Chapman: Missions trumps doctrinal divide

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)--As the Southern Baptist Convention considers the specifics of a Great Commission Resurgence, Morris H. Chapman said a fervor for missions trumps doctrinal divides and Southern Baptists will unite for the sake of lost souls.

"The victories of faith in the life of the convention did not happen because men and women loved doctrine," Chapman, president of the Executive Committee, said during the morning report June 23. "They happened because they loved Jesus."

Chapman mentioned some of the issues that have been debated in recent days, noting first that the convention must "maintain a careful balance between cultural adaptation and Gospel proclamation."

"We must never subvert the changeless Gospel to an inordinate fascination with changing cultural forms and sociological trends. To hide the lamp of the Gospel under the bushel of cultural compromise is a grievous sin against the Spirit of God," Chapman said.

"Some of the church growth methodologies that masquerade under the guise of Bible exposition are increasingly known for the crude themes and the vulgar language of their strongest advocates. The sacred desk is no place for the carnal, the sensual and the sensational," he said.

"Ministers of the Gospel must exercise great caution when rushing in where angels dare not tread, and churches and pastors of the Southern Baptist Convention must avoid even the appearance of evil in this regard."

Concerning some theological debates, Chapman said man often is tempted to design a theory about a biblical concept in order to clarify what God is trying to say, but man's system always will be inferior to God's system.

"The vast majority of Southern Baptists are well-documented as believing that the Word of God teaches [that] the sovereignty of God convicts the heart of man, and he responds to that conviction by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ," Chapman said.

"If there is any doctrine of grace that drives men to argue and to debate more than it drives them to pursue lost souls and persuade all men to be reconciled to God, then it is not a doctrine that will form a foundation for a fervent fulfillment of the Great Commission," he said.

Southern Baptists must come together around the Bible rather than some man's theology, Chapman said, and acknowledge that both God's sovereignty and a believer's faithfulness to share Christ are necessary elements for salvation.

"The Southern Baptist Convention is not too big to fail. It is possible that we could become weary in our walk, that we could faint in our run," Chapman said. "It is possible that our focus could become more blurred and our faith could become weak.

"No committee, no president, no agency, no institution and no executive director can renew our strength. No program and no report can revive our soul."

The convention has hit troubled waters before, Chapman said, as Southern Baptists debated their identity.

"But while the controversy raged and theologians were arguing about Baptist identity, Lottie Moon was boarding a boat to the distant shores of East Asia," Chapman said to applause.

Early believers were a missionary people before they were anything else, he said, and Southern Baptists launched the Cooperative Program as a tool to keep the convention focused on the Gospel "rather than on the budgets and buildings and bureaucracy."

Chapman also reminded messengers that 95 percent of all gifts through the Cooperative Program are used for missions and theological education, and only 5 percent is used for facilitating ministries.

"Where will we be and what will we be doing when Lottie Moon is once again boarding a boat to the distant shores of East Asia? Better yet, what will we be doing when Christ comes again? What will we have done for His glory between now and then? What if it were to be soon?" he asked.

Regarding the Great Commission Resurgence declaration, Chapman set forth five questions for the convention to consider.

"Is a Great Commission Resurgence more about the Great Commission than about the Southern Baptist Convention?" he asked. "Like the Conservative Resurgence, does the Great Commission Resurgence offer a clear objective and transparent process for achieving that objective?

"Does the Great Commission Resurgence seek to bring together all Southern Baptists -- at the national, state and associational level -- or does it unnecessarily alienate certain demographics?

"Does the Great Commission Resurgence declaration honor the long-established trustee governance of our entities wherein the trustees are elected by the Southern Baptist Convention from among pastors and laymen throughout the Convention?

"Does the Great Commission Resurgence seek personal transformation of our hearts or institutional transformation of our structure?" Chapman asked.


Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.