Does the title of this book arouse your curiosity? If you are a Southern Baptist, it should. If you are a Christian and follow the world of Christianity, it should. Serving as a Southern Baptist pastor, it sure piqued my interest. What’s this volume all about – projection, prediction, propaganda?
First, let’s get into the basics of the book. The formal title is The SBC in the 21st Century: Reflection, Renewal, & Recommitment. It is written by an all-star cast of Southern Baptists. You know – the likes of seminary presidents and professors, SBC presidents (former) and a few other SB luminaries. It was edited by Jason K. Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and published by B&H Academic, a division of Lifeway.
The volume is sectioned off into three distinct divisions with an Introduction and Conclusion (those written by the editor). The first section, “Southern Baptist Convention and Cooperation,” is historical both in prose and statistics. If you have a numerical interest in Southern Baptist history, Thom Rainer, currently in charge of Lifeway, contributed an essay analyzing the historical numbers of the SBC. It is highly informative.
Section two is “Southern Baptist Doctrine and Distinctives.” It is this section I found most appealing, particularly the essays by Christian George, “Downgrade: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Nineteenth-Century Baptists,” and Owen Strachan, “Steel-Toed Birkenstocks and Doctrine-Loving Christians: Southern Baptist Witness and Ethics in the New Sexual Age.” George is the curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern and make a compelling comparison between Spurgeon downgrade challenge and the present day. Strachan takes on the issue of sexuality in the church in today’s culture.
The third section is entitled “Southern Baptist Ministry and Mission.” In summary, it’s a “What’s Up” and a “What’s Going to be Up” series of essays. Pay attention to the entries by Jason Allen concerning the training of new Christian workers and by Tony Merida on Southern Baptist preaching in the 21st century.
I will admit I was pleasantly surprised that there were only hints of propaganda in the book. It is rich in history and how we as Southern Baptists can draw from that history to present the Gospel in the 21st century. The overall emphasis presents a challenge. If you are at all involved in ministry or leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention, The SBC in the 21st Century is a volume that should must be read. If your pastor is unaware of the book, do him a favor and buy him a copy.
Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by B&H Academic for a fair and honest review.