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I read your article, It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right. In that article you only covered the issues needing correction, not the solutions. How would you suggest the Southern Baptist Convention, or any other church or denomination with similar problems, address those issues?

One of the reasons I addressed only the issues in that article is that a discussion of the issues and the solutions would have made the article extremely long. Another reason is that I know most of my readers are probably not Southern Baptist. Some of the solutions that first came to my mind would have been very “in house” to the SBC and would not have been of interest – nor made sense, without a lot of explanation (making the article even longer), of Southern Baptist polity – to those outside the SBC. However, the more I thought about the spiritual side of the issues, the more my perspective on the solutions changed. And addressing spiritual issues is relevant to every church and denomination.

As I mentioned in the previous article, the three most pressing issues I see facing the SBC are the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, false teachers/false doctrine, and disfellowshipping errant churches.

Because of the SBC’s commitment to the autonomy of the local church, I don’t think any of these things are going to be corrected from the top down with resolutions and studies and committees and appointed/elected leaders. I can only speak from my own perspective, and others may disagree, but I don’t see those things making any of these issues better, and in some cases they’re making things worse. I think turning the ship around is going to have to be a “bottom up” thing, starting at the church level.

So, what are some grassroots steps we can take?

✢ We’re going to have to stop giving lip service to prayer and actually start doing it. Individual prayer, yes, but what I’m really talking about is corporate prayer. Not “organ recitals”, not Bible studies or worship services that we call “prayer meetings”, but actual, protracted corporate prayer meetings where we concentrate on praying for the spiritual health of our own church, other churches, and our denomination at large. The problems we’re facing are, at their root, spiritual problems, and only God can change people’s hearts. It’s high time we started crying out to Him to do so.

I know it’s hard to get people to show up for actual prayer meetings. I used to be the Associational Prayer Coordinator for my local SBC association. Believe me, I get that it’s like pulling teeth. Pastors are going to have to get as many of their teachers and leaders as possible on board and start by praying with them. Next, we need our pastors to spend some weeks and months training their people in how to pray, why we pray, what we pray for, the importance of prayer, and what the Bible says about prayer. And then we’ll need pastors to proactively encourage people to be there. In my experience, corporate prayer has to be pastor initiated and led. If it’s delegated to a lay person or even an associate pastor, the rest of the church will see it as just one more optional program.

✢ We have to emphasize the authority of Scripture over every aspect of church life. Is the church considering buying a new piece of property? Sending messengers to the annual meeting? Joining with another church in a particular endeavor? Planning a mission trip? Receiving a new member? Having a potluck? Whatever is going on in the life of the church, the very first thing that needs to be brought to the table at committee meetings, business meetings, even just casual discussions or brainstorming sessions, is an open Bible and the question, “What does Scripture say about this?” I think many times we’re either assuming that most people already know what the Bible says about it, or we’re doing what we think is best without consulting God’s Word, neither of which is healthy. We need to make sure we’re doing what we do because the Bible says to do it, but approaching church decisions this way also trains individual members to think and act the same “What does Scripture say about this?” way in their own lives. That grows a healthier and more mature church body.

This helps drive home the concept of the sufficiency of Scripture, too. If your church is laser focused on “What does the Bible say?”, it’s going to biblically train your people how to find the answers they need for their own lives, and church life, in the Bible. Instead of “God told me” extra-biblical revelation, instead of taking polls and surveys, sometimes even instead of forming a committee or having one more meeting, the Body will begin to depend on God’s Word as its sufficient source for making decisions.

✢ Another way to emphasize the sufficiency of Scripture is to stop being so dependent on “canned” Sunday School curricula and Bible study books, workbooks, DVDs etc., and simply teach straight from the Bible expositionally (it’s cheaper too).

This scenario has played itself out in hundreds of SBC churches over the years: The women’s ministry committee gets together to decide what the next women’s Bible study will be. This author is suggested. That DVD series is suggested. Finally one brave soul pipes up and says, “Why don’t we just study Ephesians?”. The looks on the other women’s faces demonstrate that studying straight from the Bible is a totally foreign concept.

My husband is a minister of music. He was on staff at a small church many years ago that was in a budget crunch. Something was going to have to be cut. I suggested cutting out Sunday School literature and just teaching the Bible. They opted instead to slash my husband’s salary (which was pretty paltry to begin with).

When we’ve become so dependent on materials other than the Bible that church members have never heard of simply studying from the Bible or that the church would rather hurt one of its pastors than give up its literature, we’ve become too dependent on outside resources and we’re not viewing the Bible as sufficient.

✢ If and when we do decide to use a curriculum or a study, we must vet the study itself and the author(s). I know this is an unpopular thing to say among Southern Baptists, but I was asked for solutions, so I’m going to say it: LifeWay sells some materials authored by false teachers and some materials that contain false doctrine. You can’t just assume that because LifeWay sells it, it’s doctrinally sound. Get some discerning church members and put them to work reading the materials and comparing them to Scripture, and examining the fruit of the author’s life.

✢ We’re going to have to be good Bereans and stop being so flippant and laissez-faire about false teachers and false doctrine. Eradicating false doctrine and false teachers from the house of God is a major theme of the Bible. If it’s that serious to God, it should be that serious to us.

If somebody mentions that a certain Christian author, pastor, or teacher is a false teacher, don’t mock, insult, and blow that person off as “one of those crazy discernment people.” We don’t have to (and shouldn’t) just blindly believe her, but we shouldn’t just dismiss the allegation out of hand, either. Look into it. Do the research. Examine the evidence. Compare that teacher’s life and teaching to rightly handled Scripture, and if she’s not walking blamelessly and teaching what accords with sound doctrine, stop allowing her and her materials into your church.

✢ [Note: This part is more SBC-ish. Most other denominations have a process and governing body for dismissing errant churches. But because the SBC is technically not a denomination but a group of cooperating churches, the leadership of the SBC has very little ecclesiastical authority, including the authority to disfellowship churches.] As far as disfellowshipping errant churches goes, first, we need to make sure our church isn’t one of them. We need our pastors to exposit the Word, not entertain. We need to make sure we equip our membership in rightly handling God’s Word, prayer, evangelism, worship, and caring for one another. We need to make sure our church is biblically healthy.

Next, get involved with the local association and, whatever the procedure is, formulate a set of criteria for disfellowshipping errant churches, employ it when necessary, and pursue it to the state and national convention levels when possible. There are a variety of doctrinal issues that could be included (A couple I would suggest: disfellowshipping churches that violate tenets of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and/or teach any of the historic heresies {Arianism, Modalism, etc.}), but as I mentioned in the above linked article there’s got to be a higher standard than just giving money and being on the right side of homosexuality. We should be holding up the highest standards of biblical doctrine for churches who want the right to be called Southern Baptist, not minimizing and reducing our requirements to the least common denominator.

Pray long and pray hard. Build spiritually healthy and mature churches and church members. Get them involved at the associational and state convention level. Then send them to represent your church at the annual meeting. If God is pleased to change hearts, and if we get enough healthy churches and church members working together, that’s what will bring change at the national level.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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