I have had discussions with friends recently who asked that question.
- Many younger Southern Baptists wonder if fighting the fight against the established powers who resist progress on racial issues, who protect sex abusers instead of exposing them, who think our solutions lie in the 1950s and 60s, more than in the NT, is worth it. Why not cut bait and move on?
- I have seen discussions among minorities who, seeing the way Southern Baptists fawned over a man like Donald Trump, wonder if the SBC has any real passion to correct its racist past. At times, I wonder too.
- Of course, those who hated and resisted the Conservative Resurgence rejoice at our numerical decline and attribute it to just recompense for our warring ways in the 80s.
- I know pastors who have left the SBC and claim to feel freedom from the “stuff” they went through while they were among us.
- The fact is, we are in a decades-long statistical decline (our yearly increases declined starting around 1950, we plateaued in the late 90s and actual decline began in the late 2000s). We are not a growing denomination anymore.
Is the Southern Baptist convention a sinking ship tied to 50s and 60s Southern Culture, resistant to change, filled with nasty people who attack anyone who disagrees? Sometimes it seems that way. However, I am not ready to give up on the Southern Baptist Convention. Yes, we have problems. I would admit a few of them here.
Warning – I am stating my opinions here today, realizing they will offend many. I am trying to describe ACTIONS without ASSIGNING motives. I anticipate a negative reaction to some of my comments, but here I stand.
Problems in the SBC
1. We are tethered to the past.
Too many Southern Baptists look not to the New Testament church as the standard, but the church of the 50s and 60s. “If we would do today what we did then, we would see today what we saw then.” They hold on to Confederate flags and Southern Culture and hymnals and all the methods of First Baptist County Seat of 1962.
Resistance to progress on racial reconciliation and to fair and honest reporting on sexual abuse has been discussing. JD Greear encountered still opposition to his efforts at transparency on the issue. The system we have set up currently resists investigations instead of helping victims find justice.
We are like an aircraft carrier with an undersized rudder. Any attempt at course correction is met with resistance and refusal.
2. We are tethered to the GOP.
I saw a listing of prominent Southern Baptists tweeting conspiracy theories about this “stolen election.” Many sought access to power and valued White House passes above prophetic truth. they sold their gospel birthright for a pot of political porridge. They ignored the vile words and actions of Donald Trump to hold on to power.
NOTE: I have to say this EVERY time – I am not speaking of people who made a decision that Donald Trump was better than Joe Biden. That was a choice YOU made under the Lordship of Christ. Your choice, not mine, and I respect your right to vote differently than I did.
My problem is with those who ignored Trump’s character, treated him with reverence and veneration, and put him on a pedestal he did not deserve. I saw many borderline blasphemous memes about Trump “rising on the third day” (both in reference to his COVID and overcoming his election defeat). Instead of speaking truth to power, our leaders curried favor with an ungodly man and compromised the church in the eyes of the world. The SBC has been brought to public shame by the actions of SOME of our prominent leaders. Of course, this is my opinion and I realize that many of you will disagree.
For clarification – I did not vote for Joe Biden, or for Hillary. I cannot vote for “the party of death.” I am now an independent. My sympathies and convictions are closer to the GOP on issues but I will not vote for ungodly, borderline racist, misogynistic, xenophobic candidates because they are GOP.
3. We have many divisive, dishonest organizations and networks.
Yes, I just expressed a strong opinion that many will disagree with – Baptists have the right to dissent and disagree. What we do not have the right to do is lie and attack one another based on false accusations. Dissent is one thing. Organizing to force out those who disagree, lying about those who dissent – these are divisive acts.
Good men have been attacked and some have even left jobs at least partially because of false accusations based on Res 9, CRT, Intersectionality, etc. These accusations have often been leveled against Black professors, among others.
Networks and other ministries, as well as some blogs, have trafficked in lies about men like Russell Moore. No one has to agree with Dr. Moore, but we are not free to lie about him. He is not a Democrat, a liberal, an egalitarian, or many of the satanic lies that have been told about him. I have seen good people pass along lies about him because they lack the discernment to find out what is actually true.
I have been asked if JD Greear is a liberal and have seen people lie about him without conscience. These are people who style themselves men of God who call JD a liberal or an egalitarian, or other such insults. Lying is of the devil, folks. You cannot do God’s work through lies.
NOTE: if anyone tells you that there is a significant problem with liberalism in the SBC, they are LYING to you. Maybe they are passing along lies they have been told by others, but they are not speaking the truth. I am tired of innocent people coming to me and saying, “I read the SBC is going liberal” and having to say that they were lied to.
When people are willing to scheme and lie and cheat to attain and maintain power, is it worth it to keep up the fight? Why not just walk away and let these venomous snakes poison themselves?
4. We are a convention of smaller churches run by and for large churches.
I still remember what I was told when I was elected president of the Pastors’ Conference in 2016. “You can’t do this.” The man who said this was not hostile, he was just certain that average SBC pastors were not capable of handling that kind of leadership. Last I knew, around 96% of our churches run 400 or fewer people on Sunday (that was a pre-COVID stat), and yet our leaders are almost all megachurch men. They want us involved in the SBC, but only as passengers on the Baptist Bus.
The SBC has come to largely ignore traditional, established churches – the majority of churches in America – to establish the NAMB blueprint (contemporary suburban churches). Any church that adheres to the BF&M and reaches people is a victory, but there is a disconnect here. The church I pastor gives faithfully to CP causes but is largely ignored in SBC life. Our gaze is elsewhere.
I realize two things.
- Many of you hold differing opinions and may find my views offensive. Fine.
- I will likely come under attack for saying these things. Also fine. These are my views.
So, why do I bother? Why stay in a denomination like the SBC?
Why I Remain in the SBC
1. I believe in (most) SBC churches.
I am a big fan of social media because of its tendency to give a voice to people who the “powers-that-be” have otherwise refused to hear. At every SBC annual meeting I’ve been to in recent years, some entity head or other leader has whined about bloggers, about social media, and about unfair criticism. Some of it is valid, but the fact is they hate being criticized. They hate hearing any negative opinions. The squeaky wheel in the SBC gets a sledgehammer.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of Jerks out there in SBC life, people who just enjoy spouting off and running others down, people who lie and manipulate and scheme because that is their character. I believe these men are the minority of Southern Baptists. I think most “Great Commission Baptists,” even those with whom I disagree strongly, just want to preach God’s word and reach their community. The farther you get away from halls of SBC power, the more you find sincere servants of God.
2. I believe in the CP.
The Cooperative Program isn’t perfect, but I still think it is a great way to fund missions. I asked an Assembly pastor, who was raised Southern Baptist, why he thinks the AoG doesn’t use something like the CP. It is tradition, mostly, but he referenced the advantage of personal contact with missionaries. Being in Iowa, where getting a missionary to speak is a challenge involving travel and other costs that stress our budget, I understand that. Still, in terms of putting missionaries on the field, funding seminaries, and carrying on the work of a denomination (AoG, like us, pretends it isn’t a denomination, but is) there is nothing better than the CP.
There are two main problems with the CP today. Churches want to keep their money for themselves (lacking a heart for missions) or want to spend their missions dollars themselves (a control issue). For a church like mine, there’s no better way to be part of a worldwide missions program.
The CP is for Cooperative people and churches. I am willing to cooperate in worldwide missions with churches that believe differently than I do on many issues.
3. I believe in the IMB.
It has taken some hits in recent years, but I have met quite a few missionaries in the past 10 years or so, and I happily support EVERY ONE. When I was a young pastor I considered leaving the SBC. It was our FMB that kept me in then and it is a strong concern now.
4. I believe in the BF&M.
As a doctrinal confession, the BF&M is imperfect, vague, and lacks the punch some do. It certainly doesn’t reflect all that I believe. It is not supposed to do that. It is supposed to be a basic confession that Calvinists and non-Calvinsts alike, Dispensationalists and Amillennialists, Complementarians everywhere on that spectrum can sign. It was actually crafted to hit certain fundamentals – inerrancy, atonement, Trinity, etc – while leaving many things vague.
It is designed for us to unite on Christian fundamentals and Baptist distinctives while granting freedom on other issues. I like that.
5. I believe we still care about our Great Commission.
We do it badly. Often, we are more talk than action. But Southern Baptists still care about reaching the lost and teaching the saved. We need to get better at it, but at least we still care!
6. I believe our problems are solvable.
We are not anathema or ichabod. Not yet. Are there those who have resisted racial progress in the SBC? Yes. In fact, there are racists. I’ve gotten their emails and comments here – vile things from people calling themselves leaders of SBC churches. Racism is alive and well in SBC churches and we delude ourselves to think it isn’t true. It is also true that we have made progress, real progress. I can understand why minorities are frustrated. We can’t ask them to sit patiently and wait as we move away from our racist past at a glacial pace. We risk our future when we resist racial reconciliation and inclusion.
Have we made progress on abuse issues? Yes. Have some leaders resisted this progress? Yuuup. But progress was made anyway. I understand why survivors are frustrated, even angry, but still, we are making some headway.
We are moving forward – way too slowly. I’m patient. Others might not be.
7. I am a Conservative Baptist – where else would I go?
I am a conservative and I am Baptist. Where else would I go? We could go independent, but we would no longer be part of the great SBC missions program. I wouldn’t be affiliated with 6 seminaries that I respect. We could look at one of the other Baptist denominations, but I have not seen any of them that are vast improvements.
I believe the SBC is worth investing in and fighting for – till death do us part. If it actually does turn liberal, or if recalcitrant forces of darkness turn us back to past days of racism, abuse, and dependence on politics instead of Christ, I would have to rethink. I believe the SBC is worth the effort and I’m going to keep plugging away.
This post is already WAY past acceptable word-count limits for William, so I’d better wrap it up and ship it. I’m sure NO ONE will be bothered by what I say, right?