January 16, 2021

Riffs: 2:10:07: Truthiness Friday With Ascol and Baker

riffs.jpgToday must have been “Truthiness Friday” in the SBC.

First, Doug Baker comes out and says that despite the emphasis on inerrancy ***ahem***, the SBC is probably going to substantially die off as an influential denomination in a generation.

Much of what commonly is called the Southern Baptist Convention may well not survive this century, and much of it may disappear within the lifetime of Southern Baptists living today. There will always be a certain theological/denominational place for the SBC on the map of American evangelicalism, but those three letters could easily become a designation for a plot of religious real estate — once heavily populated, but abandoned for greener pastures.

And this at Baptist Press. Good grief. Someone go buy me a lottery ticket.

Baker is completely on target. The denominationalists in SBC life have a plan to bring out the loyalty oaths and the required uniforms and hymnals, but the mule has already left the barn. Post-denominationalism, the country cousin of post-evangelicalism, has already arrived and taken over the house. Get ready for some changes.

Tom Ascol has been blogging the truth for months, and paid for it. Now he takes Lifeway’s own numbers and tells us that the SBC is a denomination full of people who really don’t care much about their denomination. Of course, if you were under 50 or in an average, healthy SBC church, you already knew that.

Old line denominationalism is dead. That is different than saying that old denominations are dead, though, in some cases, that also is patently true. Those leading the Southern Baptist Convention would do well to think deeply about what this research indicates. It could, I think, help give some insight into some of the frustration that is arising in the not-always-very-successful-attempts at communicating across generational and cultural borders that are within the SBC.

I was at a state convention meeting and heard a major league official in our state convention tell the gathered pastors that sometimes the state denominational headquarters needs to come to the local church and remind them of what they need to do. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

News flash professor: It’s over. While you were selling your 3,535th denominational bumper sticker, the denomination generationally and culturally changed. Hybels, Warren and Driscoll have the attention of your pastors. Stetzer is speaking the truth about the future. And Ascol’s call for integrity and an emphasis on theology is on target. Giglio and Piper have the attention of your student leaders. And this isn’t going to change. It’s going to increase and multiply. Denominational headquarters may be talking, but not most younger leaders aren’t listening. They are talking to each other, trading resources of their own, using the new technology, and the old denominational lines are, sorry to say this, a hassle rather than a help to many of them.

Has the SBC EVER put on a theology conference like Founders, Desiring God, T4G or Ligonier? Hellooooooo? Hello? Is the elevator running in that building?

That’s the new world and the SBC needs to embrace it. What I think we are going to see, instead, won’t be pretty and won’t be helpful. It’s time to stop, listen, admit the problem, pray, worship, spens time getting to a place where we can see the Kingdom and not just the denomination. As Blackaby says, God is at work all around you. Maybe, SBC leaders, you have to stop what you are doing and join Him.


  1. “Has the SBC EVER put on a theology conference like Founders, Desiring God, T4G or Ligonier? Hellooooooo? Hello? Is the elevator running in that building?”


    I’m not convinced that the whole conference mentality makes one iota of difference, either. It’s a modified version of a crusade, except for the already saved–a pep rally perhaps. We’ve been in a conference mode for decades and still no fruit to be seen. Lotsa talk and few results. I’ve been observing, too.

    The only thing that’s going to boost these denominations is to get serious about walking their talk. This generation laughs at all the wind church leaders blow. They only want to see realities. Stop talking, start doing. Real community. Real counterculture. Don’t tell me Jesus loves me, show me! Anything else is smoke to them.

    But when they see the walk matching the talk, they’ll be there. The first denomination to get wise to this will grab the brass ring.

  2. Valid point, Dan. Those of us who have grown up SBC, however, know that I am referring to the fact that we do have lots of conferences….and they are all on 1) evangelism, 2) church growth or 3) Denominational programs. The idea of the SBC having a conference on something other than pragmatic progamatic concerns is almost unthinkable.

  3. Michael,

    If anything, a theology conference is the LEAST likely conference to draw in those who are looking elsewhere. At issue is the drift away from denominations by the sub-45-year-olds, correct? A theology conference is the most talkative and least practical event (from the perspective of those thinking about bailing out of a denomination) you could hold.

    Look at who attends theology conferences today: theology gearheads. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a theology gearhead, but you can count the number of folks who get warm and fuzzy debating theology on one hand in your typical 1,000 member church.

    Challies just posted a big schedule of conferences. I would suspect that if you boiled those conferences down, they’re attracting a lot of the same people to each event, much like large regional Star Trek conventions draw in a lot of the same out-of-towners. When you start seeing the same panel members from one theology conference to another, you’ve got to believe a lot of the people in the audience are the same, too.

    That’s not going to keep Joe Christian in the pews, though. You might retain your five gearheads, but you lose everyone else.

  4. Good point on the redundancy factor at these conferences.

    I’d just like to see the SBC do something that wasn’t drowning in pragmatism and devoid of a sense of God.

  5. Michael,

    How about Open Mic Sunday? Each SBC church turns the Sunday over to the congregation and let’s them speak about what they see the issues to be. Then the whole church (and ultimately, the whole denomination) brainstorms the problems and comes up with solutions.

    Or on a more organic level, the SBC churches could decide to start getting out in their neighborhoods and serving people. My previous church did that and grew by leaps and bounds. Had everyone in the city talking.

    Just a couple suggestions I think would bring greater change than another conference. Gotta take the issue back to the people and get it out of the hands of all these bureaucrats pontificating at the leadership level of the SBC.

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