SBC, church's role in politics focus of 9Marks panel

DALLAS (BP) -- The Southern Baptist Convention's current condition and how churches should engage politics were topics of conversation at this year's 9Marks evening events, June 11-12, in Dallas.

Mark Dever, left, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks, and Jonathan Lehman discuss the church's role in politics June 11 in Dallas.
Photo by Marc Ira Hooks
Mark Dever moderated both 9Marks events, hosted with Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dever is the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and president of 9Marks, an organization dedicated to helping foster church health. The events, which started at 9 p.m., were held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.

Dever interviewed Jonathan Leeman, editorial director for 9Marks, Monday June 11 to discuss Leeman's new book, "How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith & Politics in a Divided Age." Leeman's book seeks to show that the church cannot be religiously neutral in the realm of politics.

"Not only should we not do that, we can't do that," Leeman said. "That's impossible."

Both Dever and pastors in attendance had the opportunity for an interactive conversation regarding Leeman's book in which they discussed the role of government in the life of the church and individual believer.

"The good of government is that it builds a platform for salvation," Leeman said.

He encouraged pastors and church members to also allow for Christian freedom and the Lord's guidance when it comes to fellow believers making political decisions.

If we pray for our neighbors, we should be praying for our politicians, said Leeman, referencing how Paul encouraged believers to pray for authority in 1 Timothy 2.

"I think one of the glorious opportunities you have, if you're the pastor of a church, is to build the kind of love and empathy and unity that the unbelieving world around you does not understand," Dever said.

On June 12, Southern Baptist leaders discussed the state of the convention and addressed specific questions raised by those in attendance.

One pastor asked the panel whether or not a trustee board had ever been voted out of office in the history of the SBC, referring to the vote that would happen June 13 regarding the motion brought to remove the executive committee of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which messengers did not pass the following day.

"If you set up a situation where the convention removes trustees because the convention in a moment in a meeting disagrees with the decision the trustees made, then you don't have a trustee system," said Al Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

One area of encouragement mentioned by Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, was the election earlier that Tuesday of J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, as president of the SBC.

"I think J.D. is where the future is," Akin said. "He will lead us well. I think he will model well for us."

Akin said the 68 percent vote for Greear shows that an older generation is ready to "pass the baton" to the next generation while still providing wise counsel.

With so many current vacancies in the SBC, Dever asked Akin if those who are new to the SBC should be worried.

"It's not unsettling. There's an opportunity for great advancement in a new day," said Akin, expressing excitement for what's ahead.

Dever asked pastors Matt Chandler and H.B. Charles Jr. how they could encourage newer Southern Baptist members with best practices in SBC participation over the two-day meeting.

"Each year when we've come in, [we've] met with individuals from the IMB, NAMB and [we] talk church planting and global missions," said Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, explaining how his team collaborates with others during the annual meeting.

"There are great gospel things going on," said Charles, pastor-teacher at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville and Orange Park, Fla., "and to hear those reports about what God is doing in the seminaries and in NAMB and the IMB. It's not just business stuff. Those are important things to hear and those are testimonies to how God is at work. I would say take it in and rejoice over those things."

Lauren Pratt is the news and information specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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