation, but he also has a great appreciation for the Kingdom ministry of Baptist churches.

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