INDIANAPOLIS (BP)--The Southern Baptist Convention may be facing a "death check" but the convention can overcome its illness by refocusing on being servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries, Al Gilbert, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., told messengers June 11 at the SBC annual meeting in Indianapolis.
Gilbert, who was diagnosed in 2005 with a rare cancer called liposarcoma, began the annual convention message by recalling the grim cancer diagnosis. Told initially he would survive only five years, Gilbert subsequently visited specialists whose tests resulted in a better prognosis and surgery to remove the cancer.
The situation turned out to be "life-altering, but not life-threatening," Gilbert said.
"I'm happy to report that in the days of that death check, I went to the bottom and found that it was solid. God was there," Gilbert said. "But during those times of consideration, I asked myself those questions that we all need to ask, things like, 'Am I really dead to self and alive to Christ? Can I really say that to live is Christ and to die is gain? What difference has my life made and has it really mattered? What will be said about me when I am dead and gone? What will my wife think? Did I spend too much time at the church? Did my life make any difference at all?'"
In reality, the "death check" was a good thing, Gilbert said, adding that a similar kind of inventory would be good for the Southern Baptist Convention. "Denominational doctors" have provided a grim prognosis for Southern Baptists, but others, like Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., insist the convention is far from dead, Gilbert said. It may, however, be "top-heavy," "bloated and unfocused."
Southern Baptists must examine themselves to answer questions about the convention's priorities, Gilbert said.
"Soon, we will be passing the baton to the next generation, and I don't know about you, but they tell me they are not sure they want it," Gilbert said. "That should make us sad and that should make us ask how we want to hand it off ..." Read More