There have been numerous posts recently from different SBC personalities about the visions competing for the future of the Southern Baptist Convention. In my opinion, the debate has gotten nasty and defaming to Christ. People have differing opinions on what these visions are and how many different visions exist. There is the Baptist Identity vision, the Founders vision(GCR), the cooperationists vision, and in my opinion there is the common man vision.(there are more visions, but I will leave it at those)
I am a common man. I want what is best for the Southern Baptist Convention. I am willing to put my own personal preferences to the side if that means a healthier convention. Convictions I cannot put to the side, but preferences I can.
I am Reformed, but am not sure if Tom Ascol took into account everything when he gave his vision for the future of the SBC. I think it comes down to a lot more than BI vs. Great Commission Resurgence. His post made it seem as if it comes down to being baptist centered or gospel centered. I just think there is more at play. I love Tom Ascol. I greatly respect his ministry, his heart, and his love for reformed theology. Yet, in my opinion any vision promoted by ‘hard’ calvinists will not come to pass in the SBC in the near future. Especially, when that vision is introduced in the way that it was. A way that seems to say, ‘Are you Baptist first, or Gospel first?’ Would anyone not say Gospel?
Ascol, Brister, and others have been accused of being divisive, but I disagree. I applaud there efforts and passion I just disagree, a little. It is not that I disagree with the goal of Ascol’s vision, but that I believe that there are more than two visions. I think within his ‘GCR’ vision there are split camps that must be dealt with. There are GCR ‘hard calvinists’ that want control. There are GCR non-calvinists that want calvinists to go away. There are GCR people who want to throw out the Warren’s and Stanley’s. If you simplify the debate to only BI and GCR, I will say GCR wins, but now lets deal with all of the differing visions within the GCR. Admittedly, I might be misunderstanding Ascol’s point or arguments. if so, please let me know.
I am personally acquainted with a few of the Baptist Identity crew, but I also don’t feel that their vision for the SBC would be the healthiest direction. I am not avid in ecumenism, but I disagree with a couple theological and practical points of the Baptist Identity Movement. The SBC would shrink in size, do less in missions, and have a shrinking influence in the Evangelical world.
The cooperationist vision for the SBC is one that would eventually destroy the Southern Baptist Convention. They pride themselves on ‘cooperation’ being distinctively Baptist, but I strongly disagree. That form of cooperation is not Baptist, it is liberal. I believe the hearts and motives are pure. I truly believe that those Spurgeon argued with in the Downgrade Controversy had good motives. They truly wanted to do what was best, but it wasn’t too long before they ceased to exist. Lines must be drawn. The SBC must draw lines on ‘second tier issues.’ Issues that do distinctively make us Baptist, particularly, Southern Baptist. The ‘cooperationist’ vision is the newest form of liberalism raising its ugly head in the SBC. If we follow the cooperationist vision to its logical end then only salvific issues stand. Before you know it we will throw out the Baptist view of Lord’s Supper, Baptism by immersion, etc…
So Where Is The Southern Baptist Convention Headed?
What Direction Is It Going?
It starts with leadership. First, let me say that I greatly respect Johnny Hunt. He is a good pastor and leader. The problem I see with his ‘type’ of presidency is that he is not or is even willing to take the Southern Baptist Convention in any particular direction, but merely holds it where it is. The pot is brewing my friends… Unless something is done, some type of direction is taken, it will spill over. That is not what we want. I think the Johnny Hunt presidency is perfect, for now. Why? Because we need time to think, pray, and debate about the future of the SBC before we make any strong moves. Do not get me wrong, a strong move is needed and coming.
I wrote a post recently asking who you all, readers of SBC Voices, would pick as your president if you got to choose. There was some interesting and predictable responses. Let me lay out some things I think we MUST have in the next president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
1. We must have a leader who is courageous. We need a leader who has a big, but humble personality. A person that is highly respected throughout all camps of the Southern Baptist Convention. One who can make a tough decision and although some will disagree they will still respect him for the decision made.
2. We need a man that puts Christ first. I say this, thinking it should be obvious. But implications to this point go to a high view of Scripture and a knowledge that first accountability is to God. Regenerate church membership, church discipline, etc are all issues that must be addressed. Only a man putting Christ first will be courageous enough to implement serious change in these areas. This partly goes with point 1. A person living and leading to please Christ will upset and anger some, but that doesn’t mean the decision does not need to be made.
3. We need a person that understand what holds together and drives the Southern Baptist Convention. Theology and Missions. Southern Baptists have not long been known for great theology, like many consider the Presbyterians, but we, no doubt, have our theological distinctions and they must be kept. Missions is something the SBC has always been known for, but in my opinion this has slid as of late. We are quite busy bickering over all of these different visions for the SBC.
4. Either a calm Calvinist or a friendly non-calvinist. Calvinism is a never ending battle within the Southern Baptist Convention. We either need a non-calvinist who is still theologically respected by 5 point Calvinists or a Calvinist that does have it on his forehead in an arrogant manner. We can’t even has a calvinist that puts his Reformed theology has a priority for change within the SBC. If the SBC becomes more Calvinistic it is going to have to continue the same way that it is now: through the younger, future generation of the SBC.
5. It is not a necessity to have a ‘shepherd.’ When people heard Mohler was going to be put up for election all the non-Calvinists of the convention decided to go the ‘we need a shepherd’ route. I think this is hogwash. In my opinion, it is a cop out. The non-calvinists just simply did not want a calvinist president and they were to cowardly to come out and say it! I am not sure that the SBC is ready for a Calvinist president, but if not let’s not be cowardice about it. There are a lot of pros to having a seminary president as the president of the SBC. I am not necessarily saying we MUST have an SBC president, but I am saying that it is hogwash to use the ‘we need a shepherd’ copout in order throw Calvinists and seminary presidents out of the running.
6. We need a president that has a strong relationship with older and younger generations of the SBC. The gap is widening and this is of utmost importance. The older generation must open its eyes and see that unless the torch is passed and young leaders rise their beloved convention will fade. They younger generation needs to shut its mouth every once in awhile, be humble, learn, and then put the same amount of work into the convention as the older generation. If you are a young leader and you really want to be active in the SBC I encourage to try going to some SBC conferences, make connections, and participate in SBC life rather than fleeing to Desiring God and Resurgence conferences. Yes, they are great. If you can go to both, DO! But do not whine about not having a voice when you aren’t putting in the time, money, effort, and support. With this widening gap it is a necessity to have a man that is respected by both generations.
7. We need a man that has a heart for planting new churches. Church planting, in my opinion, is in one sense the future of the SBC. If the SBC does not pick up the church planting it will fade. Older churches are dying, all the time. I believe we will see more and more of this as the Bible Belt continues to decline. These churches must be replaced with young, thriving, missions and theologically driven churches in order for the SBC to thrive.
8. Finally, we need a man that is willing to lead. A man that is a servant. A man that will make tough decisions and lead this hurting, limping convention into the future. Our next president can not be weak or the pot will boil over and things will go from bad to worse. He must lead with full conviction, even when some are walking away.
With all of that said, we need Dr. Daniel Akin as the conventions next president. He fits the criteria above better than anyone. He is highly influential, respected, and is a very strong leader. I am from Southern, some might assume I thought Mohler would be the best man for the job. I think he would be very good, but I think Akin is what this convention needs.
I used to think a big grass roots movement would be best for the convention. A grass roots movement that would lead to a big presidential nomination for this coming convention in Louisville. That would not be best for the convention. It might have its pros but it would definitely widen the gap between generations as Dr. Hunt would be disrespected. It would also start an Akin presidency off on the wrong foot.
There you have it, my opinion. I could be swayed. I decided to write this post way before the next president would be elected so we can get some serious, non-bashing, humble dialogue.