A Layman’s Perspective on the Generation Gap in the SBC
By Nathan A. Finn
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post titled “The Southern Baptist Generation Gap.” The next day, I received the following email from a brother who wanted to offer a “lay perspective” on the generation gap. I asked that brother if he was comfortable with me reprinting his email at Between the Times if I did not mention his name. He was amenable to that arrangement, so the following appears with the permission of the original author. (Note: The guys at the Baptist 21 blog has been interacting with my “Generation Gap” post recently. You can read their posts here and here.)
First, thank you for taking the time to read my email. I read the blog daily and wanted to offer my comments to you. Since I am sure that the majority of the people you interact with on this topic are seminary students, I thought I would share with you a lay perspective.
First, let me say that I have attended SBC meetings as a visitor, but never a messenger. Why? Several reasons, the most common is that I found myself going to a large church, and the limit on messengers was already taken by more senior members/staff. While I understand that these older and much wiser brothers/sisters are important at the convention, I have found by talking to them that it was as much a “reunion” experience as an experience in trying to shape and lead our denomination.
Second, I would say that, it appears, most leaders who saw us through the Conservative Resurgence are not inclined to “pass the baton” to the younger crowd. Now, I should tell you I’m not a “20-something”. I am 33, married and with a child. However, this type of attitude of “not passing the baton” doesn’t just exist at the convention level. Too many of my friends (especially those at larger churches) who are laity, are discouraged from taking leadership assignments in the church (especially Sunday School). We constantly hear our pastors/ leaders say (at the Convention level), “We need the young people involved. We need a new generation of teachers to teach our people.” But when we step forward, we are given the impression, overall, to wait. Wait till your 40 (it seems).
Now, let me qualifythis by saying that, on the whole, my experience has been only at my church, and what my friends tell me of theirs. What is also disappointing is that my senior pastor currently holds a very high leadership position in the Convention.
Solutions? I just want to dialogue with the older guys. Why are they scared or apprehensive of the younger generation? Are they afraid we are not ground in biblical truth (to which I would ask them if they felt they did a poor job teaching us?). Are they concerned that we will chase every theological fad? (Emerging Church?). Are they concerned we will become anti-missional? Are they afraid that we will become Calvinists?
I can’t speak for all of the younger crowd, but some of us do not go to the Convention because we don’t feel like its “our” Convention. What I mean by that is, we don’t feel like we belong “at the grown-ups table”. What that means, is not that we want to “re-write” the BF&M, have our own candidate for President, or anything of the sort. We just want to be included in the discussion. Allow us to learn from the older/wiser leaders while we can. We are students of the Resurgence. We read of its history. We can still talk with the soldiers of that battle. We hear of how bad things were. Don’t be afraid we will allow the Convention to go astray.
Sometimes, just sometimes, I wonder . . . as I listen to Convention speeches, or see the votes being taken . . . if I am watching our Convention slowly fade away. Much like a child watches his/her parents pass away. Not due to theological reasons, or decline in membership, or attendance. But by the slow good bye of our elder brothers . . . who loved us . . . but never trusted us. (NAF: ellipses in original).
And then . . . when the former leaders move on . . . we aren’t picking up a baton. We are fighting each other for what’s left. As some family’s do at the reading of the will of their much loved family member.
Just my thoughts . . .
Thank you again for taking the time to read this. I actively support SEBTS and I consider Dr. Akin my hero. Keep up the good work!