“Actions speak louder than words.” It is an old axiom that rings true no matter what culture or religion one finds himself in. And when a particular group trumpets a mantra over and over again for decades, people do actually look to see if that group’s actions line up with that which it trumpets.
For Southern Baptists, the final words of Christ and its implications have been the words that the denomination has trumpeted for decades: “Go and make disciples”; “Go and preach to a lost world”; “Bring the Word of salvation to the Nations.” All of which are true and good words, but do the lives of those who preach those words line up with what they claim is their heart’s desire?
First, what must be made clear is not that there are none who are Southern Baptists who live lives that demonstrate that the Nations are their heart’s desire, for there has always been a faithful remnant, but the great majority of those who preach thus as Southern Baptists contradict their words by the way in which they live their lives. These Southern Baptists are the modern-day Pharisees, who recognize the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word with their minds, but their hearts are far from God, and they preach for the approval of men.
“These are strong words,” one will object, and they are strong words. However, the fact that the Great Commission is preached over and over again and is contradicted by the lives of those who preach it is a stronger word to the world. For if the Great Commission were in fact the greatest concern of Southern Baptists, our lives would look drastically different than they do.
Take for example the pastor of the narrative, whose capital building campaign has been fulfilled, and a new building has been constructed for his church. What is the case in his example, though fictitious, is very true of pastors throughout the country, namely that his church could have, with little inconvenience, survived and even thrived in its old building, but in the name of convenience, in making a name for himself, etc. the pastor has gone to great pains to have a new building constructed to house “worship” services on Sunday. And though he might preach the Great Commission in his new building, the building itself preaches that the Great Commission is not the church’s greatest concern, for exponentially more money went into constructing the building than went to reaching the Nations with the Gospel. Add to that fact that the Scriptures never instruct churches to build larger buildings (or to build buildings at all–for the people, not the building, are the temple of the Holy Spirit), the pastor’s capital campaign, which he poured his life and soul into, is a hypocritical and God-dishonoring endeavor.
Beside the testimony of the building, the pastor contradicts his preaching by the luxurious life that he lives. He drives a new, expensive vehicle and lives in a home that would make the middle-class in America envious. The majority of his salary from the church goes to paying for his cars and house, while his tithe (the only part that he believes is God’s) goes directly to the church’s building campaign. Instead of living a life that validates that the fulfillment of the Great Commission is his heart’s desire (i.e. a life of sacrifice that would manifest itself in a much cheaper car and smaller and meager home so that a majority of his income could go to the Nations), he lives a life that demonstrates that when it comes to his money, the Nations are not on his radar.
As for the Southern Baptist seminary that lies just miles away from the pastor’s home and church, they are the producers of such men as our pastor in the narrative. For they teach future pastors of the importance of the Great Commission, yet they construct multi-million dollar buildings that act more of a demonstration of American wealth than they do of a love for the Gospel. For if the seminary’s heart was truly for the Nations, their buildings would be bare-bones buildings that act merely as weather-proof classrooms (as are seminaries in other countries), yet they are buildings that are vain and decadent through and through. For they house great monuments as the exorbitant globe in the narrative, fine décor and upholstery, and the latest technological innovations–all of which are unnecessary and rob funds from that which they preach is preeminent in their hearts. Yes, the Great Commission may be written in rich, gold letters upon the building’s inner walls, but the Great Commission never leaves that building, for the seminary’s money was exhausted on that building.
Countless other examples could be given regarding the hypocrisy of American Christians and particularly of the Southern Baptist Convention in general, but those examples do nothing more than expose more of that which has already been evinced. What we need is not more Great Commission conferences or more signatures on some Great Commission Resurgence pledge, but we need complete overhaul from the top down. It must begin in the pastors and in the seminaries, and it must be manifested in their lives, in their buildings, and upon their campuses. For if the Great Commission is preached as preeminent, it should never, never be the case that missionaries cannot be sent out to the Nations for lack of funds, while we somehow still have enough funds to erect our golden calves here in America. It is hypocrisy and wickedness, and God and the world are not fooled by it.