I’m having a hard time believing that I’m typing these words, but Mike Stone has sued Russell Moore in federal court. Just when you thought politics and tribalism couldn’t get any uglier in the Southern Baptist Convention, here we go. If you’re unfamiliar with these names, Pastor Stone is the former chairman of the SBC Executive Committee, who failed this year in a run for the SBC presidency; Dr. Moore is the former president of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, who left that post in May.
The lawsuit filed Monday comes on the heels of the resignation of Dr. Ronnie Floyd, who had served as the president of the Executive Committee, and who had become embroiled in controversy over investigations of sexual abuse within the denomination. For purposes of this blog posting, I am not going to report or comment on the specific allegations raised by these men, but in general, they range from damaged reputations to “psychological terror.”
Floyd’s resignation was accompanied by a wave of departures by other top leaders, indicating deep fissures in the denomination. Our public witness for Christ is suffering. Our people, including our leaders, are struggling with discouragement and depression. Our statistical vital signs are steadily weakening. In short, we are in trouble.
There is no doubt that our God has called us to unite around the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ! But our enemy’s greatest tactic is a spirit of incessant strife. Satan’s perversion of our identity and our mission causes us to ostracize and shame one another. When we distance ourselves from one another and disparage one another, evil can flourish in our most sacred spaces. The mutual ministry of encouragement, which ought to permeate our shared life together, can be eclipsed by our foolish pride. Factions breed factions, and there will never be united hearts where there are not forgiving hearts.
Here’s the reality: a divided church is an oxymoron, for we are the very body of Christ. We are saints. And we are sanctified. That means that we are “set apart” for God’s own holy purposes. Take a close look at First Corinthians 1:10. It is the Apostle Paul’s remedy for a divided church: in essence, stop dividing! Corinth had more than its share of relational troubles among the people, but Jesus offers more than enough hope for an overriding unity in Himself.
Friends, the courts ought not to have to be settling among us what has already been settled by the blood of the Lamb. He is more than enough!
The out-and-out spiritual warfare that is engulfing our churches right now is nothing short of unbelievably intense. So please do your part as a prayer warrior and as a gospel peacemaker. And I will strive to do mine. Let’s not mimic the national trends, but in a totally countercultural way let’s lead by love. The world is watching. And so is the Lord.