Einstein may have said it first and we have latched on to it: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” That is what came to mind this week as I read an article in the Baptist Standard.
They asked the same questions they always ask 1) What are the key issues – opportunities and/or challenges- facing Baptist churches?; 2) What are the key issues facing Baptists as a people or denomination?; 3) What would you change about the Baptist denomination – state, nation or local?
Fair questions and the answers are standard. Don’t rock the boat. Keep doing the same thing over and over again, and expect different results.
I would suggest that every Baptist who is asked these questions read Matthew 23 before answering. This chapter is probably the least preached chapter in the New Testament, in my experience of listening to sermons for 57 years.
Start at the beginning and pay particular attention to verse 23 and 24:
23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! (NRSV)
Digest that and finish the chapter with verses 37-38:
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you, desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Now go back to questions 1,2, and 3. How are you going to answer them? Declining churches, growth of non-denominational megachurches, a new generation of “nones” all demand something different than a generic stock answer.
Think carefully about your response as you remember what Jesus said in verse 30 “and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’
Then look at verse 34 and see that you are doing the same thing: “Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town…”
God is sending women – yes, women! – to preach, to pastor, to serve as deacons, yet you turn them away. You accept them into your seminaries and then you kill their spirit because you have led the congregation to believe that women cannot serve a church as a deacon, much less as a pastor!
You really want to answer these questions about Baptists! Read Matthew 23.