September 1, 2014

Riffs:03:05:09: Baptists- The New Methodists? (According to Dr. Chuck Kelley)

Dr. Chuck Kelley at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary spoke this week on the problems with Southern Baptist Evangelism and our churches in general. It’s a heartfelt, quite moving and well-thought out talk; a mixture of our revivalistic side and the scholarly, historical side. You can and should listen here. The message starts after the music (maybe ten minutes) but the music’s great.

(My comments should be understood as the positive engagement of one Southern Baptist, and nothing more.)

I appreciate Dr. Kelley’s passionate engagement with the issues that are troubling Southern Baptists right now. He represents a constructive voice and I would encourage other Southern Baptists to listen to him.

I agree with some of what Dr. Kelley is saying in this message.

1) I agree that the SBC is in decline. By his own numbers 89% of our churches are not growing. Most of those churches are facing a generational horizon and many are not going to see 2025.

2) The task of growth by conversion evangelism and new church planting is paramount. It must be a priority at every level of Southern Baptist life.

3) Discipleship is a key component in repairing the breach and regrowing the church. I was effectively discipled by my Southern Baptist Church as a teenager. I am grateful for that investment in my life and Christian experience.

4) There is a spiritual crisis within the SBC, and we should pray that the Holy Spirit would revisit this great denomination. The lessons of the mainline churches should be on our mind.

5) In the past, the SBC did many things that were effective. We should learn from those things.

Having said this, I would like to take issue with a good bit of what Dr. Kelley says. I am supportive of his concerns, but I am concerned about his presentation of the SBC, both past, present and future.

A. The current SBC has the opportunity to leave some things behind that are not Biblical. No matter how much we associate those things with the “golden age” of the SBC, non-Biblical practices shouldn’t be looked back on as somehow important in our future.

B. Dr. Kelley seems enamored with an SBC that was more unified and evangelistic, but doesn’t mention that this same SBC was proudly segregationist, fundamentalistic in many quarters and arrogantly separatist toward the rest of the Christian world. If the Holy Spirit visits us, we will see that these things were not his work at all.

C. The SBC’s “golden age” produced larger numbers of baptisms, but it also produced a denomination with 8 million members no one can find, a complete disengagement with church discipline, “inactive members,” child baptisms, a continual stream of rebaptisms, a cabal of large church pastors running the denomination and an uncritical acceptance of culture as normative. God save us from all of this and all that brought these things upon us.

D. The success of the SBC in the post-war era was a mixture of factors. Sociology, church growth pragmatics, the configuration of economics and family, denominationalism and the growth of the rural south all played an important role. These factors won’t be duplicated. New factors will be in play in different settings.

E. Dr. Kelley is impressed with the SBC’s flagship programs of Sunday School and Discipleship Training. It is rather amazing, however, to hear that he believes a return to virtual duplications of these programs are the SBC’s best bet. I am thinking about those vast “education buildings” of the 60′s and 70′s, full of tiny Sunday School rooms, with organization, records and literature right down to the smallest detail. Training leaders and workers for the demands of these programs was endless. This corporate model of Christian education- with classes at the church for every age group every time the doors opened- is seriously out of sync with the culture around us.

Going backward only appears the right way to go when you are safely within the confines of the time machine.

F. Dr. Kelley claims that the SBC’s emphasis on personal discipleship and personal evangelism were the keys to its golden age. My own experience of Southern Baptists is that the windows of success for church-based programs like Church Training was small. By the 1970′s, I rarely saw any evidence that church training programs were effectively discipling more than a tiny minority in most churches. Such programs were “loyalty” programs that gave a few core members the opportunity to be “more involved” than others.

SBC Sunday School was the backbone of the denomination for many years and still plays a significant role. There is no reason, however, that everything we believe about those “small groups” can’t be incorporated into methods that are more flexible and appropriate for today’s culture.

I was always far more impressed with the potential of the SBC’s missions educations programs to actually “disciple” its participants in a holistic way, but that potential was very unevenly realized.

The most effective discipleship program I experienced in the SBC was preaching. The most influential program was a “What Baptists Believe” course for teenagers that surveyed a major doctrine or practice each month. I still have the book.

G. Dr. Kelley has an admiration for aspects of fundamentalism and revivalism that many younger Southern Baptists are never going to share. The ironic reason is that the conservative resurgence actually got these younger leaders reading the Bible.

H. It would have been good to hear something about the missional approach to evangelism and not hear a recommendation we return to door-knocking one night a week. Many younger Southern Baptists believe our approach to evangelism can no longer be synonymous with our approach to church programming.

I. We need a critical engagement with our past, not an imitation of that past. Dr. Kelley’s presentation leaves me concerned that non-fundamentalistic, non-revivalist, non-enculturated Southern Baptists wil soon be told they aren’t passing the “tests of loyalty” that come from a less than critical analysis of how we became what we are.

J. The issue for Southern Baptists is “What is the Gospel?” As this question has more influence on our future, our worship, our missional outreach, our discipleship and our prayers, the SBC will see better days again.

I agree with Tom Ascol that we are now seeing a fragmentation of rhetoric along the lines of “Great Commission Resurgence” Baptists and “Baptist Identity” Baptists. The issues are “believing” like us and “doing church” like us, or in shorter form, “us.” Who are “us” seems to be the question.

Who would have believed that the conservative resurgence would be followed by ecumenical anxieties between Baptists who would both check “inerrancy” as an essential? This takes talent.

Dr. Kelley’s message shows how these lines run through the heart of Southern Baptists. His great concern is evangelism on the largest possible scale….as done by Southern Baptists, of course. His anxiety is that Baptists no longer sufficiently stand out. While he mentions discipleship, more prominent in this diagnosis are the various external perceptions of Baptists as a denomination separate from other Christians.

The anxiety of Southern Baptists in this post-evangelical era are fully on display. How can we maintain denominationalism and its various kinds of security and certainty in the face of a growing consensus that the Great Commission demands ecumenical efforts with those who share a concern for that mandate.

It’s quite ironic that Southern Baptists, who pride themselves on understanding cooperation for the cause of missions, are showing signs of being torn apart by that very possibility.

Comments

  1. Jonathan says:

    “Such programs were “loyalty” programs that gave a few core members the opportunity to be “more involved” than others.”

    That sentence leaped off the page – and it’s true elsewhere than the SBC. What a great description.

  2. Dr. Kelley does a great job articulating the SBC’s own version of how its programs work, but on the ground in a typical small church, it’s a different matter. The denomination- contrary to his statements- tells you via the state convention and local association what is “normal and expected” of a “real” SBC church. You go back and promote it, and the loyalty crowd that shows up for everything else shows up for the new thing- out of loyalty. You could have Lama hugging and if it was packaged SBC, the Wednesday night crowd- God love ‘em- would be there.

  3. Chris E says:

    The problem is that people who wish to revive a denomination are also fearful of anything that makes them less distinctive as denomination X. To a certain extent this is reasonable, to another it isn’t.

    Finally, any denomination using congregationalist governance has to have some kind of mechanism to stop their principle of governance being the route via cultural trappings are institutionalised.

  4. Here in the north east more SBC churches are becoming elder led. When i first became a Christian 30 years ago i was warned away from the SBC as being to liberal. I have watched the pendulum swing.
    here in the north southern baptist has the connotation of legalist. I often think of going non-denom, but the BF&M is a wonderful statement, and i have some great fellowship. I will probably wait till they throw me out , if the jar that my head must fit in gets any tighter. Now that the SBC is done fighting [?] theological issues, they really need to look at their basic personality.

  5. I guess Michael and I just have different mindsets about being Southern Baptist. I have been “Southern Baptist” for about 8 years, but grew up attending independent Baptist churches. My dad was critical of the SBC during my formative years, and perhaps what this post says about culture has something to do with it. We attended (and Dad still attends) churches that are more fundamental than SBC churches are. We’re talking fundamentalists that call swimming “mixed bathing” here.

    My wife and I left that a few years ago, and had to be acquainted with Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and other SBC vocabulary. I was ordained into the ministry by an SBC church; But I do not use Southern Baptist as my first choice of label. I share Michael’s zeal for the gospel, and am more likely to say that I’m a Christian than even Baptist. Perhaps the ecumenical attitude comes from not having SBC drilled into me my whole life, but I just don’t think that way. I see it around me in older church members, so maybe I still fit into the “younger” generation being talked about. (I was born in 1975, so no I don’t remember how the SBC changed in the 60′s and 70′s.)

  6. Steve in Toronto says:

    It was an interesting talk but I am afraid that the real problem is the radical change in larger culture we have experienced in the last 50 years. A lot of conservative types think the reason that the main line denominations membership has crashed is liberal theology. I am sure that this explains some of the exodus but I am also sure that a lot of it was a shift away from the “culture of Christianity” in the upper mid west and the north eastern United States. When these cultural influence that empted the “seven sisters” pews reach the Deep South I suspect that we will see similar drops in church membership. I am sure that orthodox churches will be able to maintain more of the congregations then there more liberal brethren but lets not kid ourselves even the most orthodox and evangelic of churches are full of nominal “cultural” christens. My advice to men like Dr. Kelly is not to look to the past but instead look successful orthodox churches like Tim Keller’s Redeemer in NYC or Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill. These churches have figured out how to reach the lost in a culture that if it has not already reach the heart land of the SBC will be there soon.

    God Bless

    Steve in Toronto

    Personally I am all for drinking at weddings (Baptist and otherwise)

  7. Steve in Toronto says:

    Just a brief addendum. I am not sure that the demise of nominal Christianity is a bad thing. Christianity has always been the healthiest when it was counter cultural. Yes it will be harder to get people into the pews but what sinners find when they get there may be a good deal richer than they are likely to find today.

    Piece
    Steve in Toronto

  8. i never made it past the part where he thanked god he was a member of the sbc.

  9. graceshaker:

    Well, this is an SBC seminary chapel, and he is President of the seminary, so in context, I get it.

    But…..

    It’s the rhetoric of the SBC in this vein that indicates the mindset I think many younger SBCers have rejected.

    I can thank God for the SBC and the part of it I work for. I’m not ungrateful at all or unaware of the incredible investment of every kind the SBC has made in me my entire Christian life. From evangelizing me, to educating me up to the graduate level to paying my salary my entire life. So yes, I can say thanks for the SBC and all the good it’s done.

    But it’s a prayer that can sound like the SBC has a special relationship to God, we’re really the true church, etc etc

    And that’s bad, wrong and unhelpful.

    peace

    ms

  10. Clark:

    Where’s the disagreement? I missed it.

  11. I heard the presentation, and while I get that the SBC is having serious troubles and badly needs to be revitalized with a fresh move of the Spirit, I could not help thinking that something was not right about Dr. Kelley’s ideas of what being distinct and different from the surrounding culture would look like. It seems that he is fixated on strictly external things, such as what movies we Christians watch, what music we listen to, the coarseness (or lack thereof) of the language that we use to speak to others, etc. While I am not certain how I would articulate what being distinct from the world ought to look like, I am not on board with Dr. Kelley’s ideas in this regard. Maybe it’s just the rebellious young punk in me.

    By the way, Dr. Kelley was talking about how nobody ever hears any Baptist jokes anymore. He’s wrong about this; here is one that I am quite familiar with:
    Why don’t Baptists play cards? Because it leads to dancing.

  12. K Bryan says:

    @Joe: “While I am not certain how I would articulate what being distinct from the world ought to look like, I am not on board with Dr. Kelley’s ideas in this regard. Maybe it’s just the rebellious young punk in me.”

    Rebellious, yes, in the sense that Jesus was rebellious against the religious leadership of his day. Jesus was very clear on what being distinct from the world looks like:

    “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13.34-35 ESVS)

    That’s it. Nothing about music, dress, hairstyles, movies, or any of the other petty things that fundamentalists get hung up on.

  13. Perhaps my memories of growing up in the SBC in Alabama during the sixties are a bit hazy now, but I don’t agree with Dr. Kelly’s belief that similar “processes” (such as the WMU, Wednesday night prayer meetings, Sunday School, GA’s, RA’s,etc) developed independently in various churches. Everything always seemed nicely packaged from Nashville with a leaders guide, students guide, posters, participation pins. But then again, this was the beginning of the end by his measurements.

    He did do a nice job of slipping the prohibition of alcohol into his message with the lament that “you are as likely to find someone getting drunk at a Southern Baptist wedding as any other”. I’ll grant that “drunk” is one thing, but I chuckle at the fact the apparently (at least if my denomination is correct on the subject) Jesus went to the trouble of making grape juice at a wedding celebration.

    In his nostalgic reminiscence about programs and traditions now gone he left out a couple:

    1. Watching the Gospel Jubilee TV featuring the Florida Boys while getting ready for church (something I was forced to do in a one-TV house during the old 3-channel days)

    2. After church dinner on the ground (which he appears to still practice quite regularly). Discipline indeed.

  14. Ed, I remember well the pre-packaged days. When in NC, I did get very good teacher’s training to work with children. Actually the best that I’ve recieved.

    However, when I found myself teaching adult women in CA, I went to the local training sessions, and found the leader pushing the SB package. No other help available. I didn’t go for evening number 2.

  15. Marshall says:

    Joe,

    I heard a similar joke: “Why don’t Baptists make love standing up? Because it might lead to dancing.”

  16. greenstuff says:

    I actually found the presentation quite moving and very sombering…true he may have made a comment or two insinuating the greatness of SBC and its Golden Age and made an offhand remark about their ban on drinking, but that misses the main point of the presentation.

    As the good professor says, we aren’t “anointed”. We don’t disciple correctly (at my church the adult church members do little to teach, guide, and assist spiritually my church’s teenagers). And most importantly, we don’t live God fearing lives (no, I’m not promoting legalism…). Regardless, I especially loved his huge emphasis on the local church and how individuals gave their all to serve their own little congregations. It’s sad…the decline of the local church…

  17. So what’s wrong with the Methodists? :-)

  18. Ky boy but not now says:

    Martha
    “So what’s wrong with the Methodists?”

    Nothing really. But here’s a story. I went to a wedding a few years ago at a Methodist church. Older building with a gothic look to it. While waiting in the pews for things to start I was getting bored. So I pulled out a hymnal to see what songs were in it. Just inside the cover was a page of notes on “How to sing”. First one was something like “It sounds better if everyone stays in tempo so listen to the music and the people near you so you can stay on the beat.”

    I almost started laughing. But to be honest it was an incredibly practical list. But just a bit too over the top in the “we have a method” category for me.

  19. Must not have been a United Methodist church. The UMC Hymnal gives no instruction at all…

  20. Mike, The UM Hymnal contains John Wesley’s “Directions for Singing” on p. vii.

  21. several thoughts,

    I think Bro. Kelley’s was right on as others have said in a couple of areas

    1. We do not disciple as much as we should, disciple being both teaching the bible and also teaching our denominational distinctives

    2. We need a recommittment to preaching, it has always been one of our strong points and should be again

    But I also think that many who look at the decline fail to see what others have said already, namely that the time in America after the Second World War will never be duplicated, you had a fairly homogenous population with a shared culture for the most part, it made evangelism that much easier if that is the right word, today things are radically different, in fact things today are probably more like the situations the early Chrisians faced more than anytime in a long while.

    I too with my finely atuned fundie ears picked up on his cues, and even though I’m much more passive in my convictions now and strive to be more open to things that are my convictions and not biblical mandates I found myself wanting to say amen many times.

    I know the lines about movies and the drinking and the missing church to play ball, and the language sound like legalism to many, and on some level I agree, but I still just can’t shake the idea that there should be some external difference between the Christian and the world. Sure there should be a host of internal differnces, but shouldn’t Christians be the nicest, poliitest, most respectable folks in the community. I know that’s not the case often, much to our shame, but isn’t there some level of truth there.

    I ramble and I apologize.

    But the simple fact is baptist have plenty of distinctives theologicaly to preach to maintain their identiy w/o focusing on culturaly things.

    And as far as aggressive door knocking, it is uncomfortable and if done incorrectly off putting but I have with my own eyes seen it work very effectively in producing new members and even conversions

  22. I was raised United Methodist. I quit at 18. I had gone regularly, acolyted, been involved with youth group and missions, etc. Outwardly, I seemed the ideal disciple and a promising candidate for the ministry. But one Sunday, I sat in the pew as the youth group filed on stage to perform a skit about one of the parables. I realized as I watched that I had performed in similar skits since I had been a preschooler; yet I still knew very little about what the parables meant. So I left.

  23. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    One issue mentioned is the need to be distinctive or differnt than the culture (world or society) and that has been a sticking point for me in much of what’s happening in SBC churches at the moment -especially the larger ones. Being a musician (organist) I tend towards a more traditional worship approach and one thing that I believe in all this is that it’s not necessary to use (church language warning here) “worldly” means and approaches in an attempt to reach lost/unchurched people. Shouldn’t the attraction to the church be the fact that we are different?? Insted we seem to take all our cues for reaching people from worldly/cultural models and ideas. We structure our worship that way, we structure outreach that way….. young adults, youth, childern etc – we tend to try to do God’s work using worldly tools, ideas, approaches etc.

    Of course worship is only one part of the whole and one which I relate to being involved heavily in the music part as I’ve mentioned in other comments to other posts. This is just one of many things changing in SBC churches in these days and the more of the worldy/secular approaches we bring into the church the less destinctive we are and this doesn’t mean you have to be hard core fundie or leagalistic beating people over the head with a big leather bible – just living a Christ centered life will stand out in the culture we live in these days – it will be distinctive and we need to be distinctive.

    One last thing – a good example of a church that is distinctively different yet has great ministry in its community and many areas around its city is 10th Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA – check out their website and see a good example of how a church can be distinctive (even traditional) and yet be very revelant and helpful in the place it finds itself planted. It’s inspiring – at least to me.

    The Guy from Knoxville

  24. I liked letter “G” on your comments. Baptists have been taught about “daily quiet times” for years. What happens when through these quiet times they find that most of the curriculum and programs that comes out of Lifeway are shallow and trite?

    There definatley seems to be a revivalist mentality in much of this. I think of Finney’s ideas that conversion can be manipulated through the right use of means. It seems as though many in the SBC are saying if we bring back the means, we will get the results.

  25. guy from knoxville

    amen

  26. My wife spent so much time rewriting Sunday School lessons, etc that she should have been on the payroll.

  27. I’m considering whether to rejoin the SBC after spending a couple years in an independent, mega, Bible church. Is there hope for non-party-line-toeing, more “emerging” oriented, “younger evangelicals” in the denom? I’m really wrestling with this… feeling almost frantic, in fact.

  28. imonk – i understand your point about context and my thinking mirrored your own. but his tone in saying it didnt strike me as humble. i dont know the guy so maybe he always sounds that way and im wrong?

    i spent my childhood and adolescence in an sbc church. i spent 2 years at southwestern in ft worth receiving an education i wouldnt trade. i work in a dually aligned fbc in a small west texas town presently. ive got the pedigree to be one of the younger sbc people you speak of.

    so i want it to be clear where my loyalties are. should the sbc keel over tomorrow my faith and citizenship will remain intact. god got along fine without the sbc for a little while and im certain he could very well do it again.

    so now to the main course..

    reeling off baptism numbers is pointless as we all know that a staggering amount of those who follow jesus into the water rarely follow him beyond it. id rather hear him proclaim how many people who did take a dunking are involved in some functional means of following christ outside their local building.

    during the period of years to which he refers evangelism has somehow become about getting people to walk aisles and nod at a list of statements about jesus while learning no more than to get others to do the same. not to mention his seeming affinity for the good old days of how we used to do things (in a culture that no longer exists).

    but to steal a thot from wayne watson ‘thats not jesus. he doesnt carry on that way.’

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    so anyway i decided to shut up and listen to the whole thing and im glad i did. when he finally arrived at the root of the problem and declared that discipleship was the crucial issue i choked on a cheetoh for a moment.

    so with my previous thots still glaring at me from above let me address his real point(s).

    1. we are not anointed? amen! a guy in a suit says what a buncha guys in baggy jeans have been saying and finally some ears turn? great. whatever it takes.

    2. we have been atomized? amen again. integration of various functioning parts has been absent from the church for far too long. we have to be able to appreciate roles and purposes not our own in this kingdom.

    3. the new methodists? universalism? tolerance? loss of distinct identity? amen hallelujah!

    but wait – then he describes what he means with example and they are:

    drinking
    movies
    tv
    language
    soccer

    these are the signs of our failure? seriously?

    come on! what about that lack of discipleship thing? that was meaty. this is fluffy marshmallows. watching dark knight over a beer with cleats on isnt why we suck.

    listening to this guy weave in-between solidity and triviality is painful. he has a running recognition of the reality surrounding our lack of discipleship buried amidst a junk-headed affinity for percentages of baptismal numbers to memberships and a lament for the good old days of sunday school and training union.

    and just when id started to nod in agreement. but then after a brief lapse into silly religiosity he returns with:

    “our problem is not that more of us do not witness to our neighbors. our problem is that more of us do not look and live like jesus.”

    you play that funky prophet white boy! say it again. say it louder. say it at some convention of stiff necked legalistic old people. say it at the warehouse dive where the emergent jerks hang. say it in every venue to every ear you can find as loud and as often as humanly possible and i got your back.

    but lets keep our eyes there and let all the rest work itself out. lets forget our stats and figures and remember our hands and feet. and may we seriously and earnestly seeks gods transformation from people who know they should into people who live to be.

  29. Ky Boy but not now says:

    “My wife spent so much time rewriting Sunday School lessons, etc that she should have been on the payroll.”

    A friend was teaching 5th graders. He had been given a curriculum the church had bought. He thought it was junk. Basically pablum more suited for 1st graders. (So did many others.) He upgraded it himself week to week and went to the youth pastor and told him the church needed to toss the material and go with something with more meat. That was when he learned the youth pastor had developed the material and published it and just happened to select it for use in our church.

    He wasn’t asked to teach youth any more.

  30. I am pastoring an SBC church in NE North Dakota after being born and raised in an SBC church in Arkansas. I wholeheartedly agree that discipleship is a primary concern. And it has to be genuine involvement in people’s lives, not a DT program on Sunday nights. I am trying to encourage a one-to-one discipling ministry in our church. It is slow going, but I know the investment in the lives of people is going to be key. I had a pastor who emphasized this type of ministry at our last church in Arkansas and I know the impact it made on my life.

    Matt,
    I don’t know if this in any way answers your question, since our state convention is not the run of the mill SBC group. Our church is kind of on the fringe of the SBC geographically and we are removed from a lot of the current SBC handwringing by distance if nothing else. Our state convention is not typical by any means either as they are currently “regionalizing” the state office and staff to put them closer to the field. We have a “biker dude” as our convention president and one of our biggest convention supported events is an evangelism tent at the Sturgis Bike Rally. Go and check out the photos http://www.dakotabaptist.com/photos.php?albumID=15740&#topPhoto
    Our convention president is the guy standing in front of the cross in the fourth photo and they have a picture of him riding his motorcycle further down the page. I say all of that to say that if you are in agreement with the Baptist Faith and Message, there is a lot of leeway in some corners of the SBC.

  31. Michael -

    I wonder if you think that, as the SBC looks to renew itself (or however you would term it), do you think that something they should consider is dropping the name label (SBC)? Just wondering. The reason I ask is that it is possible that many people identify it is a more fundamental denomination that is not as open to being relatable to the current culture of today.

    Your thoughts?

  32. I think the time is long past that such a rename can be done quickly. What can be done is encourage churches and associations to adopt names appropriate for their setting, with SBC as a subtitle. So maybe

    The Journey: St. Louis
    An SBC Cooperating Congregation

  33. Scott L- Great idea about the name change. I’ve thought this for years.
    Michael (monk)- Now’s as good a time as ever to get the ball rolling, eh? Gotta start somewhere. Of course no one’s going to be “fooled” by a new name right off the bat. But I don’t see any use in maintaining regional identification for an entire denomination. In fact, I think it restrains them from effectiveness in the north (I can’t find a good SBC church within 45 min. of me… in a metro area of 9 million!).

  34. Whoops, missed your comment about Journey. Are they still “cooperating”? I know they lost funding a couple years back due to the Brew pub issue. Journey rocks my face off.

  35. I don’t know that the SBC should necessarily rename itself, but perhaps establish itself on firmer ground.

    The days are coming to a close when the SBC can identify itself through cultural distinctions: avoiding movies, door-to-door evangelism in a suit and tie (despite blistering heat), and anti-tobacco/alcohol stances to name a few. My generation as a whole isn’t buying it. The water-into-grape-juice interpretation hasn’t convinced us, and when we want to know what beers are good, we call the Presbyterians down the street. We have found out that being Baptist is more than a sort of Christian cultural identity– it’s a theological tradition with a lot to offer.

    I can’t say that realizing that being Baptist is a theological stance, not just a surface cultural one is the whole of the key to this sort of identity crisis the SBC is undergoing, but I can’t help thinking it’s a major part of it.

  36. Being the contraian that I like being, I have to ask this.

    When names are being changed to avoid the Southern Baptist stigma, how hard should it be to verify the connection?

    Several years ago, when I was more interested in Saddleback Church, I looked at their website to find out how hard it was to confirm their connection. I’m not sure that I ever did. (And I knew that they were because of Rick Warren.)

  37. Journey isn’t SBC. I just grabbed the name. Sorry.

  38. GSusGuy says:

    Should it not be the church’s job to ensure the name of Christ is upheld and not so much the denomination? It sounds like there were a lot of statistics and strategies bounced about. How about asking God what He is calling His church to become? As usual, I will probably be snuffed off as a loose fringe because of these comments. But, I hope that somewhere someone will join me in praying the Lord’s will be done for His Bride and not have another panic stricken institution that needs more band aids and stimulus plans.

  39. Thanks iMonk. That might be the first step – calling oneself Faith Community Church, with SBC on the side. But the faithful SBC’s might see this as headed down the slippery slope of getting rid of the label as a whole. But, with change, it is one step at a time.

    Thanks

  40. There are several churches in the Dakotas that do not use Baptist in their name at all, we even have a Faith Community Church in our association here. Plus there are the ministries like “The Answer Center” in Sioux Falls. I don’t know if it was a conscious decision to avoid the SBC tag that influenced the decision or not.

  41. I know of an SBC affiliated church (I will leave location anonymous) that does not have the label ‘Baptist’ in their name and they are governed by plurality of eldership. It is my understanding plurality of eldership is a no-no in the SBC. I know of another SBC mega-church (in the same area) that was crushed and split over having such a governance structure (plus it had moved into more charismatic leanings). But this church I first referred to survives as it is now because they are only about 150-200 people.

    So it is possible to maintain the relationship with SBC but not have the name, or function in every aspect like a traditional SBC local church would, but the latter being much tougher. But knowing this local church is led by plurality of eldership makes me wonder how long they will be able to continue with the SBC, especially if they grow much bigger and become a more noticeable congregation.

  42. My husband & I worked as church planters for nearly 15 years in Florida as southern baptists. Usually hosted/sponsored by a “mother” church, once the new church began standing on its own, the “mother” church wanted to shut our doors. If they didn’t agree with the style of music we presented, or the fact that the men didn’t wear ties on Sunday morning, or any other ridiculous rule they could think of, they wanted to shut us down. And they did. We, personally would purchase sound equipment or teaching items needed for the ministry. Once the ministry was shut down, the main church would absorb these gifts into their own programs or assets. This didn’t happen just once, but several times.
    You want to know why evangelism is declining…because long-term Christians have gotten so set in their own ways they have adopted the mentality of “My way or the highway”. Many of our church leaders (pastors, deacons, teachers) look down on someone attending church in flip-flops & a t-shirt not realizing that’s all they have to wear; or they think giving to the cooperative program is more important than physically handing out Bibles & performing one-on-one ministry with people on the street. They say, “Oh we’ve tried that before & it never worked”. They don’t even know if it worked, because they never followed through with the ministry.
    I’ve said all of this for one reason. Evangelism is very much alive in us – each of us – if we allow it to come forth. We are called/commanded to do this. If we are truly Christian (little Christ’s) we will evangelize, no matter what.

  43. couv cruiser says:

    The problem we are trying to solve is especially challenging because the cultural trends that produced the crisis were eating like termites at the structure of Church life since at least the late fifties, and the damage is not repairable. Electronic media, and especially home based entertainment like TV, radio, electronics, etc., have so transformed the mind, and especially the leisure time, of so many Americans, that serious reflection as a recreational or regular activity has disappeared. Bible reading and disciplined prayer are out of the question for most.

    We are nearing the end of the ‘cut flower’ stage of Christianity in America. The 19th century was the full flowering, and the doctrinal and scientific challenges of the early twentieth century were what both sparked the vigorous spiritual intensity in that era, but which also became the land mines of our last fifty years. This intellectual assault on the faith made the Church’s (and the culture’s) entertainment infatuation easier to accomplish. The new generation is completely adrift.

    The Church’s responses have been various, but the predominant one has been to be equally as entertaining as the competition. The success of the charismatic movement (whatever you may think of its validity) may be attributed to its promise of a direct connection to spiritual reality as the ‘meditative’ element was receding in traditional churches and personal spirituality.

    As a result, we may have have lost the ability or desire to internalize very deeply the contents of the faith. I don’t have the answer for that, of course, but unless God reveals that secret to a substantial element of the Church in America, we will see the collapse iMonk wrote about. And soon. What took generations to destroy will not be rebuilt in a decade.

  44. First time visitor of the site. I am amazed as I read through each post on this page. I grew up in a traditional SBC and now pastor a traditional SBC. I am thankful that God sent his Son to take my place upon the cross. I am infinitely grateful that I learned of this amazing love as a child. I was prostelyzed at the age of 7 and became SBC. The night I came down in a revival meeting and told the evangelist that I wanted to be saved he had me recite a prayer after him. Then at the age of 7 told me to read the book of John. The church stepped in an took me through personal discipleship by a well-meaning man using the survival guide produced by now Lifeway. At the age of 16 I realized the lost state of my soul. I recited another prayer and came forth to be baptized this time no organized personal discipleship followed.
    My story illustrates the reason the SBC is on a fast-track to extinction. The essence of the problem with the SBC is not: our music style, our clothing (By the way who is it that has no other shoes to wear than flip-flops as they listen to their ipod and text message through the service come on that argument is tired. The majority of SBC don’t care about clothing so long as it is modest.), our discipleship training hour, our SS hour, our architecture, our love for the denomination, etc. etc. fill in your gripe. The problem is the way in which we communicate the gospel for it is “the power of God unto salvation.” Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:21 is the essence of our problem and the essence of the problem with the view represented time and again on this page. The conclusion of the Lord for the lack of regenration was a lack of repentance. Thus going from disobedience to obedience. He stated friends that the saved are those that do the “will of My (Jesus) Father in heaven.” We must relentlessly and unapologetically preach and teach sound doctrine. While Paul said nothing to Timothy about all of the aforementioned “issues” of the church he did write the following words to the young pastor. “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.” I believe we can all: give up the controlling properties of alcohol; lay off the sexually explicit, vulgar, blasphemous movies; avoid crude language; and any other sin that you may be justifying by criticizing the shortcomings of our last generations.

  45. My apologies for the poor articulation of my previous post. Let me highlight the essence of my view. We (SBC, Chrisianity) need a renewed zeal for sound doctrine. Particularly, the doctrine of salvation. While our BF&M is right on our practice is often heretical. Acts 20:21 gives precisely the message of Pauls ministry, “repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ.” Repentance is absolutely necessary for saving faith to exist. If a lack of sinfulness in the life of a christian is now called legalism then so be it but Paul states it as necessary throughout his teachings. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (boss, master, owner, ruler) is that which he also taught. Now there are many other subjects found in Paul’s writings but these are preeminent. When a church or organization gets these priorities right then all of the other ridiculous arguments will cease to exist.

  46. Where am I to begin?

  47. blondlobo says:

    I know this thread is probably dead, but born and raised SBCer here. Been in one for…about 22 years of my life. Anyway…

    I qualify as a young SBCer (I’m not 30 yet) and here’s where I’m disillusioned with the denomination:
    * loyalty to the denomination above all else (and loyalty to LifeWay above all else)
    * emphasis on living a “good life” instead of the Gospel and theology
    * alienation of GenX and beyond through tired political rhetoric
    * taking political stances rather than preaching the Gospel (I am so sick of “homosexuality is what’s wrong with America” sermons…)
    * No discipleship. “Discipleship” in my church means roughly the equivalent of “Sunday School.”
    * “Programs” are the answer for everything. Forget prayer, introspection and true worship, let’s throw more money and material at another “program.”
    * Disconnection with the surrounding community. My church does not reflect my community. It will be dead before I am 40.

    Don’t get me wrong, I have a solid theological foundation, largely in part because of my church. However, things have changed during the past decade-plus and we need to let go of the old, take a good hard look at ourselves and then…well, (this is going to freak out some hard core SBCers) let Holy Spirit work.

    I still hold out hope Holy Spirit will move through my little congregation.