If I Were the Baptist Pope

by Dave Miller on June 7, 2014 · 58 comments

I know, I know, we don’t have a pope for several reasons – biblical, practical and traditional. But I still sometimes wish I had papal authority among Southern Baptists for a day or two. I could really make some significant, sensible and sure-fire changes that would forever change the direction of the SBC. Good changes? Bad? Not sure. But the SBC would change, that’s indisputable!

I realize some of these measures may sound harsh and extreme, but we live in extreme times. Here are some of the first actions I would take if I were the Baptist pope.

1) Excessive alliteration of sermons would bring public floggings. 

Dear pastor, I knew Adrian Rogers (well, I met him a couple of time). You are not Adrian Rogers. Dr. Rogers’ alliterations flowed flawlessly from his feverishly fertile mind, fascinating and faithful to the text as well as forthright in their meaning. But the alphabetic gymnastics to acquire and assign alliteration to sermon points has become asinine and annoying.

Under the Miller Papacy, first offense over-alliteration would draw a letter of rebuke. The second offense would incur a steep fine. And a third offense would necessitate a public flogging with a hardbound Roget’s College Thesaurus in the entryway to the display area at the convention. 

2) Those with extreme CalvOCD  would be publicly humiliated.

What, you ask, is a CalvOCD? It is a condition in which someone is obsessed with soteriological debates. Everything is about Calvinism – for or against. Some CalvOCDers link every problem to a lack of Calvinism and advance it as the panacea for all our maladies. Other CalvOCDers devote their lives to opposing the floral favorite of the Genius of Geneva. (If anyone takes the time to explain that Calvin did not actually construct the TULIP acrostic, he is likely a CalvOCDer.)  CalvOCDers can make every dicussion, debate or disagreement about the Institutes or the Statement regardless of what the original topic was.

I would issue a papal bull that the ten worst offenders from each side in this debate be used as examples. They would be stripped down to speedo swimsuits and be paraded through the convention center while messengers loudly read imprecatory Psalms and threw wadded up brochures from the display areas at them.

The extreme sufferers of CalvOCD would likely interpret their suffering as “for righteousness sake” and rejoice that they have some eternal treasure stored up. But as we make an example of them, perhaps others would get the message and move on. Granted, watching these guys in speedos would be punishment for all of us, but considering the horror of the constant stream of CalvOCD blogging it might be worth the pain.

3) Boorish Baptists who behave badly at Baptist meetings in Baltimore would be banished to BAMA. 

Any Baptist who treats locals (Baltimoreans? Marylanders?) badly will be banished to Alabama, a punishment that is cruel and unusual, but in this case necessary. Anyone who eats a meal at a restaurant and leaves a tip less than 15% (that is a minimum) will be Bama bound. Please remember Miller’s Rule of Restaurant Rectitude: “If you bow your head before the meal you leave a generous tip after the meal.” Those who treat locals with disdain or in any way exhibit brutish, boorish, bad-mannered, bellicose or belligerent behavior during our time at Baltimore will be subjected to “Roll, Tide, Roll” chants until their brains become broccoli.

4) Those who offer silly, annoying resolutions would be forced to mop the convention floor after each session. 

Okay, there is a problem here – annoying is in the eye of the beholder. But remember, I’m the Baptist Pope in this scenario, so the final arbiter of annoyingness is none other than me. But I can give you a few hints as to my likely adjudications:

  • Any resolution advocating a boycott of anything will be considered annoying. Plan to stay after and mop.
  • Resolutions designating Obama as the Antichrist or calling for his impeachment are de facto annoying. Get a mop, dude.
  • In fact the vast majority of politically-focused resolutions will earn you a date with a mop
  • Your resolution asking the entire convention to speak to some hobby-horse issue of yours that no one in the convention has a clue about – well, plan to mop.
  • Also, resolutions which seek to impose one person’s opinion on a minor matter on the entire convention are inherently annoying. Got a mop and bucket?
  • If you offer a Calvinism-focused resolution, see item 2. And stay to mop.

Of course, the problem here is that I find about 87% of resolutions annoying, so the convention hall is going to be VERY clean.

5) People who walk out of the convention hall during the closing prayer to get to the restaurant or hotel first should be ashamed of themselves, but that kind of offense is above my pay grade and they will answer to a higher authority.

Aren’t you glad I will never be the Baptist Pope?

On the other hand, if I were Baptist Pope, we would open the convention with the Hokey-Pokey and do the wave in the convention hall during one of the seminary reports (to be chosen by urim and thummim). Of course, the wave would move from left to right. A leftward direction is never acceptable.

I might be capricious and cruel, but I also want to be fun.


{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

1 John Roland June 7, 2014 at 7:44 am

If I were Baptist Pope . . .

I have been a Southern Baptist (SBC) my whole life, all 39 years. Born and raised in a Southern Baptist church (baptized at age 7). I attended a Southern Baptist university for 4 years (BS degree), attended a Southern Baptist seminary 4 years (MDiv degree), pastored Southern Baptist churches for 5 years. I am knee deep in SBC. I have attended endless meetings and have read the latest statistics (all the numbers are DOWN). No one asked me but this is what I would do if asked to help the Southern Baptist Convention survive for another generation.

My Ideas for Southern Baptist Convention to survive
–Streamline convention. Focus on 4-5 organizations—Lifeway, IMB, Seminaries, Ethics & Religious Life Committee, Disaster Relief.
–Outsource and create Missions partnerships with Haggai institute, Campus Crusade, Samaritan’s Purse, Awana, Celebrate Recovery, DivorceCare. Why recreate the wheel & duplicate?
–More webinars & cancel most meetings & conferences. Group chats online
–Focus like a laser on church planting and relaunching dying churches. Have as many church plants strategically aligned with a sending church as possible.
–Network less on region, more on interests and do so by online resource centers. Put big emphasis on online resource centers. Skype, Google+, Cisco Webex
–Sell administration buildings. Rent office space from churches & rest work from home. Follow Golden Gate Seminary’s lead and sell valuable properties and pour the income back into growth of the ministry. Less focus on fancy buildings, beautiful campuses and more focus on effective, streamlined ministry.
–Partner with groups and orgs that are working…Catalyst, Passion Conferences, Youth Specialties–humbly join what is working. Cut what is dead
–Actively connect seminary graduates with mentor. Aggressively connect retired pastors to pass the baton. Don’t just leave it to seminaries.
–YouTube channel–answering quick questions
–Support what is already organically working. Think beyond territory.
–Seminaries begin partnering with other universities for bivocational degrees—MBA, JD, Teaching certificate, Engineer. Share campus space and realistically prepare grads for bivocational work. 80% bivocational. Prepare that way
–To reduce conflict, make for smooth transitions, and empower the younger generation, have a 70 yr old mandatory retirement for seminary presidents and top executives


2 Ryan Abernathy (@absonjourney) June 7, 2014 at 8:19 am

I could get on board with every one of these.


3 John Wylie June 7, 2014 at 11:03 am

I love (actually love is not a strong enough word) what you said about selling administration buildings and renting space in church buildings.


4 andy June 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Can we have 2 popes? …Dave in charge of the annual mtg, and John in charge of operations…perhaps one in the East and one in the West…


5 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 8:09 am

Can anyone confirm smoke coming from the chimney at SBC headquarters in Nashville?

Has the Cardinal of Soiux City been chosen?



6 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 8:10 am

If smoke is confirmed…..is it white or black??


7 CLAllen June 7, 2014 at 8:26 am

When I retired at 50 from teaching in Alabama, I moved to metro Atlanta to start again in teaching. So I say this. “What do all famous people from Alabama ( and there are some, Wilson Pickett, Kate Jackson, Condelezza Rice, et al) have in common?? They left.


8 Jerry Peele June 7, 2014 at 9:13 am

I like it, David. Let’s try it for one year in Baltimore. If the messengers vote for it and then don’t like it, get ready to mop in Alabama.


9 William Thornton June 7, 2014 at 9:29 am

Excessive alliteration should require the wearing of a dunce cap. How did it come to be that Southern Baptist men-of-the-cloth acquired such silliness? We all wanted to be Adrians?


10 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 9:51 am

Who wouldn’t want to be Adrian?


11 William Thornton June 7, 2014 at 10:45 am

No one. Who can be Adrian? No one.


12 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 10:33 am

No alliteration? Bad idea! I own stock in Webster’s thesaurus. :-)


13 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 10:36 am

Seriously, I think alliteration historically is attributed to R.G. Lee. Obviously Adrian Rogers was a master at it. And I agree who would not want to preach like AR.


14 Dean Stewart June 7, 2014 at 9:42 am

A Baptist Pope is:

Christ is the One who is head of the church not man.

The man who holds this position has stolen something sacred, intended only for Christ.

To depart from the standard that has been given us by previous generations is shameful for Southern Baptist.

Give me alliteration or give me death.
Selah :)


15 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 9:50 am

Consider this your first offense warning.


16 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 10:37 am



17 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 10:19 am

Since I surmise that I seem to be surprisingly set up as a special spokesman for the opposite side of the first statement, I am deferentially devising this response to dear old Dave because he is dogmatically devoted to a dangerous and deadly disdain for developing dedicated, deep-diving alliteration in our death-defying duty to diligently deliver and defend the divine declaration of our delightful Deity.

So as I struggle to surrender to the selective sense of SBC Voices, I sincerely and subserviently submit this simple, succinct sketch of my sermon summary to seek a certified seal of your support and sanction.

Here are the potential points for my pending exposition of Peter’s primary epistle (1 Peter 1:24-2:10):

I) The Eternal Nature of Our Hope
A) The Reassurance for 1st Century Christians
1) The glamour of the Roman Empire cannot compare to the glory of God’s Kingdom
2) The pomp of the Roman Emperor cannot contend with the power of God’s Word
B) A Reminder for 21st Century Christians
1) When times are good we are tempted to misuse our faith
a) The United States is not God’s gospel
b) The “American Dream” is not God’s goal
2) When times are hard we are tempted to misdirect our faith
a) Earthly concoctions are no replacement for the eternal Creator
b) Even Christians are no replacement for the eternal Christ
II) The Expected Fruit of Our Lives
III) The Excruciating Tragedy of Unbelief
IV) The Everlasting Nation of Our God

Sincerely seeking sanctification and Christian community,

-Bob Browning


18 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 10:30 am

I would chastise you for devoting that much time to alliteration in a blog comment if I hadn’t spent time crafting this post and filling it with my own alliterations.

But Bob, I have to grant you absolution based on the extreme measures you took in this comment.

Well done..


19 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 10:40 am

As the Kettle to the Pot, I felt your well-crafted post merited a well-crafted reply! :D

I guess alliteration just comes more naturally to some – on the other hand I struggle to integrate humor into my preaching (probably because MY sense of humor is reflected in the comment above!).

Anyway, I really enjoyed your post this morning and I do even appreciate the grains of truth you illustrated even as you were having fun with it.

Sorry I won’t be making it to Baltimore to put some faces with the names, but I’ll be praying for much fruitfulness from everyone’s time there.

In Christ,



20 Rick Patrick June 7, 2014 at 10:48 am

And if I were the Baptist Pope, I would do two things:

(1) allow a full, free exchange of ideas regarding any issues important to any Southern Baptist without browbeating them for taking an interest in such matters, even and especially if they wish to discuss the impeachment of a President willing to trade five terrorists for one deserter, and

(2) eliminate the papacy, effective immediately, so I could join Pope Benedict XVI at the Papal Retirement Home.


21 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

Of course people are free to sing their one note as long as they please…just as others are free to tune that one note out to listen to some other tunes


22 Rick Patrick June 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

Tuning out is one thing. I fully support it. We all have free will. :-)

In your light-hearted “tongue-in-cheek” metaphor, however, there was something about flogging, public humiliation and making people prance around in speedos.

I know it’s a joke. I get that. And I certainly love jokes. But there is a categorical difference—even in a joke—between simply ignoring somebody and actively ridiculing their convictions.

I’m with you on tuning certain voices out—sticking our fingers in our own ears. I’m not with you on the whole speedo thing, on many levels.


23 Max June 7, 2014 at 10:59 am

Dr. Rogers’ alliterations caused the listener to focus more clearly on the sermon points he was trying to make. Vance Havner used to say that church folks needed to leave a service mad, glad or sad … but not unchanged … Adrian stitched his sermons with alliterations that caused the sermon to stick. I still remember many of them.

Dave – I cringe at the thought of you in a speedo swimsuit parading through the convention center or anywhere else.


24 Bill Mac June 7, 2014 at 11:11 am

It’s not just alliteration, it’s “preacher voice” as a whole. Where did “preacher voice” come from? Is it taught in seminary?


25 Mike Bergman June 7, 2014 at 11:18 am

It’s a spiritual gift.



26 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 1:06 pm

In the case of Dr. Rogers it is everything. All that I was taught in seminary the was needed or a good sermon and delivery Dr. Rogers perfected.


27 Louis Cook June 7, 2014 at 11:37 am

The gospel is powerful, persistent, practical and personal is stuck in my mind from a Fred Luter sermon I watched on YouTube. I sometimes forget the practical part but that might be due to my SBC- trained brain’s inability to remember four points. Give me three.


28 John Wylie June 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

P’s, R’s and C’s are pretty easy to alliterate, but try alliterating using the letter X some time.


29 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 12:53 pm

Then how’d you like my “D” alliteration earlier? ;)

I once wrote a poem that even rhymed the word propitiation – and that was before I ever heard of Shai Linne!


30 dr. james willingham June 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm

This is all good gobbledegook, grimey, gamey, grunge galloping greatly, gunk giving grouse, gifted, greedy gore, ghastly, ghostly, well, I can’t believe I did that without a Roget’s in hand. Back in the fifties and sixties, practically every one was alliterative. I can even remember an outline on Acts 16:14 by the Youth Minister who won D.L. to Christ, to wit, I. Her hands were stilled. II. Her heart was opened. III. Her house was saved. Hey Brother Payton: do you remember that outline by Bob Kleinschmidt?


31 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I remember it…I have it…..I have use it :-)


32 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 2:35 pm

If I were the Baptist Pope I would make Ed Stetzer shave that beard!


33 Rick Patrick June 7, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Can we not address this hairy issue from the floor during the question and answer period of the Lifeway Report?


34 Louis Cook June 7, 2014 at 4:47 pm

I bet he is hoping the temporary Pope movement is a success so he can put his beard in the ring for temporary Patriarch like the various Orthodox churches.


35 andy June 7, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Avoid alliteration always!


36 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Alliteration Always Aligns Adjectives Admirably And Avoids Agitation And Aggravation Addressing Audiences


37 D. L. Payton June 7, 2014 at 4:14 pm

OOPS adjectives should be admonitions


38 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 4:18 pm



39 Dwight McKissic June 7, 2014 at 5:00 pm




40 dr. james willingham June 8, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Didn’t believe it was possible of you brother. Bet you used Roget. I am not ashamed to admit that I do now and then. Mostly now.


41 D. L. Payton June 8, 2014 at 9:26 pm

A man’s gotta do what a ma’s gotta do!!!:-)


42 Bob Cleveland June 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm

Paul said he came with no “excellence of speech” and when I hear alliteration, I just figure the preacher isn’t trusting in the same mannter Paul trusted, to get his points across.


43 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 5:39 pm

Aside from the phenom that was AR…

Pastors who use alliteration are obviously:

1. Obstinately compulsive in their preperation.

2. Obsessively coercive in their presentation.

3. Overly categorical in their paroxysm.


44 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 5:40 pm

*3. Overtly (not overly). Lol


45 Greg Harvey June 7, 2014 at 7:16 pm

I think “overly” also is true…


46 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Yea, that’s the beauty of forced alliteration … ;-)


47 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 8:20 pm

So does that mean there is alliteration that isn’t forced? Can it really be called alliteration if it’s not intended to be?

It seems like the folks that don’t like alliteration – to be consistent – should also want to sing hymns that have no rhythm.

Why is it preferable to make our singing beautiful and not our preaching? Are they not both part of our worship?

48 Tarheel June 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

I think everybody’s just have a little fun here.

I have no problem with alliteration if that’s how you choose to preach that’s fine – if one chooses to preach without alliteration that’s fine – if one chooses to preach with the manuscript that’s fine – if one chooses to preach with an outline – without an outline – that’s all fine.

God calls different persons with different personalities, gifts, oratory skill, etc…. to preach in different ways and all that’s okay.

The important thing is to be faithful to the text – always preaching Jesus and calling people to embrace the gospel and walk in obedience to the Scriptures as disciples of Christ.

49 Bob Browning June 7, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Good points brother. I think my post sounded a little more serious than I intended, though it was an honest question.

It just seemed that some folks were going a bit further than the sarcasm we started with so I wanted to throw a few thoughts in the ring. Glad most of us are on the same page. Thankful for all the men of God and churches represented here.

50 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Bob, that was kind of he nature of this piece – ad absurdum comedy (or at least the attempt at such.)

I’ve alliterated sermons, and there’s nothing wrong with the practice. But there’s a point at which it gets silly and annoying – a personal observation.

Mostly, I was just trying to be funny.

51 Dale Pugh June 8, 2014 at 8:07 am

But “paroxysm” doesn’t begin with “pre-” like “preparation” and “presentation.” Alliteration fail.

52 dr. james willingham June 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Didn’t Paul use flee, follow, and fight? or pheuge, dioke, and agonize? Wouldn’t swear to the latter as they are Greek words (I Tim.6:11,12), but the KJV has a good alliterative English rendering as is indicated, three good points, three alliterative and illustrative points.


53 Zack Stepp June 7, 2014 at 9:49 pm

If I Were the Baptist Pope

Seems a good enough excuse for me to recycle my old Bapticus Pontificus post from a couple of years ago. http://i.imgur.com/AUH0t.jpg


54 Dave Miller June 7, 2014 at 10:54 pm



55 Dale Pugh June 8, 2014 at 8:04 am

That photo needs to happen in real life.


56 John Wylie June 8, 2014 at 8:43 pm

If I were Baptist Pope my first order of business would be to have a bill sewed on all my clerical hats.


57 D. L. Payton June 8, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Yes, and a St. Louis Cardinal logo above the bill


58 dr. james willingham June 16, 2014 at 9:40 pm

Well, that killed this blog even though I support, as all southern gentlemen do, the Cardinals (they use to be the only team one could hear about in the South, thanks to Harry Caray). Don’t know what to make about this mess of other teams that moved South to steal away from the Cardinals.


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