The Southern Baptist Convention, began, a most Baptist affiliations do, as a gathering together Baptist churches for the purpose of centralizing resources for the propagation of the Gospel around the world. Fast forward over a hundred years later, you will find a corporate conglomerate that dictates doctrine, that owns the largest publisher of Christian literature in world (viz. LifeWay Christian Resources), that operates its own Willow Tree figurine, VeggieTales, and The Shack distribution stores (viz. LifeWay Christian Stores), that possesses its own insurance agency (viz. Guidestone Financial Resources), that has created and owns its own translation of the Bible (viz. the Holman Christian Standard version), that owns and operates six American seminaries, and that does missions through the International and North American Mission Boards. This transformation is indicative of the shift in the SBC from its former role as the mere centralization of resources for the sake of the Gospel to its present role as a massive, bureaucratic entity that makes preaching the Gospel to the nations a great ordeal.
To understand the great difficulty that the SBC causes with regards to missions, one simply has to look at a decently sized Southern Baptist church. In those churches you might find missionaries who go through the International Mission Board into the nations, but you are likely to find a greater number being sent out directly by those churches thereby by-passing the IMB. The purpose is not that those churches desire to establish their own international identity apart from the IMB, but it is because the IMB has made the process of sending out missionaries so difficult that many who would desire to be missionaries have looked upon the IMB as a great barrier rather than as a great help. They look at the mandatory education requirements and the strict doctrinal conformities and then turn their backs on the IMB and its numerous hoops and look for other options.
Some within the SBC have started to rise up against this in the name of what is being called the “Great Commission Resurgence,” however, despite what motions might be passed in the Southern Baptist Convention (which was held yesterday), those motions are operating within the petty, corporate conglomerate of today rather than in the missionary alliance of yesteryear. It has come to a point in the SBC where it is more likely that anti-abortion legislation would be passed in the U.S. Congress than there would be any drastic restructuring in the SBC for the sake of the Gospel. For the SBC will never operate as ought while is burdens itself with its numerous anti-Gospel and anti-Church organizations, and it will never relieve those burdens while there are people in “power” who take a personal stake in the SBC over the vitality of the Church and the Gospel.
All this is to say that the Southern Baptist Convention has exhausted its validity as pro-Church and pro-Gospel organization. Its Americanization into a corporate business with a self-proclaimed Christian identity has destroyed its ability to be about the work of Christ and his Kingdom. She has through her seminaries, publishing houses, and doctrinal decrees usurped the local church’s role as the teacher of doctrine and has adequately solidified the Roman division between clergy and lay persons in Baptist churches. Therefore, if there is to be any revitalization of local, Baptist churches and any concerted effort for missions among those churches, it will have to be done outside of the Southern Baptist Convention.