The Future of Southern Baptists: Mandates for What We Should Be in the Twenty-First Century -- By: Daniel L. Akin
SBJT 9:1 (Spring 2005) p. 70
The Future of Southern Baptists:
Mandates for What We Should Be
in the Twenty-First Century
Daniel L. Akin is President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, and also serves as Professor of Preaching and Theology. He previously served as Vice President for Academic Administration and Dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Akin is a popular preacher and conference teacher and is the author of 1, 2, 3 John in the New American Commentary (Broadman & Holman, 2001) and God on Sex (Broadman & Holman, 2003).
Southern Baptists have a colorful and fascinating history by any standard of measure—from the convention’s humble beginnings in Augusta, Georgia, on May 8, 1845 (only 293 persons attended the inaugural convention and 273 came from 3 states: Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia),1 to the convention’s 2004 Annual which could boast of forty state conventions, 1,194 associations, 43,024 churches, and a total membership of 16,315,050. There were 377,357 baptisms, and other additions totaled 422,350. Cooperative Program giving for 2002–2003 was $183,201,694.14 and total receipts recorded was $9,648,530,640.2 This is quite impressive any way you look at it, and for all of this, and more, Southern Baptists give thanks and glory to God. We are grateful to our Lord for what He has done for us and through us. However, it is to the future that we must now look. In spite of periodic blips on the cultural and moral screen, our nation grows more secular and our world more hostile to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Southern Baptists, in the midst of the swirling tides of modernity, have attempted to stake their claim and send a clear message on who we are. The conservative resurgence initiated in 1979 charted the course, and I would argue that the revised Baptist Faith and Message in 2000 was something of a defining moment.3 Still, I am not convinced we have a clear understanding and a clear vision of who we are and what we should be. The conservative resurgence gave Southern Baptists a second chance but it did not secure our future. Has there been a resurgence? Yes. Has there been a restoration? Doubtful. Have we experienced revival? Clearly the answer is no. These latter observations are not intended to cast a cloud of despair or disillusion. On the contrary, I am hopeful and optimistic if we will embrace ten mandates that have historically defined who Southern Baptists are and what they should be...
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