October 24, 2020

Avoiding Death by Nostalgia: My Denomination (The SBC) Today

The following post is completely and only my personal opinion. It is the first of two posts about my denomination. The second will examine the idea of A Great Commission Resurgence: Is It A Possible SBC Future?

Nostalgia- a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. -Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Talking with a pastor friend this afternoon, it occurred to me that my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, finds itself in the perfect storm.

In 1979, conservatives in the SBC announced a plan to wrest control of the denomination from the moderate-liberals who had brought the denomination through the turbulent 1960’s and into a new and optimistic age of Southern Baptist dominance of Baptist evangelicalism. (I’m aware that many SBC leaders on both sides of the fence deny that they are evangelicals. I was taught by the Landmark fundamentalists that we weren’t Protestants. Given the symmetrical chaos, I’ll continue using both terms.)

The conservatives, long a deplored and ridiculed caricature among leadership despite their large numbers, had found a strategy in the SBC’s constitution. The President was elected by the messengers at the convention, and then used that power in one very influential way: he nominated the committee that named trustees to the various agencies and institutions of the denomination.

The plan meant that conservatives had to go to the national convention in large numbers, nominate and elect one of their own for President, for close to fifteen years in a row.

They did it. In two decades, the moderate-liberals were displaced across the board, and eventually left the denomination completely. Seminaries were turned upside down- especially at the moderate-liberal dominated Southeastern and Southern seminaries- and mission boards, agencies and other denominational concerns were controlled by conservatives. It was an unheard of, unprecedented turnaround of an entire denomination.

At this point, one would have been judged insane to predict we would be where we are today as a convention. Conservatives were confident that unity and prosperity were theirs in the years to come.

Conservatives had made the Bible their rallying cry. “Inerrancy” was the uniting point for all SBC conservatives. So Southern Baptists began to produce young people, young pastors and young professors who were serious about putting scripture first. That’s a good thing, right?

That would mean, of course, that those influenced by the conservative resurgence put…

Scripture above denomination.

Scripture above tradition.

Scripture above custom.

Scripture above culture and habit.

Scripture above “the way Southern Baptists have always done it.”

Scripture above Southern Baptist ways of justifying what Southern Baptists do.

Such an orientation is, as the song says, “bound to be some trouble in this town.”

Southern Baptists are now a denomination where conservative leaders are watching young pastors distance themselves from everything but the most lukewarm denominational loyalties. Gone are the days when Nashville (or the state convention office) determined the programs and priorities of every SBC church. Gone are the days when the local association, the state convention and the national denomination could talk to young pastors with authority and the expectation of being heeded. Gone are the days when younger pastors and would-be church planters were eager to be identified with the SBC.

Today men like John Piper, Mark Dever, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Hybels, Matt Chandler and Rick Warren are providing models for ministry that appeal to the next generation of Southern Baptist pastors. These men and others wield enormous influence by their example and their determination to communicate with and develop young leaders. Given the choice of a denominational meeting or a trip to a conference sponsored by one of these men, 9Marks, or the Acts 29 Network, it’s not much of a choice for many young pastors.

Unable to face up to the loss of influence, some elements in the denomination have decided to take the once well-used lower road of “denominational loyalty.” Who are the “real Baptists?” How will we know them? Who will “walk the aisle” and announce they are 100% on board with the SBC?

A negative agenda has rapidly emerged on the part of some SBC leaders:

-Portray SBC Calvinists as hyper-calvinists, baby baptizers, anti-missionary and anti-evangelism.
-Make the use of the public invitation the test case for being evangelistic (and insist it’s a Biblical practice, not a recent historical addition.)
-Oppose efforts to report church membership statistics with integrity as an attack on church government.
-Oppose the elder model of church government in a Baptist Church.
-Emphasize “Baptist Identity,” a code phrase for rejecting almost all cooperation with non-Southern Baptists.
-Insist on conformity on secondary and non-Biblical issues as a requirement for ministry and leadership.
-Cast suspicion on the character and motives of some of the leaders listed above.
-Blame and cast suspicion on the use of new technologies which are the means these new networks of influence have connected to their audience.
-Speak about Baptist methodology and traditions as a unified, identifying whole from which no “real Baptist” would ever depart (despite all evidence that this has never been true and is less true now than ever.)

How strange is it to see Baptist Press almost completely ignore the fact that Mark Driscoll has set the pace for evangelism and church planting in an area where Baptists have never succeeded in favor of running an article casting doubt on Driscoll’s character because of old criticisms from non-Southern Baptists like John Macarthur and Barney Fife-esque discernment police bloggers?

Is this the denomination of Bold Mission Thrust? Don’t pay attention to a guy who once said “crap” in a sermon, even if he has planted the largest evangelical church movement in the Pacific northwest?

How strange is it that younger SBCers will go all over the country to multiple conferences about the Gospel, serious theology, healthy churches and church planting, but will avoid denominational meetings whenever possible?

How strange is it that a 49 year old pastor feels like the youngest person at the SBC’s ever-shrinking national meeting?

Why is it a collective of mostly Calvinists who are having Advance ’09? A Conference on the Resurgence of the local church? Why doesn’t the SBC do this kind of national meeting?

Why does Baptist Press promote political and culture war causes more than our own Southern Baptist missions efforts? When did political partisanship become an acceptable journalistic priority from the voice of our denomination? When did the SBC go on record saying America is a Christian nation and we must vote to insure it remains so? Where in our statement of faith is this advocated?

Brave and reasonable voices like Tom Ascol, Ed Stetzer and Danny Akin have pointed to a model of missional church planting and theological integrity within broad evangelical ecumenism and Kingdom priorities as the way forward for Baptists. The Great Commission Resurgence team is talking evangelism, while the Baptist Identity team is talking purification and survival.

The statistical realities of the coming evangelical collapse will likely cut deep into Southern Baptist ranks. The SBC is the “grayest” of the major denominations, with the largest percentage of members over the age of 70. Funding for SBC missions has become precarious and unpredictable. Loyalty to the denomination’s missions programs still holds a chain of cooperation together, but more and more churches are asking why they are funding second and third level denominational work in their states and associations. Younger pastors increasingly need a reason to send money to denominational headquarters rather than to a church plant with their own people or to missions projects and ministries they personally support. Southern Baptists have always excelled at building the trust on which cooperative missions grew and flourished, but something is shifting among younger leaders. The call to support the Cooperative Program and cooperative missions is being met with a more skeptical attitude, not because of a lack of interest in missions and evangelism, but because of a loss of confidence in the denomination.

All sides agree that Southern Baptist baptisms are declining. Theories of why aren’t hard to come by. Past SBC President Frank Page said openly that the next quarter century would see thousands of churches fold because of aging congregations and declining conversions. Recent numbers indicate that with a decline in ethnic baptisms, the SBC is barely holding the line in growth and is below the line in conversion evangelism. The unthinkable for many Baptists is here: The SBC is in decline. We are no longer the denomination we thought we were. Mormons and the non-religious are rapidly outpacing us.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who can feel the uncertainty among SBC churches and people. There is an unease about who we are, where we are and what we are supposed to do. The signals are no longer clear and the terrain is no longer familiar. Dr. Chuck Kelley at New Orleans Seminary outlined one response: return to the map of the 1960s and 70s. Reinstitute church based programs and return to the methodology of our past golden era. In other words, when lost, drive back to where you weren’t lost. The problem is, we will never find that exit or that highway again. Change has made renewal by retreat impossible.

The SBC is the largest, most evangelistic and most mission minded of America’s evangelical denominations. It has fought a long and costly battle to affirm the Bible as its authority and to place Biblically committed leaders at the helm.

The SBC knows what Christianity is about: missions, evangelism and church planting by committed, baptized disciples of Jesus. It has more resources and equipment than any other denomination to carry out the Great Commission.

At moments, the SBC shows incredible promise, such as Ken Hemphill’s teaching on the Kingdom of God or Ed Stetzer’s drumbeat for new, missional churches aimed at conversion evangelism . Thom Ranier’s vision of simple and essential church is outstanding. At other times the SBC looks and sounds like a denomination flirting with “Death by Nostalgia.”

What is “Death by Nostalgia?” It is the failure to recognize that what succeeded for us before didn’t succeed because we were always right or were always better than others. In the postwar South, the SBC’s brand of revivalism and evangelism worked. Our Sunday schools were the best. Our preaching was on target. Even our heritage of fundamentalism and racism didn’t stop our growth.

But today, the world and the culture in America have changed dramatically. Southern Baptists are viewed negatively by younger Americans. Rick Warren changed the game of evangelical church growth. Mark Driscoll and others have changed it again. A new generation of leaders wants unity around the Gospel, not around the denomination. They want the structures we support to SERVE the church, not dictate to the church. They want to embrace technology and allow for diversity. They want a Great Commission denomination, and not a denomination constantly defining loyalty.

“Death by Nostalgia” is wishing the world was like it was in the 1970’s and we could just assume that we were right. The 1970’s came and went, conservatives ascended and now they have a generation of Bible loving, Gospel centered, missional minded young leaders making up their minds if they are going to stick with the SBC or cast their loyalties elsewhere.

I’m just one Southern Baptist. As long as Baptists are majoring on the Gospel, I’m on the bus. But we have to admit that we have been arrogant and we have neglected crucial aspects of our denominational strength. All was not won for future generations when the conservatives took control. We’ve become functionally unevangelistic in many places because our past methodologies- door to door visitation, revivals, church based ministries- no longer are effective. There are many churches where moralism and legalism are heard and the Gospel is obscured. We have insisted on matters of unity that aren’t matters of unity. We’ve pushed our confession to its limits. We’ve treated younger leaders like they had to pass a loyalty test to get in the door. Many of our churches have looked the other way while change happened all around them and then blamed the pastor for the fact the church wasn’t growing.

After such a great victory as the conservative resurgence, and with some great unity on so many issues, why is the SBC on the verge of losing thousands of young leaders and younger prospective leaders and members?

As most of my readers know, my essay “The Great Evangelical Collapse” was discussed and responded to all over America, and even England and Africa. I noted today one omission. One denomination has, in its media, ignored it completely- which is perfectly fine with me, of course, but I do find it a bit odd.

Do I even need to tell you which one?

Southern Baptists are at a Crossroads generation. It’s a time for wisdom, repentance, loving the Gospel and uniting around the mission. God moves and time moves. We must take his hand, and humbly become a Great Commission network for the 21st century.

Comments

  1. Michael,

    A very perceptive evaluation and diagnosis. I agree completely.

    Hammer meets nail, once again. And, once again, iMonk is holding the hammer.

    Wyman

  2. iMonk,
    I am somewhere between the older generation and younger generation pastors I think. I am almost 35 but your list fits me to a “t.”

    Scripture above denomination. Check

    Scripture above tradition. Check

    Scripture above custom. Check

    Scripture above culture and habit. Check

    Scripture above “the way Southern Baptists have always done it.” Check

    Scripture above Southern Baptist ways of justifying what Southern Baptists do. Check

    Add to all of that pastoring a church in a convention that is the newest and probably most “unconventional” in the SBC and you have a volatile mix. I don’t buy into the full dogma of church growth as it is being sold in so much of the modern church, but instead I am looking for ways to help a small church fulfill the Great Commission by making and teaching disciples on a local level and using the strength of our cooperation with the SBC to fulfill it on a national and international level.

  3. Monk – as usual you hit the nail on the head. You left out some of what made the SBC a denom in decline, though. The “conservative resurgence” turned a “good-old-boy” network into a personality cult on steroids. Ichabod came about because the SBC focused on itself and hubris replaced all humility. When they had a mix of mostly conservative, quite a few fundamentalists and a few liberals, at least they had the Gospel. Now they no longer have the Gospel. THey took their eyes off of Christ and Culture War took over. THey were always behind demographically, but attributed their lack of decline to the fact they they did God a favor by kicking out the liberals. They never realized that they kicked Gospel out due to their extrem hubris. I was a conservaitve, inerrantist SWBTS student in the 87-90 time period, and I am PROUD to have Russell Dilday’s signature on my degree. I wouldn’t even keep a piece of paper with PP’s signature on it — he lead the way to the loss of the Gospel. Pretty harsh words for a Independent Baptist fundamentalist — but my Gospel loving Sem profs were right about this. it just took 20 years to happen and I for one a glad not to be a part of the mess (today I am a public school teacher, and that probably makes me a liberal in their minds).

  4. Question:

    How do you see the following group of people, in your words– “younger SBCers will go all over the country to multiple conferences about the Gospel, serious theology, healthy churches and church planting…” as fitting into (or out of) the coming evangelical collapse?

    And not just SBCers, but younger adults of all kind who fit the profile (I wish to include myself among the ranks). Thanks.

  5. If you read the article, I mentioned in the “What will remain” section that a minority that would survive and thrive would be the theologically reformed working toward an evangelical reformation. I expect them to grow, plant a lot of churches, but not have an impart on the larger evangelical scene.

  6. aaron arledge says

    The best illustration I have heard of what has been going on is that it appears we are pealing an onion. Eventually none will be left.

  7. Jonathan Hunnicutt says

    I grew up SBC, since I was taken to church by my grandparents, but your article voices the many reasons why I did not stay with the SBC.

    One of my friends, a woman, went to SWBTS (pre-Paige Patterson), because she wanted to be a missionary. Before SWBTS, she was doing some pretty amazing mission work in Venezuela, and wanted greater theological grounding. They wouldn’t let her finish once Paige got there. I’m not sure if she was kicked out, or simply strongly urged to leave.

    So after she left, she came to Fuller instead. She now is living in NYC doing some sort of church plant, and trying to influence the UN. I doubt she would still consider herself a Baptist.

    I wonder how many other women like her have been more or less forced to leave the SBC so they can pursue God’s call to missions on their life? Sounds like the SBC sure could use women like them right now.

    Great post. I will pray for the SBC.

  8. The treatment of women by some in the SBC is a cause for great lamentation. I really can’t even comprehend it sometimes.

  9. Michael: I agree with all you have posted here. I am also sadly not surprised that the SB media ignored your articles. We ignore the thing we should be paying attention to and we are paying attention to those things we need to ignore. We have been in bed with politics so long it seems it is hard to give up. But where has it gotten us evangelically? Nowhere but in another battle every 4 to 8 years. Meanwhile you are right, we are shrinking and so is our influence.

  10. Michael,

    I recently came across your blog about “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” in The Christian Science Monitor on the internet. I read your blog today about “Death by Nostalgia” You are right on target in both articles. I can say that since my roots are SBC. Currently I am CBF and have been for several years. However, my active years of ministry as Pastor and Hospital Chaplain were under SBC auspicies. I am now semi-retired working at a local funeral home. Total I have been in some form of ministry about 55 years. I remember the “golden” years. I remember the take over by the conservatives and the controversy and ill will it left. I came to the point I gave up on the denomination and moved into chaplaincy.

    Perhaps it is time for SBC as well as other groups to collapse. Maybe out of the ashes refreshing new life will emerge.

    Keep up the good work and I will keep reading.

  11. …..Barney Fife-esque discernment police bloggers

    so, just who are the hyper-kinetic but comically inept … (whose) false bravado is a smokescreen for thier insecurities, and low self confidence….often overly analytical and alarmist about benign situations … who takes a minor infraction, blows it out of proportion, and then concocts an elaborate planto resolve it (yet only)only inflicts mass chaos … emotional powderkeg, (who) easily projects panic, despair, fear or other extreme reactions. He is smug and self-confident until a real-life situation surfaces, wherein he becomes flustered. Outwardly “a man of the world”, they are truly naïve and easily duped. Though constantly warned they fall for countless scams. (to qoute from the almighty (wiki, that is))

  12. Great post! I am with you in that those who fought for the Bible and are now older within the convention may fail to realize what they did in winning that fight.

    There are a generation of us who are grateful for the Patterson/Pressler coalition all who fought to win that day. Now, we are taking the inerrancy and infalliblity ideas and adding to that “sufficiency.” We are committed to placing the Bible at the front of everything we do. That means the denomination falls down the list of priorities.

    I think the guys at Baptist21 are doing some good things. I want the SBC to continue to send missionaries and impact the world. As a 29yr old pastor, I want to spend years being involved and helping.

    Who would you say are the biggest players within the convention right now? Johnny Hunt? Vines? Patterson? Bill Henard? Mohler?

  13. Capt. Steve says

    The SBC’s uncertainty about their future as well as uncertainty about who you are is certainly shared by many of your Evangelical brothers and sisters.
    Our denomination has certainly been agonising over these issues for some time, and still does periodically.

    One of our more outspoken brothers made an announcement about 5 years ago that in his opinion, it wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ we died as a denomination but ‘when’.
    As an institution we could continue for decades and decades even if the Holy Spirit parted company with us. God forbid!

    Unfortunately he is no longer with us, but I’ve never forgotten his contention that we NEED to die as a denomination (at least by defining it by how we used to do things.) Your comments on not being able to return to the past in methodology is spot on.

    We too have our ‘Glory days’ that we yearn for. Here in Australia for instance we planted churches around two states and experienced growth from 5 people to 20,000 people in multiple congregations within two years! (in each state.)
    Oh, to do that again! Instead of the slow decline and aging churches we see now.

    I’m not as pessimistic as my brother is, but he had wise words that many of us don’t want to hear. And constantly going to the past is just as futile as trying to become a ‘morphed’ version of Willow Creek or Hillsong, etc. in church growth mode.
    It is well said, that we have to define ourselves by the Gospel.
    This was reinforced to me last night as I led some of our folk through class 7 of the Theology Program.

    David H’s comment that “Perhaps it is time for SBC as well as other groups to collapse. Maybe out of the ashes refreshing new life will emerge.”

    Would receive strong agreement from the guy I was speaking about.
    We fear change and the loss of what’s familiar.
    I respect my denomination and feel blessed to minister within it.
    But we need to trust that the gospel is God’s mission. And to ensure we remain committed to the Master and his mission as our first love.

  14. Rick White says

    Monk: I am 57 years old and was part of the CR. I chaired the board at Southern during the major transition of Al Mohler.Many of us who were strong supporters of the CR when it started eventually realized that the agenda changed at some point. We went home for the most part. It has been fifteen plus years since I have participated in SBC life in any active way. I have found new opportunities for fellowship with networks of pastors (mostly younger) who simply want to impact their world for Christ. I plan to spend the last part of my ministry helping these guys build strong new churches. Death by nostalgia, I pray you are wrong but I fear you are right.

  15. Although not a SB, I’ve walked along in close fellowship for over 30 years (first clear personal Gospel witness to me was by a BSU director; SB fraternity brother/roommate prayed me into the Kingdom; discipled by a SB pastor living 2 blocks down the street; 25 years in ministry in which I’ve partnered in numerous ways with SB pastors and missionaries). Thus, I’ve always been an interested and sympathetic observer of SBC politics and pursuits. Probably the only reason I was not drawn… check that… was repulsed into not ever joining the SBC as a member was the Old Landmarkism and accompanying arrogance I encountered only too often. Although it seems to have faded into the background as an identifying element in the denomination, what took it’s place has been the triumphal culture warriorism you’ve described. I’m glad to say that among the rank and file, I continue to encounter many SBs who are not only committed to the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom, but who are too busy advancing the Gospel to bother themselves with the political machinations that seem to be driving the denomination into “death by nostalgia”. But might that not be a good thing? As David H. commented… we can only hope for what survives death by nostalgia and the coming evangelical collapse as far as the SBC is concerned to be alive and vibrant, although it may not look like anything we’ve ever seen before. Barna’s “Revolution”, Cole’s “Organic Church”, McNeal’s “Present Future”, Jacobsen’s “So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore” may have far more to say to us about the future of denominations and denominationalism of all types, including my own.

  16. One way to avoid “Death by Nostalgia” is to attempt “Death by Sermon Illustration”:

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090324/ap_on_fe_st/odd_church_arrow;_ylt=AskhZMEKqQxKl5slcjwH6YrtiBIF

  17. Our SBC pastor told our membership class that the SBC was like the crazy uncle at the family reunion. You love him but you are more or less embarrassed by him. I don’t agree with everything our church does either, but I can see where he is coming from on this.

    I think a lot of the SBC decline comes from the fact that when believers leave one SBC church, they don’t automatically go to another anymore. After a few decades of being exposed to parachurch organizations like Campus Crusade, Inter-Varsity, etc., as well as Christian television and radio programming from a variety of perspectives, being SBC no matter what just doesn’t mean that much. When they leave their SBC church, they have little problem going to the non-denominational megachurch in the Willow Creek/Saddleback vein across town, or the charismatic church with its dynamic worship and emphasis on experiencing God.

  18. Former SBC'r says

    Young Adult. Check
    Family Legacy SBC. Check
    Seminary Degrees. Check
    Ordained. Check
    Left Ministry and the SBC. Check, Check

    And happy to have a new career and the SBC in my rearview mirror. PTL

    (No sense crying about the cow(s) that got away when the barn burned down ~ Gen X and Y don’t ~ hopefully our kids will know nothing about the SBC except as a history lesson. Thankfully we still have some time left to spin that story for them.)

    As an aside the SBC does seem to be starting a lot of churches with ‘point’ in the name and calling them non-denominational.

    (Highpoint, Centerpoint, et al)

    BTW, if you don’t like my post or if you feel the need to be ‘snarky’ about it ~ you’re the reason why we left.

  19. I feared much of what you say was coming nearly 20 years ago, but couldn’t articulate it clearly.

    That’s why I stick to my “label” as a Recovering Southern Baptist.

    Praise God for his Providence.

  20. I’ve got a feeling it won’t be long before people won’t just leave the SBC, they will also strongly urge their family and friends to leave with them.
    I wouldn’t doubt if someday we’ll see videos and pamphlets helping people understand why they should leave the SBC and move toward something else.
    Maybe we’ll see books of people that are recovering from their SBC scars like we’ve read books from people that have left the Mormon church or the Catholic church or whatever…
    That would be sad but it almost seems inevitable.

  21. Control issues, power struggles, an inability (or unwillingness?) to listen to voices of dissent, burying heads in the sand … All those things sure don’t sound like a problem restricted to the leadership of the SBC alone!

  22. I’m 23 and have grown up in the SBC and still identify with it. I know how Augustine must have felt when he said, “The Church is a whore, but she is my Mother.” I’d like to see the convention start to sponsor an annual meeting for people in the convention born in 1979 and later. I would find it useful to see what the Millennial generation in the SBC looks like. What are our concerns and commitments? What are our hopes and dreams for the future of the convention? What kinds of issues and divisions are there amongst ourselves? Very few of the kids I grew up with in youth group are still a part of the SBC, but like you iMonk I think it would be a shame to see our great institutions and systems go to waste in the hands of the inept. It would be really nice to be able to get a picture of what the next generation of leadership looks like and begin networking with them.

  23. One concern I have is that everyone seems to jump on the bandwagon of “The Sky is Falling” parade within the SBC, but rather than try to seek positive change, like the CR did, most in the younger generation take their toys and go elsewhere. My prayer is that the younger generation, of which I am a part, will grow up and lead the march toward bibilical reconciliation (Matt. 18). It seems easier to complain in a blog comment about how ostracized one is instead of showing up at the SBC Annual Convention with humility, genuinely seeking reconciliation and unity.

    Maybe my generation is not mature enough to swallow our own pride, but I pray that the Holy Spirit would make it so. The SBC is the strongest missions-sending cooperative effort in the world, and I would hate to see that die of atrophy because my generation was unwilling to restore the relationship. I imagine we would find more in the older generation than we imagine who are just as eager to be reconciled.

  24. Blake,

    I am glad to hear that you are willing to stick around and see this thing through. I’m not sure, though, that a separate convention for the 30 and younger crowd would be best. It would appear more divisive, I think. I think one of Satan’s greatest weapons is creating divisions along generational lines, which is against Scripture (see Psalm 79:13, 145:4).

  25. I am seeing what you are seeing, Michael. It is happening in our city here in the Deep South, yet few want to admit it or face it.

    It seems that God is no longer blessing all that we do and we are confused as to why. It must be someone else’s fault.

  26. “We are right and we don’t want to discuss it.”

    That is what I see. I am in my 20’s and an IMB missionary who loves being a conservative southern baptist but I am very scared! No matter what your age when you automatically label people who have a different point of view as liberals and irrelevant or troublemakers you have a problem.
    Not to mention our generation could be characterized as one that puts everything on the table, everything is open for discussion (that does not necessitate change just discussion) in the environment that exists in the SBC now questions=dissension.

    So as a young leader in the IMB why do I put up with it when I could EASILY be supported by some good, healthy, growing Churches (that are or were SBC)? Because I believe there is still hope. I understand and respect those who leave, I think about it weekly, but if we all go who will steer the ship? Change IS happening fast, let’s just pray there is still an SBC at the end of it.

    P.S. I went to a convention once it was was a bunch of old men strutting around in nice suits showing off to a Gathers soundtrack…no thanks

  27. Navy Chaplain says

    IMONK, I have for several years considered joining the SBC. The guys who mentored me in my faith is SB. We’ve attended a local SB church for several years but have not joined. After reading your blog for the past year, why would I willingly be a part of that mess. I’ll stay right where I am.

  28. Interesting thoughts on ‘Death by Nostalgia’.

    I always thought these words of Alec Motyer in his thoughts on Isaiah 42-43 were beautiful: ‘The past can teach but it must never bind. The gaze must be ever forward to what God will yet do.’

    A mission-minded people have a healthy respect of the past, but know that the ever-consistent God we serve is faithful to always do new things in our midst.

    Thanks iMonk.

  29. NOTE: I never suggested anyone leave the SBC. I observed that I won’t be surprised that some do, but I am well aware of the many great SBC churches out there and all the good ministry they do. I am primarily commenting on how the denominational leadership lost their way with a younger generation of people who were ready to make the SBC a better and more effective force for the Kingdom.

    ms

  30. iMonk

    Boy do the words of your post ring true for me. That’s one of the reasons I left the SBC. Too much politics and too many power struggles for me. I know there are SBC churches out there doing the Acts 2 thing, but I have not seen it personally.

    For me, it’s about doing my part to fulfill the mission of the church, and that is true conversion and discipleship. Some folks don’t want to grow and they don’t want their churches to grow if it means those unsavory types come in to their peaceful, tranquil church.

    I pastor an EFCA church and am often asked by people unfamiliar with the movement, “Is the doctrine Baptist?” That shows you where we are today.

  31. Just to echo I Monk comment on some great SBC Churches – I love my SBC church. I also admire many things about the SBC

    The crazy uncle stuff we just kind of ignore. And we don’t really advertise that we are SBC

  32. I, too, am a life-long SBC church member and I have the same feelings. Well thought out. Thank you.

  33. As I see people leaving SBC, I know that they take with them the truth in our beliefs and spread them to other churches and denominations. From a Kingdom perspective this is a wonderful thing! Those who fear the SBC is declining are only looking at numbers. Influence is growing. Those trained in our churches and at our seminaries go as emissaries to those outside the SBC to teach the truth of the gospel. What a privilege to have that kind of impact for the kingdom! We are dead in Christ. If He wants SBC to die that the gospel might live in other churches and denominations, we die. If He wants us to grow and continue to serve the Kingdom, He will raise up Kingdom-minded people to do so.

    I serve at the state level in our convention. I do not see the power struggles of which you speak. I see humble men and women, seeking to train laborers for the harvest however they can do so. Our whole state structure has changed twice in the past 5 years in order to adapt to the culture and reach the lost.

  34. Scripture above the True Headship of Jesus Christ…….Check

    Scripture above any real moving of the Holy
    Spirit……..Check

    Scripture above any true Community and the Body working through the tough issues together……..check

    The question I pose is this….Is the GC our sole purpose for existing as the CHURCH the body/bride/Family of Jesus Christ????????????? as is implied by the OP and some of the commenters??

  35. Do the terms “moderate/liberal” and “conservative” mean something different in an SBC context than elsewhere in evangelicalism?

  36. On the statement about moralism and legalism. Two examples from my small rural church who could have used the members badly.

    A family of six, all Christians, were visiting. Had been coming regularly. The mom came to me and said she would love to join but she couldn’t b/c her job as a waitress where she had to serve alchohol violated our church covenant. It was not a big thing to me, but I knew she was right, had she joined and some found out it would have been an issue, dropping the church covenant would have been an even bigger issue. I was at a point where I had not expended all of my courage to confront the congregation, but I had expended all my stockpiled good will by just leading the church to drop their rule on no pants on women at church b/c we had lost another family of six (several non-Christians over that issue.

    I’ve been considering a mission plant in another part of town in addition to my pastorate and have surprisingly met with some oppositin and skepticism from the very folks (fellow ministers, association types) I thought would support it.

  37. imonk,

    spot on as usual. my heart goes out to young sbc pastors in whom a good work has begun but who must face their tradition-loyal church gate-keepers and all too often a largely unregenerated membership. lost church members represent the greatest tragedy of the man-centered, decision-based gospel that plagues the baptists.

    russ

  38. “As I see people leaving SBC, I know that they take with them the truth in our beliefs and spread them to other churches and denominations. From a Kingdom perspective this is a wonderful thing!”

    I personally experience this. At my church, about 1/3 of the members are former Southern Baptists, including myself. The impact this has on the church is that faith and practice are heavily influenced by Baptist ideals.

  39. Imonk,

    Do you believe your calling to be that of a blogger from the outside or have you considered effecting change from the inside by running for denominational office?

    Great article by the way. I’m looking forward to part 2 and think I already agree with you if you’re supporting the vision Dr. Akin has cast. (Another great choice for SBC President)

    Bill

  40. *Bold Mission Thrust*

    Biting knuckles, clapping hands over mouth, struggling against own basest instincts. . .

    . . . to avoid making the *obvious* dirty joke here.

  41. Thank you for another insightful article. I was saved in a SBC and shortly after that (when I was young) started having trouble establishing myself as a productive citizen! This resulted in more than one divorce. Now I am older, happily married, stable, and basically a baptist at heart. God has a strong calling on my life to serve and minister to a flock of people (which I do). I am the associate pastor at a small church in my town. I couldn’t even get a look at an SBC church and all because of personal interpretation of scripture. The SBC’s remind me of Esther at her crossroad when Mordecai told her “if you don’t let God use you, He will find someone else.” The SBC’s won’t use many people that God has called and so He finds other willing vessels to use us. I have even been told by a SBC pastor that “anyone can find an organization with low enough standards for them”….God continues to use us as willing vessels for His glory while the denominations look more and more like a certain fig tree that Jesus had an encounter with every day. Thanks for letting me post and thanks for reading.

    OkieRob

  42. When did we start merging “Political Conservatives” with “Christian Conservatives”? Scriptural-ly, they are mutually exclusive terms (or am I missing something here?). I’m beginning to think we forgot about the advantages of “Church-State Separation.” And, yes, the hyphen is intentional.

  43. Worldview Matters says

    As an evangelical/charasmatic/5 points calvinist, I see denominations as a hinderance. Having been born again at 30, God revealed himself to me via His Word which does not always jive with the man-made organizations (not that he can not use for His glory). God just may be done with his plan to divide us into groups for his purposes.

    It is time for us to follow His Word and not be divided over disputable matters. I see people my age (39) enjoying fellowship with other believers of all historial faiths. I think this is the appeal of the nondenominationl churches (plus their focus on Scripture, God’s Sovereignty and the Cross). His plans will succeed and we need to feel blessed to by his instuments.

  44. Is the breakdown of denominations a bad thing?

    Don’t you think a crushing blow to the denominational walls (SBC or others) would bring unity to all in Christ as the Head of His Church and not ours?

    Swanny

  45. Scott Eaton says

    Michael, what do you have in mind when you say that “church based ministries” are “no longer are effective” evangelistically?

    Would this be AWANA? Sunday School? Can you elaborate?

  46. Keith,

    I’m not interested in a separate convention for the 30 and younger crowd. “Annual meeting” was not the correct term for me to use, I should have said a conference. There needs to be a way to network with each other and get to know each other in a real way and not blindly stumbling into each other on the internet. We’ve got conferences for pastors, church planters, missions, etc. I think it’s time for a conference for us. I don’t need to count very high to get to the number of people I’ve met or know of that still give me hope for a brighter future in the SBC. A conference where I can meet people my age that share my concerns and passions would hopefully take those numbers well beyond my ability to keep track.

  47. Ky Boy but not now says

    I personally don’t think the leadership who won the “war” know how to stop the fight. Or turn over control to the next generation. They seem to be operating as “Oliver Cromwell”. No one is qualified (in their minds) to take over so they keep running things. And alienating more and more younger adults.

    I’ve heard that DeGaul once said the “cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men.”

  48. If the SBC is salvagable, it must be on the grounds of the Gospel. I am SBC educated and pastor at an SBC church. The main reason we are still in the SBC is because of NAMB and the IMB. I have no interest in employing hundreds of denominational office workers, unless they are diligent in mobilizing and strategizing, teaching and training to get the gospel to people who haven’t heard it. We give 7% of our budget to church planting in addition to the SBC special offering for missions and our associational and CP giving. I am 29 and I plan on being at the meeting in Louisville this year. I believe that Dr. Hunt is trying to salvage a gospel focus. If this cannot be done, I don’t see myself being in the SBC much longer even though my theological commitments have not changed.

  49. Coming from a smaller denomination (Free Will Baptist) that seems to follow the SBC a few years (or decades at times) behind, this article concerns me. Not because it is not accurate, not because I cannot see my own church and denomination in these words, but because I am beginning to see that the decline in the effectiveness of the SBC will in turn mean the decline in many other denominations that look to the SBC for guidance. Maybe it is a good thing for the future of the evangelical movement, but it is sad for people who have watched denominations lead the way for local and global evangelism. I guess we need to just watch for where God is working, and join him in that work from here on out.

  50. As a 26 yr old SBC minister, I’m on board with a lot of what is being said here, but also shiver to think of the consequences of the rest. As a convention, the CP takes better care of its missionaries and allows more time for them to actually minister than have to raise funds- ON BOARD with that. My degree is signed by PP- Not so much on board with that. I think we are getting ahead of ourselves, throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need a return to the experience of God, community, and discipleship. We need a revival of the cooperation among all churches (not just SBC). I fear the death by nostalgia, I fear the death of deep theology, I fear the death of the church. As denomination, we have changes that must be made, in methodology, in social justice, in cooperation, but I believe that as a whole the SBC gets it right on most issues. We just have to change how we talk about it.