Fred Luter, the GCR Task Force, and the Continued Need for Ethnic/Cultural Diversity In SBC Leadership (by Alan Cross)

Alan Cross blogs at Downshore Drift where this post originally appeared. 

It has been 5 years since the Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) Task Force was appointed by then-SBC President Johnny Hunt in 2009. The GCR Task Force, chaired by Ronnie Floyd, gave its Report/Recommendations at the SBC Annual Meeting the following year. The Task Force had 22 people on it, including one Asian, one Hispanic, and one African American. Almost all of the participants were from the Deep South. Did this overall lack of ethnic diversity on the Task Force lead to the GCR Report basically ignoring the issue of how we can increase participation and leadership in the SBC from non-white populations and ethnic groups? Reading over the report again 4 years after its release, it is somewhat striking how the issue was barely addressed, save one statement regarding a need to plant churches among ethnic groups and how we need to reach all people with the gospel regardless of race or ethnicity.

Why the omission? It seems that in a rapidly diversifying America, overt and clear strategies for how the SBC can reach and make disciples among minority populations and cultivate minority leadership at every area of Baptist life should be well articulated and known. Why did the GCR Task Force basically not address this issue, especially considering the SBC’s abysmal history in regard to racial sin?

The problem seems to have been present from the beginning. Johnny Hunt initially appointed 18 members to the GCR Task Force and named Ronnie Floyd as chairman. Once Southern Baptists had a chance to see the make up of the task force, we noticed that it was composed of 17 white members and one Asian. I remember writing about this at the time in different venues and calling for a more diverse representation. Others did as well. In response to the call for more diversity, Hunt placed four more members on the Task Force:

Following the Convention, Hunt added four more members, saying, “After announcing the names of the GCR task force, I received feedback about the need for greater representation,” Hunt said July 8 in a statement to Baptist Press. “I have added an African American who is a church planter, a Hispanic, an additional woman who also is familiar with the western region of the U.S., and a representative of the Northeast region.

“I want Southern Baptists to know I heard their concerns and have responded,” Hunt said.

You can see who was on the Task Force in the link above.

I am not in favor of quota systems according to race/ethnicity. We should first look to Christian character, calling, and experience. But, in a Task Force designed to consider the future of the SBC in regard to carrying out the Great Commission in North America where Race and Ethnicity are MAJOR issues, why was racial/ethnic diversity and representation an afterthought? And, why were there no concrete recommendations for our churches/entities regarding how we can reach people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and cultures, especially when we consider how Southern Baptists have historically struggled in this area? My guess, if I had to make one, is that it just was not thought of. The focus was on NAMB, reorganization, money, the Cooperative Program, and funding issues. The major players who led the Task Force and made it up had their own concerns and those concerns were reflected in the report. Becoming a more ethnically and racially diverse convention of churches was not a part of what they were addressing.

Five years have passed since Johnny Hunt put his Task Force together to reshape the SBC. Baptisms and membership continue to decline. Some of this is inevitable and is based in demographics, not necessarily a lack of fervency. There have been great strides made in church planting and NAMB’s reorganization has been a seeming success. I thank God for the election of Fred Luter as our first African American president of the SBC in 2012. We are seeing more and more ethnic church planting and we are seeing greater participation from various races and ethnic groups in Baptist life. I am encouraged by the progress that seems to be occurring just because the gospel is bearing fruit.

But, we have a long way to go for the SBC to be a denomination that is reaching all people effectively. Next year marks the 20th Anniversary of the landmark 1995 Resolution on Racial Reconciliation that apologized for slavery and racism in our founding and our past. We have made progress in this area of gospel reconciliation. But, we have a lot further to go.

  • How do we continue to break down historic barriers and see our churches become multiethnic so that every SBC church can be effective in reaching its own community that is also becoming more and more multiethnic/racial?
  • How do we raise up leadership from ethnic minorities so that we can all learn from one another how to reach different groups with the gospel?
  • What are some concrete ways that our churches can reach and disciple people from different cultures in our communities by demonstrating sacrificial love and service?
  • How can we minister holistically to immigrants and their families who are among us in ways that recognize that the nations have come to us and that God is sovereignly allowing us to be in close geographic proximity to people from every nation under heaven?
  • Can we develop leadership development programs through our seminaries and state conventions with the purpose of raising up ethnic leadership, considering the fact that this was an area of historic weakness?
  • How can our trustee boards and denominational committees do more to include representatives from different backgrounds and regions of our country?
I am not saying that there are necessarily barriers of active racism still at work in the SBC. I cannot judge people’s hearts and by all accounts, I see a desire for the gospel to penetrate every barrier and to see all people come together in Christ. The persistent lack of diversity (even though this is changing slowly) in the SBC seems to have more to do with a lack of relationships with people from different backgrounds and experiences. I hope that is the reason. But, the GCR Task Force did little to intentionally address this 5 years ago. What can we do now to give concrete leadership and direction for our churches and entities in this area? Or, should we just expect that things will naturally change as time goes by?
I am going to the SBC in Baltimore in a couple of weeks. I am praying about how this issue can be addressed so we can continue growing in this area and so that we can help train/equip others in how we can work together with all Baptists to reach all people with the gospel across every ethnic/cultural line. I am thankful for the progress that has been made in this area of historic division. True gospel unity is emerging, albeit slowly. I am praying that the day will come soon when the SBC will look a lot more like Heaven (Rev. 5 & &) and that our churches will be as diverse as the nation that we live in and that participants in convention life will come from every people and race and ethnicity.
That is happening. Slowly. Fred Luter being elected president of the SBC in 2012 was a great step in demonstrating that there are no racial barriers to leadership in the SBC. He was not elected because he was black. He was eminently qualified in every way apart from race. That is how it should be in the body of Christ. But, his election told a gospel story in that we declared that a man’s call and character would be recognized and his race would not be a sinful barrier to fellowship and leadership. With the racial history of the SBC, that statement was important and needed and marked a demonstration of repentance on the part of white Southern Baptists.
Now, where do we go from here? How do we continue on in that direction?
For more on the Biblical call for racial reconciliation and holistic ministry from a local church perspective as a gospel/Kingdom witness in a perpetually and historically divided culture, check out my book, When Heaven and Earth Collide:Racism, Southern Evangelicals, and the Better Way of Jesus (NewSouth Books, 2014).



  1. Dwight McKissic says


    Well done!!!! Well done!!!!

    May The Lord grant the SBC the favor and grace to continue toward the trajectory expressed the Phoenix document and the election of Fred Luter, in order to fulfill the prayer of Jesus that His followers might be one, so that the world would believe in the reality of His incarnation. I wonder to most people realize that the discipleship, evangelism, church planting, and global missions outreach of the SBC are inextricably combined with the heart and soul of your post here. That all people groups in the SBC be represented and empowered in all aspects of SBC life and ministry for Kingdom purposes and world evangelization is the thrust of what you are saying here. Am I reading you correctly?

  2. Volfan007 says


    One thing I have a question about….5 years since the GCR was supposed to “turn things around” in the SBC…..more church planting by NAMB also supposed to turn things around in the SBC….or! at least, that’s what we were told about the GCR ANC church planting….and yet, baptisms and membership continuing to decline???

    You think it is a huge success? How? How is that a success?


    • William Thornton says

      Calling attention to the Great Commission was a good thing but about the only thing the GCR did was to assist NAMB in getting control of its budget, that and paring down the Executive Committee’s VP allocation by half a percent (which went to IMB).

  3. Dwight McKissic says


    One more thought here. The bullet points issues in your post are the heart of the matter. If we ever get a committee in the SBC to adequately and successfully address those concerns, then all of the concerns about growth will also be taken care of.

    Volfan, do you agree with what I just said?

    • Volfan007 says


      Not completely…I think Alan brings up some good points…But, I just don’t see those things as being the cure all for what ails us. I believe we have a heart problem in the SBC….a spiritual problem…we need to return to our first love, and we need to have a fresh, new commitment to winning souls….


      • Dwight McKissic says

        Agreed. But, addressing and resolving Alan’s issue simultaneously addresses yours. If we can’t fix Alan’s issue, we will never resolve yours
        . The two concern are interrelated and interwoven, inseparable. That is why Alan is so passionate about it.

        • Tarheel says


          “interrelated and interwoven, inseparable”

          Sweet. Spoken like a baptist preacher!

          3 points that begin with the same letter.


    • says

      You said,
      One more thought here. The bullet points issues in your post are the heart of the matter. If we ever get a committee in the SBC to adequately and successfully address those concerns, then all of the concerns about growth will also be taken care of. – See more at:

      Spoken like a true Calvinist!

      Now why did i say that?
      Because C’s believe that who gets saved is by God’s will, not man.
      And that if we are obedient in our witness, we will receive the growth God deems to reward us with.
      But a non-C needs to depend not on God alone for church growth, but the fickle stubborn rebellious hating-of-God will of fallen man. But you have confidence we will grow if we walk in obedience. So i assume your confidence is not is fallen man, but in God alone.

      Just like a Calvinist!

      Peace brother,

  4. says

    I guess i have a different mindset than you.
    I see the mission of the church is to preach the Gospel everywhere, at home and abroad, baptizing and then making disciples of everyone who believes, repents and confesses Jesus as their Lord.

    I don’t see the mission of the church as one that is to focus on the same how many’s, like in how many new members must we have to be successful, or how many new church plants we must have to be successful.

    Rather the how many’s I look at is how many people do we reach with the Gospel? [not how many got saved]. How many people in our established churches are actually being discipled?

    i see our job as heralds of the Gospel and shepherds of believers even as we seek to live godly lives in a world of sin.

    I see it as God’s job as to how many new people actually get saved and the need therein for new churches to be started.

    • Volfan007 says


      I would just add that if we are loving Jesus, and really getting out there preaching the Gospel to everyone….then, more people would get saved.

      • says

        Yes. i agree, to a point. If we are being obedient [loving Jesus and getting out there] God will bless our efforts.
        But it only works if God is in control.
        God is the one who turns evil hearts to Him.

        Or let me ask you this:
        When you witness the Gospel, are you trusting in God to save, or men to choose? Where is your trust?

        Jesus is all that and more,

        • Volfan007 says


          I trust God to save men….but, I don’t believe in irresistible grace… And I don’t think that means that I “trust in men to choose” … Even though men must make that choice….to respond to God’s calling or not. So, the more we preach the Gospel, and depend on the Holy Spirit, then the more we will see people get saved.

          • Volfan007 says

            Btw….I still have to wonder why the GCR has not done what everyone said it would back at the time we were discussing it…. It was supposed to do a lot of things…better race relations being one of them….turning around the SBC the biggee….it has done neither that I can see….

            Aldo, we have planted a ton of churches…or least, we have tried…. I have seen some reports that not many new church plants actually make it….

            And yet, the SBC is still declining in baptisms and membership.

            Was the GCR a failure? Has emphasizing new church plants really helped us turn things around, or ? I am asking….what do y’all think? Are more minorities in leadership positions? Has the GCR done any good at all?

          • Tarheel says


            Your last sentence reminds me of something….

            While I was a student at LU I remember D James Kennedy saying while preaching during a convocation (something like);

            “we are to preach the gospel relentlessly and passionately – and you’ll find the more faithfully you the share the gospel the more elect you’ll run into in your efforts.”

          • Tarheel says

            Vol, my comment about Dr. Kennedy was in response to your post at;

            May 31, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    • says

      Let me jump in here. I am not sure we are framing this discussion correctly. The lack of folks being saved that we are experiencing has nothing to do whether or not we should place emphasis on numbers or not. It has nothing to do with GCR. I would go so far as to say it has little if anything to do with theology or approach or methods.

      We have a lack of folks being saved for one reason and one reason only. WE SIMPLY HAVE TOO FEW PEOPLE SHARING THE GOSPEL TOO SELDOM.
      We talk, plan, argue, and strategize, far more that we DO. It is that simple.

      The fields are white we simply are ignoring the fields.

      • Steve Young says

        But D. L., your point might cost me, ME. If I point at everything else, it doesn’t cost me much. Dr. B Gray Allison taught us at Mid-America Baptist that if you had a dry spell in seeing folks come to Christ, just share with more folks.
        Steve in Montana

    • says

      Spoken like a true Bible believer.
      Acts 1:
      So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.

      Jesus says for us to be His witnesses to here, there, and to the whole earth.

      Matthew 28:
      But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

      Jesus says we are to go to all nations making disciples and baptizing them in the Name.

      Revelation 7:
      After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,

      “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

      Now Dwight i know you agree with all this since you love His Word. This is our commission is it not? Now I am a Calvinist, for sure, and I believe God will save people from every nation, tribe, peoples, and tongues. But as a non-Calvinist, do you think that say a Traditionalist can MAKE anyone be saved? of course not, they believe in the free will of man to decide, each person for themselves.

      Is that what you believe?

      So lets go with that.

      So each person has a free without being coerced choice to accept Jesus or not.
      How then can you measure your success by their choices?

      You preach the Gospel to room of unbelievers and no one responds. Have YOU failed? how?

      So Biblically, our JOB is to be witnesses for Jesus, preaching the Gospel, as best we can to all in every place, in every time; and baptizing and discipling those who believe. it has nothing to do with the differences between C’s and T’s or non-C’s.

      But hey, i am willing to learn from the Word. Please show me the Scriptures that teach otherwise.

      Kindest Christian regards,

      • Dwight McKissic says


        You must have not seen, or ignored my little smiley sign. I said that as an attempt at humor. I actually agree with every word that you said in both of your comments. Any true trad would have to be in agreement with you, because it is what the Scripture teaches and experience bears it out(one more attempt at humor: I know that Calvinist are not high on experience-:). The argument and line if thinking that you presented is usually articulated by Calvinist, although it could just as we’ll be argued by trads. Volfan’s point us we’ll taken though. If you plant churches, set numerical goals, spend tons of money, and pray for rain, then you ought to take an umbrella with you. You expect a result. A quantifiable result. In that sense, I agree with Volfan, but I don’t disagree with you. Thanks for the pushback.

        • says

          Its all good brother.
          Except, how is it you can hope for a quantifiable result if your trust is in the fickle will of man?
          Rhetorical question. Please don’t answer.
          Wrong thread for this discussion.

          i will not speak to this here anymore.

          • Dwight McKissic says

            Accountability and good stewardship demands evaluation of the results. After that’s done then I am with you. We must trust and reverence the sovereignty of God in this matter, and give Him the praise, no matter the result.

      • Jim Hedrick says

        Blessings upon you and your Biblical ilk. Oh for more gospel advancement w/o numerical verification and validation.

  5. William Thornton says

    Since the beginning of the CR, the SBC has turned to megachurches and their leaders and members for important tasks, trusteeships, and positions. The GCR committee was, as I recall, composed of about 2/3 megachurch people. Only when pressed have leaders given much thought about a broader inclusion. This is not sinister but reflexive, seems to me.

    In the post-CR SBC I cannot see that we have had much in the way of positive results with such a narrow approach to things.

    Rick Patrick may be onto something when he objects to the even narrower pool from which our leaders are now being chosen. I’m not on board with him but so have both eyebrows raised.

    One reason I would vote for Dennis Kim, were I to be in Baltimore and have a vote, would be to try and shift this business to be broader and inclusive.

    • Chris Roberts says

      Because the pre-GCR modus operandi wasn’t focused on the mega churches? I don’t think anything has changed in that regard, not one bit.

        • Chris Roberts says

          I think someone mentioned that it falls just below the mega church threshold, as if that really makes a difference – officially classified a mega or not, there’s quite a bit of room between the size of his church and that of the typical SBC church. Out of a denomination of some 45,000 churches, his is ranked 245 in size. That said, what I think William and others see as setting him apart are the circles in which he runs. He is not (perceived at least) part of one of the normal circles of influence in the SBC.

    • says

      I got to admit that the GCR inadvertently did great damage in my home state of WV. We are a pioneer state that has not been historically a southern baptist enclave but because it is not an urban state, NAMB took away a lot of funding and forced many people out of jobs and ministries. So to be honest, I haven’t had the fondest opinion of it. However, I also think that it is far too early to determine if the GCR will have lasting good effects. If the emphasize is to plant new churches in areas that have not had a historical SBC presence then I imagine that this can take some time. We may not see the fruit of that effort nation-wide for sometime. Lastly, being a Calvinist I believe that we do our very best but ultimately the results are up to God. Maybe God is hardening our nation’s Heart. Maybe the reason we are not seeing an increase in baptisms is not because of anything we are doing. I however am convinced in the Church victorious and therefore get a little tired of the constant statistical OCD and anxiety that we have been hearing about for a few years. It seems like negativity breeds negativity and when one person begins complaining about something everyone beings complaining. Let’s quit talking and blogging about all the negative numbers and start celebrating the good things God is doing.

  6. Tarheel says

    “Rick Patrick may be onto something when he objects to the even narrower pool from which our leaders are now being chosen.”

    It’s always been that way….just now Rick and other Trads don’t like those who are the in that pool. (by not liking thm I don’t mean on a personal level, I mean theology/philosophy of ministry.

    It’s nothing new that SBC leaders are chosen from a small pool connected to the big boys in the boys club.

    For years the leadership pool was populated by friends/associates of the powers that be at that time.

    All the handwringing over the SBC being a boys club when it comes to our leadership selections, as if it were something new, is honestly pretty baffling to me.

    • Chris Roberts says

      “It’s nothing new that SBC leaders are chosen from a small pool connected to the big boys in the boys club.”

      *cough*Conservative Resurgence*cough*

      • Tarheel says


        Paige Patterson, Jerry vines, Adrian Rogers, Morris Chapman to one degree or another could certainly have been identified as the big boys of The boys club from 1979 until the rise of some younger big boys more recently. All the appointments of entity heads got their blessing….or they were not appointed. Even the presidential nominees ad to pass thru the aforementioned big boys.

  7. Dwight McKissic says


    Paige Patterson did not support the nomination of Jerry Rankin as head of the IMB. What you said though is probably generally true, but there are also probably some notable exceptions, such as Jerry Vines, and the year that the Pastor of FBC Orlando became President(Jim Henry).

    Hardly anyone here would agree with me, but, the IMB policies that invaded into and policed missionaries private prayers, placed this entity of the SBC in direct opposition to the Scripture(1 Cor. 14: 2). That combined with dismissing missionaries who had come in under the ’63 BFM statement, and later dismissing them for not signing the 2000 statement had to be displeasing to God, in my judgement. The SBC may be experiencing the judgement of these decisions. I parked at the Lifeway Store on SWBTS campus recently. Before I got out of my truck I noticed straight ahead was the Jack MacGorman Chapel. I sat dazed for a few seconds by the irony that the person who the chapel is named after, no longer qualifies to teach at SWBTS, because his conscience wouldn’t let him sign the 2000 statement. At some point, if there is a continual trail of decisions in the SBC not pleasing to God, why do we believe that God would continue to trust souls unto our care based on our unrepentant sins? And most recently, we have built a shrine to Buddah at a Baptist seminary? Perhaps, we need start discussing a Great Repentance Resurgence, then we may experience a Great Commission Resurgence.

      • Dwight McKissic says

        Chris and Tarheel,

        Off topic, so comment might get yanked and understandably so. And I won’t comment further on this thread on this topic. But, to allow a Muslim student in a Baptist seminary, violates the admission policies of the school, and allows a person with an allegiance to a false God to infiltrate a Baptist seminary. Is he offering prayers to his false God on the dorm room, chapel, or hallway at the seminary? Will he marry a good Baptist girl at the seminary? Will he graduate at be a Muslim apologist with SWBTS credentials behind his name? Will he get saved while there? Maybe? But do we really want to practice that kind of evangelism at a Baptist seminary? A lady can’t teach Hebrew there, but a Muslim can attend school there? A Baptist can’t pray in tongues there, or mention that they pray in tongues there–according to a trustee policy voted on while I was a trustee there–but a Muslim can go to school there? Ken Hemphill allowed a female professor to speak in chapel there, and that led to him being pressured to resign. But a Muslim can enroll there? I’m utterly confused. There are varying viewpoints on these issues in Baptist life, but we all agree that a Muslim is lost. I don’t understand this. Grant it, I was speaking in hyperbolic language. But, when you allow a Muslim to enroll in a Baptist seminary, you have effectively built a shrine to Buddah by allowing a false God to invade your ranks. We have several students enrolled there. We gave to fill out church endorsement forms that I assumed were required of every student. I don’t know for the life of me how the Muslim student submitted a satisfactory church endorsement form. Who else do we allow to enroll in the name of evangelism. Shouldn’t Baptist been made aware prior to enrollment, or at least simultaneous with enrollment, that their CP and direct donor gifts were going to pay the salaries and provide other services for students who were not training to be Ministers or missionaries? Why did we build this shrine to Buddah? Evangelism is not an acceptable answer in light of the school’s stated purpose. Why? And what will we do to correct it. I hope that I answered your question.

        • Tarheel says


          Oh I agree, of course not on every point you made Dwight….but certainly do agree that its shameful nd ridiculous that Dr Patterson by presidential fiat ignored admissions policy and common horse sense and enrolled a Muslim at SWBTS. There’s rumors about Mormons too, no confirmation or denial thus far….it seems pretty easy to be able to answer whether that is true or not….

        • Chris Roberts says

          I just wondered if there was some additional event, not just the Muslim student.

    • says

      So let me get this straight, we need to repent for making sure our professors hold to our most recent statement of faith and consistently teach biblical inerrancy and also repent for allowing students who would not consent to our most recent statement of faith? Dwight I don’t think you can in one breath oppose confessional integrity and in the other want to maintain it. It seems to me to be to be consistent you would either need to be ok with both professors who are teaching false doctrine and students who believe it or you would oppose both.

      I wholeheartedly support maintaining confessional integrity in our seminaries and in our mission boards and I wholeheartedly oppose allowing Muslims or any non-christian students attend our seminaries where they are supposed to be preparing for ministry.

      • Wm. Dwight McKissic, Sr. says


        I don’t follow your line of thinking in your question here. But let me try and clear up what I do understand.

        Missionaries who were hired under the ’63 BFM should not have been fired for their refusal to sign the 2000 BFM. They should have been grandfathered in. You cannot change the rule on a matter of conviction and conscience and then make it a condition of employment.

        I don’t know what or whom you are referring to with regard to “students who would not submit to our most recent statement of faith”?

        Professors and students who teach false doctrine? You lost me. Please explain. Thanks.

  8. says

    Mostly what’s been done to change things is to vote for things. That accomplishes about what one would expect.

    The problem is right where it was during the time that generated the seed for “When Heaven and Earth Collide”. It’s the guy in the pew. And nothing I’ve seen really hints at action that will affect him. As long as we let people in the front door without real substantial commitment or requirement, and no expectations at all, we’re going to continue to get what we’ve got.

    God is the One Who blesses. God is the One Who gives increases. Why would He want to bless a gathering of churches who are seeing about one third, or less, of the people He’s sent us to date, even going to church?

    He seems to reveal things to folks who desire will use what He shows them. That doesn’t seem to be happening, Convention-wide. And we intentionally hide behind the “autonomy of the church” excuse to explain it.

    And we suggest we call ourselves “Great Commission Baptists”?

    (Of course all generalizations are false, including this one … but the numbers say there are too many places where it’s true.)

  9. says

    Could I request (nicely for now) that we NOT make this another foodfight about Calvinism.

    I’m not sure that anything in Alan’s post raised Calvinism as an issue. And I don’t care “who started it.”

    Let’s discuss what Alan wrote about. Future Calvinism comments will be arrested, tried and found guilty, and summarily executed.

  10. cb scott says

    Alan Cross,

    If you really want to see for sure if racism has gotten the boot from the SBC, elect an Irishman as SBC Top-Kick.

      • Christiane says

        C.B. would win.
        But the SBC would never be embarrassed for having elected him.

        You can count on that.

        If you ever chance upon his story of how God called him out of the darkness, you will begin to understand why I know this.

  11. says

    The spitting contest between Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC, as well as an ongoing battle over “doctrinal purity” is one reason why baptisms are down. Too much energy going into denominational politics means that less energy is going into evangelism. There’s too much interest in grabbing up “influential” positions in the denomination, and not enough in actually doing work.

    Then you have what is now passing for “church planting.” Satellite congregations of mega churches reach people–right out of the pews of the smaller churches that can’t compete in a program-driven ministry. But they aren’t really reaching lost people. Their baptism numbers mostly reflect how many children of church members they can get to agree to a dunking, mostly at a very young age, or those who were dunked at a very young age and then realized they weren’t really saved at that point, and go through the process again.

    We haven’t learned from the mistakes of mainline denominations regarding what happens to both evangelism and church growth when creedal adherence to doctrinal positions becomes more important than missions and evangelism. They creedalized liberalism, and saw people leave in droves. The SBC is seeing the same thing happen with conservative doctrine. In a denomination based on cooperation in missions, doctrine is best left to independent, autonomous, congregational churches. Changing the focus subtracts from an evangelistic purpose and turns denominational agencies organized around missions cooperation into enforcers of the creed.

    There are places where Southern Baptists are seeing increased baptisms, new, thriving church plants and growth. Where that is occurring, there is an absence of the bureaucratic fussing that goes on elsewhere. That should say something. If you go to Baltimore, visit some of the ethnic church plants there, in DC, or take some time to go north and see what’s going on in the Philadelphia area. It’s exciting. And it lacks the cultural baggage that comes from the “Down South” way of doing things in the SBC.

    • Dean Stewart says

      I’m going off subject, sorry Dave please don’t marginalize me. Lee has put a sentence in that I find very curious, “And it lacks the cultural baggage that comes from the “Down South” way of doing things in the SBC.” Lee may not be one but some have developed a incessant criticism, even mockery of southern Southern Baptist. I do not understand this. If what we do in the Bible belt does not work for you in another part of the country then don’t use it. However, some of the things that we do in the Bible belt works for us. I read recently a church planter in a pioneer area describe how long it takes to undo what mission teams from the south mess up when they come. I feel compelled probably by my southern pride to point out that the next time one feels the need to criticize the mainline states of the SBC that without those state conventions we would not have enough money to fund a single seminary much less six, we would not be able to fund the IMB, (take time to identify where most of our missionaries come from), we simply would not exist as we know it. (God’s work would not cease but the SBC as we know it would) It does no good to insult one another, furthermore, it is doubly ridiculous to insult the part of the convention that mostly funds everything that we are doing as Southern Baptist.

      • Tarheel says

        Dean, I hope you’re not marginalized….because you’re absolutely right.

        It has become envogue to – if i dare “marginalize” mock and attack not only the word “southern” in the name of our convention but the very region many of us call home.

        Your point about the money is apt…although it’ll probably upset some.

        I opposed the changing of the name of the SBC because our problems are so much deeper than a name – and I refused to play the “if we change the name – everything will be all better game.”

        If in certain regions the word southern is a distraction, then by all means use The optional name (great commission Baptists) or “community” or simply “___________ church” or whatever you want – there is nothing in the BFM2000 that dictates the name of a church. Church autonomy grants you the privilege to name your church as you desire.

      • William Thornton says

        I know Lee. The “cultural baggage” is merely a statement of fact, not mockery.

      • Dave Miller says

        Dean, I think I get your point.

        I believe that the reason that you hear that refrain is that a lot of us who labor outside the south feel like the advice we get is too often, “do it in Iowa like we do it in Mississippi.”

        Nothing wrong with the South, but nothing superior about it either. There are two sides to this and I can understand your point.

        I’m leaving to head to Boston for a little Grandpa time before the Convention. You guys play nice.

        • Tarheel says


          I understand your point too.

          It can’t be done in Iowa (or NYC or Colorado) like it is done in Ga, NC, or Mississippi.

          • Dean Stewart says

            “Cultural baggage” may be a fact. However, not all facts have to be stated. There is no need in insulting the committed people of Christ from the South. I looked at our website to examine the receipts for the executive committee of the SBC state by state. The last month I could find was October 2013. The total for that month was $13,600,000. Take out AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, both TX conventions and both VA conventions and the total receipts falls to less than $3,000,000.00. The answer is do what you need to do in order to win your portion of the world for Christ but some need to drop the antagonism toward the South. We too, receive advice from other places as how to do things. I understand the frustration of being told how to do something from someone who has no clue how to live and pastor where I do. However, I don’t feel the freedom to point out their foolishness.

      • says

        No mockery intended, Dean. I grew up in an SBC church in Arizona, in a time when the primary method of church growth was to identify the people who had moved to town from Texas, Alabama and Mississippi, and explain to them that the First Baptist Church in town wasn’t Southern. I now live in Pennsylvania, where church planting, church growth, and SBC churches don’t look anything like they do in the South. And I spent more than 25 years in the South, so I can see the difference.

        There’s certainly no question that Southern Baptists hit on a way to grow and develop churches and membership across the deep South for a number of years, and that the convention’s institutions and agencies came into existence because of the support that came from those churches. But if you look across the numbers reported by the churches in state conventions, the membership losses and declines in baptisms are happening in the south. On the fringes of the SBC, the West, Northwest, upper Midwest, and Northeast, the numbers are increasing, and the baptisms are growing. They’re smaller numbers, granted, but they are moving up. They are also in areas where the mission and purpose of the church is tied to evangelism and outreach, out of necessity. Doctrinal squabbles and fights over who gets to be on the trustee board are not priorities. And you can’t grow a church by establishing a program approach that attracts people from other churches. That’s worth learning from, I think.

  12. says

    Regarding the bullet points:

    I’m sorry but these all seem like local church issues. If there is racism in local churches, or if churches are not concerned about the Great Commission, or if they don’t see themselves as missionaries in their communities that are increasing in ethnic diversity, these issue needs to be addressed at a local church level, by the pastors. I for one am weary of evangelical leaders and now self-appointed leaders within the SBC acting like popes and presbyteries–telling local churches what they must do in order to tow the party-line. Whatever happened to relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and shape His church through the week-in-week-out preaching of His Word?

    I’m also concerned about this problem-centric shift I see in the SBC. If there is a problem in a local church, be a good paraclete, pull the leaders in that church aside, and offer some solutions. We don’t need a Presbyterian-style committee to be put together to point out problems and shame churches into implementing practices that may be extremely impractical for that church. There is no one-size-fits-all bandaid for the issue of pan-racial university in local churches.

    Everyone has to give up something when they come into churches. I had to give up hymnals, pews, and a host of other creature-comforts when I came to my church. I was willing to give those things up for the bride of Christ. I did not tell my church they weren’t missional enough or cross-cultural enough because they didn’t take my own personal creature-comforts into account when they formulated their services. Yet, many churches are completely reorienting their services, their staffing decisions, their evangelistic techniques, etc., so as to not be seen as failing in this ecclesiastical affirmative action initiative.

    One thing that’s not being said is the fact that, when churches intentionally gear their evangelism and staffing decisions toward one particular race, even if it’s for the cause of multi-culturalism, they are intentionally leaving others out. Does that mean that they should not seek to understand the other subcultures in their communities? No. But it doesn’t mean that I, from the outside, have any right to tell them that they have to stop whatever other fine work the Holy Spirit may have led them to and start a cultural awareness program at their church. I’m not a pope, I don’t affirm presbyterian-style church structures, and I am certainly not the Holy Spirit.

    I think we should be very careful how we bind autonomous local churches’ consciences on this issue. Again, it’s not a one-size-fits-all issue. It is multi-faceted.

  13. says

    By the way, I say these things because I am concerned with what I see as a shift toward legalism on the issue of race in evangelicalism as a whole, not just in the SBC. When we start telling people something is a “gospel” issue, that means they are not Christian if they aren’t doing it. I agree that racism is an affront to the gospel, but who is the SBC to go into local churches, point out practices or statistics, and assign motive?

    Even worse is the idea that a national body can somehow change the hearts and minds of thousands of local congregations on this issue by issuing a statement or a denominational initiative. What we need is for local church pastors to teach and preach on the issue, and to demonstrate to their congregants where they pulled out of the text of Scripture. That is when people’s hearts will start to change on the issue. That is when we will start to see meaningful change toward the better in the pews of churches in our increasingly multi-cultural communities.

    • says

      The real and effective work always has been and always will done at the local church level. The Great Commission was given to the church not a denomination.

  14. says

    I agree with you, Lee. Member-swapping has replaced evangelistic church growth. As a member of a Reformed Baptist congregation, I see this all too often. We can easily think, “We’re growing! We must be doing something right!” when in actuality, we’re just taking in all those people who, converted and baptized at non-Calvinistic churches, came to be convinced of Calvinism and flocked to our church. That’s not growth. It’s just member-stealing. True growth is when our extended families, our coworkers, our neighbors, and those we meet in the market place repent and believe on Christ, are baptized, and are taught all that Christ commanded in our local churches.

    Furthermore, true church planting results in a fully self-sustaining, autonomous local body of believers, not a group of pew-sitters who came to watch see a concert and watch the pastor on TV for an hour. That’s not church. That’s consumerism plain-and-simple.

  15. Greg Harvey says

    Google recently confronted by releasing data the issues it has been facing in staffing in a diverse way. They’re one of the first techs to do that and largely they’re doing it because they’re HQ’ed in a left-coast state and it is a retention issue both for locals and young people.

    Now I don’t see a lot of commonality between the SBC and Google. So I’m not here to try and claim there is any. But the willingness to address the issue is so they can continue being successful hiring the most recent generation to leave college. Luckily, Southern Baptists have zero issue with growth in the younger demographics, so we don’t need to consider what Alan is saying…oh…wait…

  16. says

    I have difficulty identifying a center to the problem. The reason is that we use terms like “leadership” when we are congregational. So there seems to be a tension in our thinking between “SBC leadership” and “congregationalism”. It seems to me if we have a problem with constituent congregations not being ethnically diverse, then the only recourse is to codify it in the BF&M and decide whether to enforce it by denying membership. Otherwise, the Convention may make statements, but none of them are particularly binding.

    So what do the leaders actually lead? We have NAMB, IMB, seminaries, and structures for handling the budget for these. There’s Lifeway somewhat. Other than these things, I don’t know. So the next questions are:

    A) What do these entities have to do with ethnic diversity? They do, somewhat; but what in particular?

    B) How do these entities influence individual congregations, or to what extent should they?

    If the issue is baptisms, then it is up to the individual congregations anyway. You can preach the gospel faithfully, but no one can dictate the response. Such is up to each individual, according to the Traditionalists, or the Holy Spirit, in the case of the Calvinists. So then the question becomes whether we are targeting ethnicities for evangelism in the most faithful way. And what follows from this line of questions:

    How does a racially diverse SBC leadership lead to congregations evangelizing different ethnicities in the most faithful way?

    Now, either individual congregations will want to be involved or they won’t. The IMB seems to be out of the picture in this discussion. Influencing Lifeway materials is an indirect way of raising awareness to the need for improving multiethnic evangelism. The NAMB is the most direct method by planting new congregations that are multiethnic. That doesn’t particularly affect our established congregations.

    So I think the most frustrating thing is that with all the talk about the need for including people of different ethnicities in the leadership of the SBC is a disconnect between the leadership and the lack of followership. There isn’t a large fast-moving grassroots movement to latch on to, which you need in order to unify and convict people who are merely associated and not particularly led. It doesn’t go well to scold people who are used to walking for not getting onto a bus that isn’t moving when the destination seems to be just around the corner. The best solution seems to be to send the people who get on the bus to get back off the bus, have them grab someone, and help them walk to the destination.

    • says

      Great points, Jim.

      The whole prospect is a logistical nightmare. It’s not like slavery or the civil rights era. It’s not as though a “leadership” board can walk into a local church and spot right off where the congregation is going wrong, or even that the congregation is not making an effort toward these things. If churches endorse slavery, that’s sin. If churches have signs that say “Whites Only!” That’s sin. If a predominantly white urban congregation has been “unsuccessful” in converting the minority members of its community, what gives a denominational committee the right to come in and assume motives or assume that they haven’t tried, etc.? Say we do write something into the BF&M.. Then what? We send the gestapo into every SBC congregation and start cleaning house?

      • Greg Harvey says

        The comparison of the folks who would like to see a broader change to a “Gestapo” comes very close to triggering Godwin’s Law.

        If you really believe that other churches cannot discipline your church, then that isn’t congregationalism at all. It is a form of virulent autonomy that arguably has zero relationship to the Bible where even apostles visibly contended when necessary over exactly this kind of doctrine especially vis-a-vis Jews and Gentiles both with each other and in front of the church at large.

        I’m a fan of autonomy as a response to a broken, centralized authority structure like–for instance–the Catholic Church especially in Luther’s day (it never reformed effectively but there are aspects to its doctrinal stances that we can agree on such as their living and firm stance on abortion–which of course their liberals dislike). Autonomy has TWO sides to it. Not just freedom to self-determine but implicit in self-determination is lawfulness.

        Racism writ large and small–and especially skin-color derived racism based on a convoluted reading of the Bible–is arguably more prevalent than we admit and more wrongful than all of our good deeds.

        But autonomy gives room also for conviction and repentance and your questions lead directly to how we bring that about. How always? Prayer, fasting, preaching. Soul winning is accomplished by first faithfully doing these things and then by asking those around us to respond. The great change is the direct work of the Holy Spirit with zero room in my opinion for human glory. Fair enough.

        • says

          “Autonomy has TWO sides to it. Not just freedom to self-determine but implicit in self-determination is lawfulness.”

          An important understanding (which is where I think the SBC gets congregationalism right and the Independents miss the mark). Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone in the SBC has this understanding which is why I believe it is practical to be both strong and delicate when dealing with sin, whether with an individual or a group of individuals.

        • says

          Where the gestapo comparison comes in is not in the accountability that comes from inter-church associations, but when those associations start to come into churches and root out perceived evil on the basis of a “failure” to effect the conversion of souls wrapped in a certain color of skin. I’m not saying we shouldn’t excommunicate congregations were sin is obviously on display. I’m actually hoping that the SBC has the fortitude to do so with one particular congregation at the forthcoming convention in Baltimore, if said congregation does not repent of their new stance on homosexuality. Most on here should know exactly which congregation I mean.