FIRST-PERSON: Gifts and fruit
TAYLORS, S.C. (BP)--The headline on this week's column might lead one to believe I was talking about the practice of receiving gifts and filling stockings with fruit during the Christmas season. However, while those are wonderful parts of the Christmas season, that is not what I am referencing. I’m referring to the scriptural description of spiritual gifts as well as the fruits of the Spirit.
I recently met with leaders of evangelism from the North American Board, most of our state conventions, officers of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, and our seminaries. It was one of the finest meetings that I have attended since my election. Pray for this group as they work toward a national strategy for evangelism across this continent.
During one of the question and answer sessions someone asked me: What seems to be a common theme among Southern Baptists? While there are many answers to that, perhaps the most common theme of discussion which I have heard is the call for our convention to move forward in missions and evangelism and to quit the fussing and fighting of days past. Some may say this internal conflict is understandable and as long as it is within the family or internecine, then it is understandable, predictable and acceptable. But my contention is that this internal squabbling has indeed been destructive to the body. God’s people across the convention want something better.
I am not naïve. I understand that there will always be conflict, difficulty and differences of opinion. However, I am convinced there are better ways to deal with these differences.
There has been a great deal of discussion among Southern Baptists in recent months regarding spiritual gifts. There has been much healthy debate, along with some unhealthy dialogue, regarding the issues of speaking in tongues, private prayer language, etc. I encourage a healthy and positive discussion of these issues.
But I am convinced that the way to deal with conflict is to follow the admonition given by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. In other words, if we paid more attention to the fruits of the Spirit, then our discussions about the gifts of the Spirit and other issues would be done in a way that would build up the body rather than detract from the message and hinder the overall health of the body. The Bible says the fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law."
I call on all Southern Baptists to pray unto our Lord that the fruit of the Spirit will be evident as we relate, as we disagree, as we deal with the multitude of issues which are bound to come forth. I am convinced that God’s kingdom would be furthered to a far greater extent if God’s people would allow the fruit of the Spirit to come to a beautiful harvest in our lives. Then we will be able to discuss, debate and dialogue in a far more Christ-honoring way. Remember that the key to the fruit is the root! The root of this kind of Christ-honoring living is the fullness of the Holy Spirit of God. Ephesians 5:18 admonishes us to “be filled with the Spirit.”
Frank Page is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C. Visit his website at www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage.