The Idol of the Great Commission: When the Main Thing Becomes a Distraction from the Main Thing.

“The important thing is that we keep the main thing the main thing.”

Yesterday I must have heard this phrase a thousand times. It’s as if this has become a rallying cry for the Southern Baptist elite. Rather than allow any meaningful discussion to take place surrounding the very real issues that plague the Southern Baptist Convention, we have disregarded any dialogue for the sake of “unity.” The problem though is that the ground that this unity is built upon is becoming increasingly shaky. The irony that this convention is taking place in California, a state that is patiently waiting “the big one,” is thick.

Yesterday at the convention many things were discussed. From the issues surrounding the sexual abuse controversy that has been at the forefront of the evangelical community for the last several weeks to the debates surrounding what is and is not a pastor. It seemed as if any time someone brought up a concern related to these topics, it was met with a sense of, “But what about missions?”

Now don’t misunderstand me here, missions and evangelism are vitally important and are something that is explicitly commanded in Scripture. I cannot think of any reasonable excuse as to why someone who has experienced the amazing grace of the Cross would keep silent and not share the Gospel with their neighbor. If someone really believes that those outside of Christ will spend an eternity in Hell, it is the most unloving thing one can do to keep the Gospel to themselves. However, it is just as dangerous to shut down needed discussion by using the Great Commission as a political tool within a denominational power struggle.

Yesterday, as the close to 9,000 messengers gathered to discuss the issues, there were times where this was blatantly on display. And for those who will say, “You’re lying,” here are a few examples of what I mean.

  • When discussing the Sex Abuse Task Forces report, a gentleman spoke from the floor surrounding his concerns with the use of Guidepost as an outside firm. His concern was related to the support for the LGBTQIA+XYZ community that Guidepost recently tweeted. His concern comes from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6 related to taking matters of the Church before the pagan. The boos and shouts of disapproval were so loud that Ed Litton had to address it from the stage. The man had a very real concern, and it was minimized because it went against the narrative.

Do I think it was a fair assessment? Personally, I do not. I don’t think the passage was applicable to this instance, but that is not relevant. The fact remains that this messenger had a concern and as he spoke to it, he was shot down by fellow Baptists. Was this not a concern that needed to be addressed?

  • Rick Warren and Saddleback Church was the center of controversy as the Credentials Committee made a recommendation to examine what the Baptist Faith and Message defines as a pastor. During this discussion and following, several remarks were made regarding the issue of women pastors as a “secondary issue.” Rick Warren would eventually speak to this controversy from the floor by stating that Saddleback Church has planted over 90 churches and that the issue was a distraction from the Great Commission.
  • An individual making a nomination for a presidential candidate made several statements that Dr. Haddaway would not allow such secondary issues to hinder the work of the Great Commission.

The problem with this mentality is that these things that are being discussed are not secondary issues. These are symptoms of a distorted view of primary issues. When we have a ongoing and heated discussion surrounding things such as the ordination of women, this is a symptom of a distorted view of the authority of the biblical text.

Should we not be having these discussions? Should this not be something that we wrestle with? Why can’t these conversations take place? Yes, we have missionaries on the field and there are lost people dying, but if we don’t address the very real issue related to the authority of the text now then we know what will happen in 20 years.

“But you cannot say that. That’s a slippery slope.”

You’re right. It is. But this is also something that we have seen before. Look what happened with the Presbyterians and their split. Look at the PCUSA now. Look at the Revoice Conference coming out of the PCA. Should we just ignore the fact that the United Methodists are about 5 seconds away from a split of their own? How did all this start? When they ignored the needed discussions related to the authority of the text and the way that it was manifesting itself within their denominations because they sought unity over truth. That is where we find ourselves at now.

We have decided that unity is more important than truth, and the world is our bedfellow. We have decided that it is more important for the world to approve of our actions than for them to be biblically faithful. Why? Because we have decided that it is more important to share the Gospel with those around us than to stand up for the Gospel. Why is this a bad thing? Because if we cannot clearly define what is in Scripture, then it is only a matter of time before the very Gospel message is chiseled down to nothing more than a false message of hope to please the world. Don’t believe me? Look at the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans. 

We need to have these conversations or our best missionary efforts won’t matter. It is time for us to leave our cowardice behind, have these hard conversations, and build the foundation for our mission efforts on a foundation of Biblical truth. There is too much at stake for us to remain scared of the hard truths.

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3 thoughts on “The Idol of the Great Commission: When the Main Thing Becomes a Distraction from the Main Thing.”

  1. That was a great article. Thank you for writing it.

    I grew up in a Pentecostal denomination that ordained women since before I could remember, but I did my undergrad and seminary in two fundamental Baptist institutions.
    One of which was forced to close shortly after I graduated. Northland (Dunbar, WI) was trying to make the transition from fundamentalism to a more generic evangelicalism, and the division that came from that attempt tore the place and its constituents apart. Our president often said, “Let’s keep the main thing the main thing.” Bloggers, students, and faculty all took sides, and no one seemed inclined to listen to each other. All issues seemed equally important to some, others had more nuanced opinions on separation and orthopraxy. I kept my mouth shut and got the diploma. The whole thing seemed so aggressive and fast paced that it didn’t seem real at the time. Bankruptcy happened quickly for Northland after that. The SBC even considered purchasing that property a while back.
    Thanks for reading my rant.

  2. “When we have a ongoing and heated discussion surrounding things such as the
    ordination of women, this is a symptom of a distorted view of the authority of the biblical text”. —Yep.


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