What a Southern Baptist Can Learn from an Independent Baptist
Last Friday night, I attended the anniversary of the ministry of Evangelist Tim Lee. The title of this essay is not intended to suggest that there is only one thing to learn or even just a plethora of insights. Neither is it my intention to imagine that Independent Baptists have not had their share of difficulties and failures. But anyone present at that salubrious and edifying occasion emerged knowing that the most important things in Independent Baptist thinking were undaunted love for Christ, unmitigated loyalty to the Bible, and universal love for the conversion of the lost.
I do not mean to be judgmental or uncharitable at all when I ask the question, when was the last time you attended any Southern Baptist gathering and left with that impression? Was there a moment you can remember in Southern Baptist life when about every third line was a heartfelt, often tear-stained cry to God to save the lost? Amid our disagreements and political struggles, how long since a non-evangelistic celebration saw three people saved as it happened when Evangelist Lee preached a brief gospel message and extended an invitation at the conclusion? How many Southern Baptists even know what an invitation is anymore? Or is the situation worse? May I have the temerity to inquire how many Southern Baptists are able to articulate what we mean when we say “the gospel"?
The reason all this matters so much to Evangelist Tim Lee is that he may be missing his legs, sacrificed on the battlefield for America and for freedom, but his memory of being a lost man has not faded a scintilla! However, his memory of what it meant and continues to mean to be saved has superseded his memory of lostness. And he knows only too well that to love and claim Jesus as Lord is to “do the things that He says!” And Jesus defined His own mission “to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Until Tim Lee has twirled the last spoke of that wheel chair, which he has ridden since Vietnam, you can bet your ultimate peso that he is going to be winning people to faith in Jesus to whom he is forever grateful for his salvation. You see folks don’t talk a lot about what they have not experienced. What Lee experienced in the wake of that land mine is what life and eternity is all about. An enemy intended to blow up an antagonist, but instead blew the gospel all over the world.
Hopefully I did not leave the impression that a love and concern for the lost is nowhere harbored in Southern Baptist life. Though a significant number of our churches have left to affiliate with the Independent Baptists who now are tending to keep the main thing the main thing, there remain millions of Southern Baptists who long to see revival of hearts, renewal of invitations, and the sight of lost people again weeping their way to Christ! I wonder if they will be in New Orleans? Will they vote to return to a program of winning the lost? Will we learn from Evangelist Lee and our Independent Brethren, or will we follow the Methodists into destruction? In my years of antiquity, I plead one final time: Southern Baptists, come together and cast your vote for the salvation of lost men and women, forgiving one another for every slight and focusing on the main thing. Let us speak to one another about why Christ came and died—and about the promise that He is coming again.
Until He comes,
The old preacher Paige Patterson