Sunday, January 10, 2010
Apparently so in 1970. I recently uncovered a document from the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches on their web page dating back to forty years ago. At the GARBC's national conference in Denver Colorado, their messengers voted on to adopt a resolution on Social Concern. Here it is in its entirety.
WHEREAS our nation is afflicted with innumerable social problems such
as drug abuse, alcoholism, crime, violence, immorality, delinquency,
divorce, social injustices, and poverty; and
WHEREAS Christians are to do good unto all men because all men,
however sinful they may be, are made in the image of God and are
objects of His concern; and
WHEREAS Christians have experienced the love of Christ and are by
that love constrained to care for those who suffer and sorrow; and
WHEREAS Christians alone have the message of hope for sinful and
suffering humanity because Christ alone is the Good Shepherd Who
provides for those who become His sheep;
BE IT RESOLVED THAT we the messengers of the General Association
of Regular Baptist Churches, in Annual Conference in Denver,
Colorado, June 22–26, 1970, acknowledge the obligations of love in
Christian concern for all those fellow citizens who are enduring social
ills and afflictions; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we encourage our constituency to
render to the needy members of our society assistance of which we
are capable by the wholehearted support of our approved social
June 22–26, 1970
So what's the big deal about a group of Baptist Churches adopting a resolution about Social Concern? For one thing, these Baptists happen to be separatist and fundamentalist with a history of reacting against any type of social mandate as sliding towards the social gospel. For my interest, it's the association of churches that I grew up a part of as well as the association that my current church fellowships with. Moreover, one of the reasons that the GARBC church which nurtured me as a teenager dropped my financial support for some missionary work that I was doing 17 years ago had to do with adding "social concern" activities to go along with the evangelism and discipleship that I was already involved with. They were fearful that I was being led astray by "neo-evangelical" types and would soon embrace the social gospel.
Nevertheless, I'd also like to make a few observations about the resolution.
1. It acknowledges both individual sin such as drunkenness, immorality, and drug-abuse and systematic sin such as social injustices.
2. It emphasizes God's Image in humanity, the love of Christ in us, and the scriptural command to "do good to all" as our motivation for engaging these social problems.
3. It emphasizes the gospel message as the hope for "sinful and suffering humanity."
4. It assumes a response of loving compassion towards those who are suffering as a result from these social ills.
5. Therefore, the church embraces both evangelism and a form of social action (compassionate service) when engaging these pressing issues of society.
This document will give me some historical ammo in March when I teach a workshop at a GARBC church ministries conference called "The Poor are with you always: helping break chronic poverty in the lives of the poor in your community through the gospel."
Maybe the GARBC's emphasis upon social concern in its past can act as a gateway to a future GARBC emphasis upon social concern.