IBSA President Heath Tibbetts’ statement offers encouragement and hope to Baptists discouraged by the ongoing discussion of controversies leading up to the June 15-16 Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville. A video version of the message is available on Tibbett’s Facebook page.
As President of IBSA, I’m encouraged by weekly conversations with church leaders around our state operating with one mind and one purpose: reach Illinois with the gospel. At the same time, I find myself troubled by the controversies swirling around our upcoming SBC annual meeting. While important issues are being addressed, we can easily become distracted from our greater purpose.
Southern Baptists are best when we are of one mind and purpose. We have quite literally labeled our greatest combined effort as the Cooperative Program. It doesn’t promise uniformity of thought, but a platform that empowers every church to impact states, seminaries, and missions at home and abroad. The results prove we’re better together.
I have no interest to endorse anything other than the words of Philippians 2:2, that Southern Baptists are “loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” There is room for honest debate amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no room for unseating the love, mind, and purpose we’ve been called to in Christ’s Great Commission of making disciples and teaching them all that Jesus has commanded. It’s not a discipleship of personal preference, but of biblical doctrine such as we have endorsed through the Baptist Faith and Message.
Be encouraged by the work happening right here among Illinois Baptists. Long before I ever held a leadership role within our state, I counted myself fortunate to have the backing of our IBSA staff. They are quick to donate their time and talents for the sake of the local church, and the results are seen through new and existing churches throughout the state. Illinois Baptists are reaping the fruits of working together with one mind and purpose.
Southern Baptists are imperfect people saved by a perfect Savior. Let us lift up these imperfections in humility before God and man. Pray for our annual meeting to be a place where loving one another and working together with one mind and purpose wins out. Let the world see us sort through disagreements without being disagreeable. Pray that we as Southern Baptists, Illinois Baptists, and most importantly, believers in Jesus Christ, will take this moment to allow the gospel mission to win among us and to win souls to our Lord.
Heath Tibbetts is president of the Illinois Baptist State Association and pastor of Machesney Park First Baptist Church.