NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Calvary Church Pastor Willy Rice issued a blistering condemnation of Southern Baptists who contribute to disunity within the denomination and warned against taking a “careless sledgehammer to the house of God just to build a name for yourself.”
During a message delivered at the annual Southern Baptist Convention on Wednesday, the Florida-based pastor stressed that the denomination must remember its identity and mission following a particularly contentious season.
The pastor said his heart has been “broken” in recent days by seeing the disunity among Southern Baptists. He based his remarks on 1 Corinthians 3, where the Apostle Paul warns against strife among the Body of Christ.
“We've embarrassed ourselves by our conduct,” Rice said. “I've thought so many times, ‘We're better than this.’ I just want to believe that we're better than this. And again, maybe not. Maybe this is who we are, and maybe that's what makes this so hard.”
“We may not be better than this, but Jesus is,” he continued. “Jesus is better than this. And that's why my hope isn’t in me. My hope isn't in you. My hope isn't even in us. My hope is in Him … because Jesus is better than this, we can be better than this. Undernderneath this mess of hay and straw that we've made is a foundation, and that foundation is the message of Jesus … because that foundation endures, so will we.”
“Pride and inflated self-importance,” he posited, are partly to blame for the issues within the SBC.
“We have seen the product of a celebrity culture, where pastors and leaders become the star of the show, photo bombing Jesus at every turn,” Rice said.
“What does it say about us when we have more green rooms than prayer rooms?” he asked. “We don't need stained glass icons, preachers in designer sneakers and wannabe celebrities obsessed with building their own social media platform or personal brands.”
“We need to remember who we are. We do not own the field. We do not own the house. We labor in the Lord's work, and He gives the increase.”
He acknowledged that the past season in the SBC has been “marked by unusual strife, name-calling, even slander.”
“Something is wrong when we spend more time tearing down than we spend building up,” Rice lamented. “Something is wrong with those who relish attacking others who profess the name of Christ.”
The pastor stressed that there is a profound difference between “honest debate and carnal controversies” and between “brotherly engagement and worldly strife.”
“It is time we call it out and say to those whose voices seem constantly motivated to produce dissent and unrest that this will not go unchallenged or unchecked. We should not surrender this convention to strident voices who want to play the playground bully behind keyboards tearing others down so they can build themselves up,” he declared.
Rice highlighted the importance of speaking the truth in love and abiding by the fruits of the Holy Spirit, adding: “I don't care how sound your doctrine, or how razor-sharp your intellect, or how snappy your retorts are on Twitter. If you do not mirror the character of Christ, then your words and your work are nothing but wood, hay and straw.”
“Be careful before you take a careless sledgehammer to the house of God just to build a name for yourself," he warned. "Eternity is coming. God is watching.”
Earlier in his message, Rice addressed some of the contentious topics in the SBC, including critical race theory.
Rice said that at its core, CRT offers “a flawed diagnosis, a hopeless prognosis, and writes a powerless prescription rooted in materialistic humanism and political power.”
“It is powerless because it cannot cure the deepest ills of the human heart. It brings no transformation, produces no love, and results in no justice. It cannot produce what only the Gospel can produce: A changed heart and a new humanity,” he said.
Every idea and teaching must be tested against the message of Scripture, Rice said, adding: “We must always anchor ourselves to those truths, or we will drift where we do not want to go.”
While the SBC must be known for holding to the truth, Rice said he doesn’t want the denomination to be known as “the church with angry old men with rocks in their hands.”
“If we are for biblical justice, then we should value the voices of those who have suffered injustice, including many of our black brothers and sisters,” he explained.
Rice concluded by stressing that the SBC “does not need Jesus to take a side.” Rather, it needs Jesus to “take over.”
“Dear friends, let us go back to the fields. Let's get back to building. There is work to be done,” he said.
The theme of the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting, chosen by former president J.D. Greear, is “We are Great Commission Baptists.” A total of 15,693 Southern Baptists attended this year’s meeting.