October 25, 2016

My Thoughts on Today’s Southern Baptist Convention Meeting 6:23:09

ll1. Those of you who have various versions of autocratic church governments that never give the ordinary hoi polloi the microphone may look down your noses at allowing people to make motions to ban books, adopt flags and boycott Pepsi, but our circus has a lot to commend it over your imitation of the Vatican. Public perception has to go out the window, but meaning what you say about congregationalism, messenger representation and cooperation from the ground up outweighs the spectacle. No one will ever stand up in most of your churches and say something really stupid, and that’s a shame, because the pastor shouldn’t be the only one who gets to have fun.

2. The younger leaders of the SBC are taking on power in a denomination that has been, for the most part, attempting to lock the doors and hope they would go away. Well, they didn’t. They came to the convention and voted in a mechanism to take an urgent look at what we are doing for the one thing that holds us together: a commitment to carry out the Great Commission. What you saw today was a serious changing of the power grid in the SBC. The vast numbers of obedient old-guard messengers are never again going to show up and make the SBC into a wholly owned subsidiary of the culture war or the Jerry Vines version of the SBC. This is now a denomination that has given itself clear and simple instructions: Get to the task of world missions, not the task of building a denominational culture.

3. It’s hard for many people to see how the SBC is a victim of its own success. In its heyday, the SBC built everything, started everything, produced everything, thought of everything and told you everything. They were, unlike any denomination in recent history, a self-contained evangelical empire. But that structure was not built for the future. It has become, to the younger generation raised on the Biblical, Gospel emphasis of the conservative resurgence, a collection of distractions and unwanted structures with little relation to the Great Commission. While every agency and entity will defend its existence, the fact is that the SBC’s overall structure is too large, and younger leaders will not support the vision of the “Great Denomination” that the generation of the 50’s and 60’s valued and created.

4. Changes in the SBC will happen quickly. Seminary education is changing before our eyes. Finances are going to change. Cooperative models are going to change. Relationships with the local and state conventions will change. A lot of people are going to find that the old rallying cries- be they rhetorical, cultural or denominational- are not going to get the same response. The younger generation SIMPLY ISN’T GOING TO BUY THE OLD SBC MYTHOLOGY. The sooner leaders come to grips with that, the better things will be. It is ridiculous to lecture the audience about Calvinism or throw fits about teetotalism or books in the bookstore. The number of people who care, who are being told by ANY pastor or leader they respect that these things matter, is small and growing smaller.

5. The motions brought from the floor did reveal what an utter waste of time the culture war has been for Southern Baptists. With a $40 million dollar missions’ shortfall, some SBCers still want to boycott Pepsi and harp about Mark Driscoll. Such rhetoric is an embarassment to the next generation. In all honesty, fellows….you’ve lost. Either give it up or find one of the few churches that care about being the moral police department.

6. The patient teaching of the Gospel and church-centered theology by the Founders Ministries and 9Marks has paid off in more fruit than can be put in a basket. Hundreds and hundreds of young people, hungry to hear how to build a Gospel centered, God honoring, missionary focused church. It is astonishing. It may not be revival, but it is a solid outcome that will make a huge difference for a small number of churches.

7. No, the SBC’s generational turnover won’t be averted. Thousands of churches will die in the next 2-4 decades. But hopefully, thousands of new and revitalized churches will live.

8. It is now time for the large churches and the state conventions to come to the plate and take leadership in making sacrifices and doing what is necessary to get those stalled missionaries on the field.

9. Morris Chapman should resign. His moral mandate is utterly finished. He has served well, but his address today was an embarrassment.

10. Johnny Hunt has chosen to support the future of the SBC and the Gospel. He has laid aside the questions of style, culture and methodology- even the questions of Calvinism- and chosen to side with those who want the Gospel itself to be our unity. This is still a stunning development, in my opinion, and one for which Hunt should be deeply appreciated as a man of principle. He is not my style of pastor, and megachurches are not the future in my view, but Johnny Hunt is playing for the team, not his church or his “boys.” He is a gift to the SBC.

11. Younger leaders: You won today. Now be mature. Be gracious. Be kind. Build bridges. Heed wisdom and heal rifts. Watch Danny Akin and do what he does the way he does it.

12. God is amazingly kind to our old ship. Born in a love of slavery. Arrogant. Blind to the Kingdom outside its own borders. Cantankerous and stubborn. But the ship still sails because the Holy Spirit says it will be so.


  1. Michael,

    Thanks for the post. While I have disagreed with you in the past, I think you make excellent points in this blog. Keep up the good work, brother.


  2. Rodney Ericson says:

    I certainly hope and pray that what you say is true, but I am far less optimistic that the GCR committee is made up of the men who can actually bring about a change in the way we do things. There are too many men in that group that are still part of the old guard. Most of them are still teetotalars and fail to preach sermons of grace that are gospel centered. The fact that the average age of the attendees this year was lower should not be seen as significant since the convention was held in Louisville.

    I would love to see a change, but my prediction is that the SBC will make minor changes that continue the same legalism and cultural withdrawal that we have seen in the recent past.

  3. Is Danny Akin one of the old guard or not? He seems to be for and against the same issues at the same time? What is his main thesis. What should we follow or what should we watch. Or do you mean we are to follow him and always do what he does? Or should we think about the future outcome or the rebound reaction and then take action even it it is not Danny’s idea? JB

  4. Thanks for the summary thoughts, Michael.

    You stated that the clear and simple instructions for the SBC are: Get to the task of world missions, not the task of building a denominational culture.

    I wonder if there is a need for a solid, Biblical foundation in understanding both the kingdom rule of God and the nature of the church? I just can’t see the church accomplishing mission very effectively without a solid foundation in these two areas.

    Any thoughts?

  5. Tony Wagner says:

    Who is the “old guard” ? Is this a reference to such men as Morris Chapman, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Homer Lindsay, Charles stanley and several others I might mention. I hope not.

    Personally, I was more than pleased to see the GCR accepted at this years convention as it was. And I am hopeful for the future when I see a new generation of Southern Baptist step up with an unmistakable desire to lead this denomination under the authority of God and his word. But let us not forget other generations and other battles and the men and women who gave themselves, all of themselves to those battles. Men and women who had the same desire and committment to God and his word.

    Before there was GCR there was the CR and many of the so called Old Guard sacrificed much in that battle, ultimately securing for the young lions of today a denomination where the hope of GCR is possible.

    One of those young lions spoke with great power at the Pastor’s Conference this year and these words were th foundation of his message: Will we risk all and die in our devotion, or retreat and die in the wilderness?
    This is not a question for the Southern Baptist Convention. It is one that every Soutnern Baptist, indeed every Christian in this country must answer. And the effectiveness of the GCR hangs on that and that alone. I can promise you one thing. There are few, if any of the old guard that would disagree with that.

  6. Having just spent the past week with several SBC missionaries, I have to say I am also encouraged for the kingdom of God. I found that our folks on the mission field are nothing more or nothing less than highly committed followers of Jesus Christ wanting to change the world. The culture wars don’t matter to them because they don’t matter in eternity. Thank you so much for this post. It seems that I caught the same vision on the mission field that you caught at the SBC meeting. To God be the glory.