What’s Happening With the Southern Baptist Convention?

26 04 2008

Ed Stetzer who writes for the LifeWay Research Blog has noted the decline in the SBC.  He points out three things that he believes are the cause for this decline.  As I read his reasons, though, I was surprised because what I read is not what I’ve been seeing.  After just having come back from the Together for the Gospel conference, I was rather encouraged to see that the SBC has been turning around for the better in the past 20 years. 

I’m going to list Ed’s reasons and give my opinion on each.  I’m not arguing against what he’s saying, but I am questioning him because of what I’ve been seeing.  Mind you, I’ve never been in the SBC, these are merely outside observations.

Reason 1: “we have witnessed a serious (and increasing) depopulation of young leaders at our convention. Also, ethnic leadership remains absent after decades of ethnic change in America.”

Response 1: I’m not going to argue his point because the facts are clear, but I would question why there is a lack of leadership?  When I was T4G I met many young men who were at Southern Seminary, and they all had hearts to go into ministry.  I’d like to know why these young men who’ve grown up in the SBC and are now at SBTS are not pursing a leadership position in that same denomination. 

Reason 2: “the infighting which defines so much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs. It is public knowledge that we do not always settle our differences amicably.”

Response 2: What’s the cause for such infighting?  I’m from an independent Baptist church which probably doesn’t run into as much infighting as an organization, but the thing I love about organized denominations is just that, the organization.  It seems to me that if there is division in the SBC, it’s because the leadership is being more dictorial and not listening to the congregation, and probably not communicating well when problems do arise.

Reason 3: “The third, and most important, issue is our loss of focus on the Gospel.”

Response 3: This statement shocks me most of all because what did we just have last week that was sponsored in large by the SBTS? Oh yah, Together for the Gospel!  Perhaps loss of Gospel centrality has occured in the past, but in the past few years since the start of T4G, I would say that the Gospel is not only being recognized as important; but its also being lived out as such now.

Here’s why I think the SBC is leveling out (aka “declining”).  I think that with all this coming together for the Gospel, there’s a unity among believers that is starting to cross denominational boundries.  That’s why there aren’t as many leaders because young men are realizing that the SBC is big enough to take care of itself.  There are other organizations and independent churches out there who are more in need of their help.  Any infighting that’s going on right now is probably among the people who aren’t catching the wind of the Gospel unity and are getting too caught up on the little things.   I’ll say it again, overall I was encourage by what I’m seeing in the SBC; and perhaps what’s being seen as a negative thing is in actuallity a positive.

I’d like to hear what you think about this, especially if you’re in the SBC or go to SBTS.  I’m not trying to be dogmatic about what I think, but this is what I’m seeing.  You can check out a few other people’s blogs that are talking about this by following the links below.

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9 responses

26 04 2008
Justin

I disagree. T4G is a step in the right direction, but it is not enough for the SBC to turn this around.

26 04 2008
Andrew

Justin: I don’t think T4G turned anything around. The SBC has already turned around, and T4G was a product of the new direction of the SBC. The ramifications of the turn around can be seen in the LifeWay results, but consider looking at the results in the alternate/positive light that I gave in my article.

26 04 2008
Justin

Nevertheless, a call to move more towards T4G will not hurt. Plus, we need to be reminded, if what you are saying is correct, of the value of cooperation and working together as a denomination. Good blog entry Andrew.

26 04 2008
branguff08

I would have to say that T4G is just a result of the great work that Mohler has done. The gospel is central at SBTS. I visited there just last week, it is the most solid seminary that I have ever been to.

26 04 2008
Andrew

Justin:Thanks Justin and thanks for commenting. I’m excited, regardless of what’s happening now, I’m positve good things for Christianity as a whole are going to come of this in the end.

26 04 2008
What’s Happening With the Southern Baptist Convention?

[…] Thad wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI’m from an independent Baptist church which probably doesn’t run into as much infighting as an organization, but the thing I love about organized denominations is just that, the organization. It seems to me that if there is division in … […]

26 04 2008
jblaha

IMHO I believe Christ states it best when He says, “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt 7:14)” I say this to say that this trend has been happening for the past several years. Hmmm. Could that be since Mohler came. Ahhh! (The light comes on.) So if he is starting try to point them in the right direction of theology an teaching, then the truth will dissappoint many people like the rich young ruler who claimed to obey all of the commandments but in heart was against Him. As reformed theology is continuing to penetrate churches, the truth of God’s Word will turn many away. The rest may be few. Truth is something that will make uncomfortable anyone who rests in comfort. That’s how sanctification works. It’s not always easy or comfortable. Many times it is just the opposite. So, my main conclusion is that others feel that they are being robbed of their “rule” when truth, in reality, may just be becoming more unpopular.

28 04 2008
David Ketter

I would say that the unity and oneness that comes in Christ and His Cross is the inevitable effect of placing our affections in His precious work, more than our “precious” ideas. People have a tendency to confuse a particular set of doctrines or liturgies or practices with the Gospel, but the reality is the Christ crucified…HE is the Gospel. If our affections are in HIM, then there can not help but be unity and love among Christian brothers of all traditions….even those traditions formerly despised and suspected as heretical (yes, let that stand as a challenge to all of us to consider who we have been uncharitable toward!). So, I say we continue in prayer and say to the Father, “Let your kingdom come!”

29 04 2008
D.R. Randle

Andrew,

As a lifelong Southern Baptist and one who interacts with many outside of the denomination, let me say that it is extremely difficult for someone outside of the SBC to see all the problems, particularly if you are looking at it through the lens of Southern Seminary. Southern truly is a beacon of light in the SBC – the professors and students there (along with many of the churches in Louisville) are strong advocates for the Gospel and have their heads on straight and their hearts focused squarely on the Glory of God.

That, unfortunately, is not the lay of the land in the SBC. Many churches (especially large ones) in the SBC are baptizing hundreds of people, only to see the numbers of worshippers in any given service actually decreasing (thus indicating that discipleship is woefully inadequate). And the infighting is among many groups – Landmarkers v. moderates, Calvinists v. Fundamentalists, Agencies v. the Executive Committee. The SBC isn’t as organized as a typical denomination and quite honestly, it is looking bad right now.

But all that is hard to explain to someone like yourself who just saw the best the SBC has to offer – Mark Dever and Albert Mohler. If all of the denomination were to be in step with these two men, then there would be no reason why young men like those you met from SBTS at T4G wouldn’t want to participate in denominational leadership. The problem is, they are a far cry from what the SBC as a whole looks like. In fact, some denominational leaders got together (including one of my former professors at NOBTS) and decided they needed a non-Calvinist response to T4G, which they have called the John 3:16 Conference. Tom Ascol writes about it over at the Founder’s Blog at this address:

http://www.founders.org/blog/2008/03/john-316-conference-take-2.html

So, Andrew, the SBC is in worst shape than it appears from T4G. My hope is, however, that T4G represents what the SBC will one day look like. Now that would be a denomination I would want to help lead in the future.




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