LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- "The local church is God's plan to attack the gates of hell," said Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee, during a special forum at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., Southern's president, hosted Page for a discussion of major issues in the Southern Baptist Convention.
Among various issues facing the SBC, Page emphasized that the most important issue is not doctrinal, but rather the relevance of the convention to the 21st century. The methodological divide among Southern Baptists, he said, could threaten the future growth of their churches.
Page celebrated the consistent desire among Southern Baptists to fulfill the Great Commission. "I think Southern Baptists have grown weary of slogans and programs," he said, "but believe in the power of the Gospel."
Page explained that the Executive Committee is lowering its costs so that more Cooperative Program funds go directly to missions, but he noted that the CP still depends on churches giving to support missionaries who are ready to serve. Mohler and Page discussed the challenges of a generation in which there are more missionaries ready to go than the SBC has resources to send.
Page encouraged Southern's students pursuing church planting to also consider ministry in traditional church settings, noting that an aging pastoral pool is making it so that some churches aren't able to find pastors.
Voicing a vision for healthy churches planting healthy churches, Page said, "We don't need more churches in America, we need more healthy churches" -- traditional churches and church plants working alongside each other for the Gospel.
Concerning Calvinism, Page stated that he envisions unity in the convention in spite of differences concerning soteriology.
"I challenge the students and faculty at Southern Seminary to be sensitive to our convention and respect those who may not have the same theological positions you have," Page said, calling for "a dialogue that is Christ-like and filled with the Spirit of God." Page has appointed a 16-member advisory team to help craft a strategic plan to bring together various groups within the convention who hold different opinions on Calvinism.
Page also called for unity around the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, believing it "sufficient to pull people of various soteriological beliefs together strategically and practically" and to do the same on other theological issues among Southern Baptists.
Expanded coverage of the forum can be read at the Institute on Religion & Democracy's website, http://www.theird.org/issues/faith-in-the-public-square/mohler--page-discuss-calvinism-and-other-issues-among-southern-baptists-.
Craig Sanders is a writer for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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