So. Baptist pastor warns about 'comfortable' faith that will bring death to churches

J.D. Greear
J.D. Greear, pastor at The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, preaches in December 2016. |

Pastor J. D. Greear of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., warned about what he called “second-generation faith” in churches, which he said is “death” to any movement.

Greear, who is also the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote in a blog post earlier this week that there is a major difference between what he defined as first and second-generation faith.

As an example of the former, he said that it manifests in people who are willing to put Jesus and His mission first, to do whatever it takes to reach the lost, and follow the Holy Spirit.

Second-generation faith, on the other hand, he said, is what happens “when churches like ours get big and ‘settled,’ so to speak,” and they “experience a natural inertia.”

“Within a generation, they move from mission to maintenance. They go from being reckless in the mission to being comfortable in the institution,” he said.

He listed out a number of other key differences, some including:

“First generation expects personal sacrifice. Second generation expects personal comfort. First generation sees problems and seeks solutions. Second generation sees problems and complains.

"First generation hears the voice of God firsthand and owns the vision. Second generation inherits the vision secondhand and questions every decision. First generation feels privileged to be a part of the movement. Second generation feels entitled to the benefits of the institution.”

Greear recalled one instance years ago when the Summit was still called Homestead Heights Baptist Church, and he baptized what was by his records the first African-American man to the church.

“After the service, one of our older members pulled me aside in the lobby and said, ‘Son, you know I don’t like a lot of these changes you’re making in our church.’ As I braced myself for what he would say next, he got choked up as he pointed to the baptistery and said, ‘But if that’s what we’re going to get right there, you can count me in for all of them!’” he recalled.

The megachurch pastor said that that is the kind of first-generation faith he is talking about. On the other hand, he admitted that he has “a number of emails on file from the last few years that pretty thoroughly represent the second generation in our church.”

“The Summit Church is now experiencing the fruits of the bold, reckless, hear-from-God-and-put-his-kingdom-first faith of others. We are the fruit of their audacious faith, yet we too easily trend toward the mindset of second-generation believers,” Greear declared.

"Second-generation faith is death to any movement. It is time for us and every church like us to regain first-generation faith, because God is not finished with his church,” he wrote.

Other important differences in ministries Greear has observed in the past have to do with those who are oriented toward uplifting gifted pastors and those seeking to cultivate disciple-making leaders.

"We think of successful churches as those who have gathered large crowds to bask in the anointing of a talented man," he said back in 2014 about where the American church model goes wrong.

The church leader admonished pastors to become servant-like leaders, making discipleship of their members the main goal.

"If John 16:7 is true, the role of the pastor is to raise up ordinary people as gospel warriors, [to evangelize people] not on the weekend, but Monday through Saturday," he urged at the time.

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