Southern Baptist/SBC

Change in the SBC? Field Notes from the Grassroots

The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention is coming up in a few weeks.

As a lifelong Southern Baptist, I have thoughts. Feelings, even.

For the past several years – some might even say it started as soon as the Conservative Resurgence was over – the SBC has been on a slow but steady downward and unbiblical trajectory. False teachers line the (virtual) shelves of LifeWay Retail and headline LifeWay-sponsored conferences. False doctrine like extra-biblical revelation and Critical Race Theory are championed. Women have been preaching to men at conferences and para-church events for decades, and now women preaching the Sunday morning sermon in SBC churches is increasing in frequency and acceptance. NAMB was recently taken to task for sponsoring church plants with female pastors. Yoking with heretical, New Apostolic Reformation organizations – for example, when sitting SBC President Ronnie Floyd was a featured speaker at IHOP’s 2015 conference or when LifeWay’s Sunday School curriculum recommends music by Jesus Culture – a clear violation of Scripture, is defended.

And so much more.

It’s a real mess, folks. And to many average Southern Baptists like me, with no power, no position, it’s a mess that feels insurmountable. Beyond discouraging. Hopeless. Not worth the effort of trying to save.

Why? Because nobody in power cares what doctrinally sound, Joe and Jane Churchmember think. In fact, Joe and Jane often feel like we are seen by some in SBC leadership as ignorant, backwoods annoyances to the ruling class. The huddled unwashed masses stupidly crying, “Biblical reform!” as the multi-seminary-degreed elites condescendingly pat us on the heads and send us back to our pews assuring us they know what’s best.

I watched it happen in 2012 when I attended the annual meeting. A messenger went to the microphone after then president/CEO Thom Rainer’s report on LifeWay and began to express concern about the false teachers LifeWay carries. Dr. Rainer’s answer? “Trust the trustees.” The trustees, of course, being the ones who approved those authors for sale by LifeWay in the first place.

There are several brave and hardy Joes and Janes out there who still have fight left in them. Who believe the SBC is worth saving. Who believe it can be turned around if there’s a groundswell of involvement from the grassroots.

God bless them.

I mean that with all my heart. God bless them – mightily. I admire and heartily support them, and I urge you to support them too. I hope, against all hope, that they are right.

But I think there may be a bit of a disconnect in understanding where the “It’s time to chuck the whole thing” side of the aisle is coming from. So I just wanted to take a few moments to air that out – at least from my perspective.

“Show Up”

“Change is made by those who show up.” I’ve heard it multiple times from several different voices in the “grassroots for change” movement urging Joe and Jane to be present at the annual meeting each year. And, in theory, I completely agree. If you can show up, you should.

But in practice, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Yes, if you’ve got plenty of money, your time is your own, and your health and life circumstances permit you to travel to wherever the convention is being held every year, it’s pretty easy to show up.

It’s also easy to forget that not every Southern Baptist is so blessed. In fact, I would take a wild guess that probably 85% or more of Southern Baptist church members and a significant number of SBC pastors are not that comfortably fixed.

We don’t have hundreds or thousands of extra dollars in our family budgets every year to fly or drive what’s often thousands of miles across the country to the meeting site and pay hundreds more for a hotel, meals, and other expenses once we get there. That’s not the type of expense a lot of families can sacrifice for, save up, or scrape together just because we’re being urged to “show up” – the money simply isn’t there.

We have jobs that prevent us from taking time off for the convention. Many of those jobs don’t offer paid vacation time. If we don’t work, we don’t get paid. In some jobs, if you don’t show up whenever you’re needed, you get fired. Even for those fortunate enough to get paid vacation time, that time is limited and may need to be spent on something else – a family wedding, caring for a sick loved one, painting the house.

Some who can afford to make the trip and have the time to do so are limited by other life circumstances such as their health, local responsibilities, and family obligations.

It’s even difficult for many SBC pastors to attend the convention. Are we forgetting that the majority of our churches are small and many of our pastors are bi-vocational? “According to the 2014 Annual Church Profile (ACP) report, 90% of the churches reporting average fewer than 272 in their worship service, and 75% average fewer than 131.”1 Think about how much it would cost to fly your pastor to Nashville, feed him, rent him a car, and put him up in a downtown hotel for several days. How many of our churches that run 20 or 30 or 40 in Sunday worship can afford that? Some of them can’t even afford to pay their pastors a salary.

And then there are the Janes and Joes who are able and willing to attend the convention but find themselves members of doctrinally unsound SBC churches that actually agree with CRT or women pastors or any of the other aforementioned issues. Maybe their churches were once sound, but have taken an unbiblical turn. Or maybe God has only recently opened their eyes to sound doctrine and they’re trying to effect change in a stiff-necked church before being forced to abandon ship. How many of those church members are going to get approved as messengers by their churches? Having been in that situation myself, I can answer that question: Zero. That’s how many.

Many of these difficulties also hold true for the state conventions and associational meetings we’re urged to attend, meetings which are often held during work hours in the middle of the week and sometimes hundreds of miles from home.

It’s really easy for some to say, “If you don’t show up and vote, you can’t complain,” but the effect on those who want to show up, but can’t, is discouragement.

Are we effectively – albeit unintentionally – being respecters of persons by only giving a voice to those who can afford to “show up”? Are we not functionally discriminating against and silencing smaller, poorer churches and church members?

Biblical dissent is silenced or ignored.

For those of us who have seen how biblical dissent is handled by many SBC leaders, we have no reason to believe we’ll be listened to or taken seriously even if we do “show up” at associational meetings, state conventions, or the national convention.

I know of plenty of pastors and church members (including me) who have attempted to contact their local associational leaders, their state convention leaders, or leaders at the national level about some of these problematic issues. They’ve been placated. They’ve been ignored. Their emails, letters, and phone calls have gone unanswered. They’ve been dressed down and told they were wrong, or didn’t have enough faith, or were unloving or in sin, or weren’t being Christlike.

Last year we saw the grassroots outcry against David Uth, president of the 2020 SBC pastors conference, for inviting false teachers and a female pastor to headline the event. He still dug his heels in and refused to heed the godly reproof he received.

Current SBC president J.D. Greear makes a public statement about the Bible “whispering about sexual sin,” publicly supports and defends false teachers like Beth Moore, and maintains a friendship with at least one female “pastor” – among many other things – and completely ignores anyone who takes him to task for it.

The unspoken “11th Commandment” threat of retaliation against denominational, LifeWay, and seminary employees who, after exhausting all of the “proper channels” to no avail, speak out against unbiblical actions by their employers, superiors, or other denominational leaders, is an open secret, and no joke to those who have been intimidated, negatively impacted, fired, or forced to resign.

At the 2019 convention, messengers attempted to speak against Resolution 9, and their microphones were turned off. And I already mentioned what happened at the 2012 convention.

I appreciate the faith and optimism of those who think our voices can still be heard, I truly do. And I desperately hope they are right. Nothing would make me happier. But in the current SBC climate of ignoring, silencing, and even threatening biblical dissent and correction, surely they can also understand why many of us would wonder why any doctrinally sound Southern Baptist would ever dream of being listened to and taken seriously.

So….what’s the solution?

Many average church members and pastors who want change have no voice because they can’t afford to show up in person at the convention, and even if they do show up, there’s no reason to believe their voices will be heard, much less heeded. So, what’s the solution?

I can think of two practical remedies that might help a little.

Virtual attendance and distance voting- Every time I’ve suggested this or heard someone else suggest this, it has been immediately shot down – often by those urging involvement from the grassroots – in favor of messengers “showing up” in person, and because “the technological capability for this doesn’t exist.”

I’m sorry, I’m fully aware of how dense I am when it comes to technology, but I look around and see online shopping, PayPal, people filing their taxes and census forms online, online classes and testing, and all kinds of other very official things being done online that involve the transmission of sensitive information that has to be accurate, and I have an extremely difficult time believing that the Southern Baptist Convention can’t find some way in the next few years to make streaming the convention, submitting input and questions online, and voting online a reality. This is the 21st century and we still seem to be operating with a horse and buggy mindset.

Convention “Scholarships”- If you really want people to “show up,” you’re going to have to make it financially possible for those who can’t afford it. Commendably, many individual churches already do this for their own pastors and messengers, paying for their airfare, accommodations, and/or other expenses.

What about grassroots organizations establishing some sort of “scholarship” fund for pastors and potential messengers who would like to attend the convention, but neither they nor their churches can afford to send them? (Here’s a wild idea- why don’t we de-fund the ERLC and use those funds for this kind of thing instead?) What about churches and church members in the city in which the convention is being held opening their doors to pastors and messengers traveling on a shoestring budget and providing them with a place to stay, meals, and transportation around town?


Again, I wholeheartedly support my SBC brothers and sisters who are trying to effect change within the current system and structure. And I encourage all doctrinally sound Southern Baptists who can attend this year’s annual meeting to do so, and to fight hard and vote biblically. My own son and several members of my church are going to be attending, and I’m cheering them on. I’d go myself if I could. I’m hoping and praying for lots of good to be accomplished.

I don’t have all the answers. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer. I just know that if you do what you’ve always done, chances are, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.

And I just don’t think the Southern Baptist Convention can survive much more of that.


1So-Called “Smaller” Churches and the Future of the SBC

Southern Baptist/SBC

Interview with Anticipated SBC Presidential Nominee: Mike Stone

Mike Stone, Michelle Lesley

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the Louisiana chapter of the Conservative Baptist Network featuring Pastor Mike Stone, anticipated 2021 nominee for president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The next morning, Pastor Mike graciously made the time to sit for a brief interview with me, which I’m making available to you today for informational purposes, especially if you’re Southern Baptist.

I’m sure there are some theological topics on which Pastor Mike and I don’t see eye to eye, so this isn’t meant to be an endorsement of anything that conflicts with my theology as outlined in my Welcome and Statement of Faith tabs, nor is the fact that Pastor Mike is appearing on my blog an endorsement of any of my theology that conflicts with his positions. This interview was simply a service both of us are providing to you so that you may know where Pastor Mike stands on the issues I asked him about.

That being said, as a brother and sister in Christ who share a passion for the sufficiency of Scripture, a disdain for so-called “soft-complementarianism,” and a desire to see the Southern Baptist Convention straighten up and fly right, I feel certain we have far more in common than not. I found Pastor Mike to be a warm and caring brother, and I commend him for taking a firm, biblical stand on some issues which, sad to say, will not earn him any brownie points in certain sectors of the SBC. That takes guts, and I respect that. I thoroughly enjoyed our chat.

Listen in on the audio player above or on my YouTube channel (audio only).

I know some of y’all like transcripts when I post audio. I was not able to transcribe Pastor Mike’s portion of interview, but you may read my questions – as well as a post-interview addendum to Pastor Mike’s answer to question #2 – here.

Many thanks to Pastor Mike Stone, the Conservative Baptist Network, the Louisiana chapter of the Conservative Baptist Network, CBN Steering Council member, Pastor Lewis Richerson, and Benjamin Lesley- producer, for making this interview possible.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Unfollowing iffy teachers, Teacher training, Church search & 9Marks, Charitable giving, SBC21, AWFS transcripts)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question.

I like to take the opportunity in these potpourri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar (at the very bottom of each page) can be a helpful tool!

Or maybe I answered your question already? Check out my article The Mailbag: Top 10 FAQs to see if your question has been answered and to get some helpful resources.


I’m currently listening to a [Bible study] podcast. I have enjoyed it so far because after I read, I’m able to hear a different perspective, maybe the speaker goes over something I didn’t catch, or maybe the speaker says something that isn’t how I interpreted the text. I always go back to the Scripture and compare when her opinion and mine differ to see what the scripture says. There’s now been two issues that I just believe she is plan wrong about. At what point would you cut ties? My husband has told he wants me to really ponder if the teacher is trustworthy if she adds to Scripture or changes God’s intent. I’m all for testing everything I read/listen to against Scripture, but at what point would you consider not following a teacher due to misleading or just plain wrong information?

At the point at which my (doctrinally sound) husband expressed concern, if I hadn’t already unfollowed her on my own.

Ladies- if you have a godly, doctrinally sound husband who knows his Bible, be thankful (as I’m sure the reader who sent in this question is). What a wonderful gift God has given you! He’s able to give you a biblical perspective on things you might not have thought about before, he can give you godly counsel on those things, and he cares about your spiritual life and growth in holiness.

If you have a husband like that and he’s saying, “I don’t think you should listen to that podcast, read that author, etc.,” I would urge you to give serious thought to what he’s saying. I would also recommend heeding his leadership and unfollowing that person, even if you don’t totally agree with him. It’s very likely that one day, you’ll look back at that author or podcaster and see your husband’s concerns more clearly, and be glad you took his advice. And even if you don’t, or even if he turns out to be wrong, you’re still demonstrating respect for, and submission to his spiritual leadership – and that’s worth way more to your marriage and to being a godly wife than any podcast, book, YouTube channel or anything else.

If you’re in a position in which you’re having to decide for yourself whether or not to continue following a certain “iffy” teacher, here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Make sure the “red flags” you’re seeing are actually biblical issues (as this reader’s red flags were), not personal preferences. You may not like that a pastor likes hymns instead of more contemporary (doctrinally sound) worship music or that a (doctrinally sound) female teacher has really short hair, but that’s personal taste, not being unbiblical.
  • Be sure you understand and can rightly handle Scripture well enough to make sure it’s the teacher who’s the one in error, not you.
  • Make certain that what you’re hearing as a red flag wasn’t just a “one and done” instance of the teacher accidentally misspeaking, flubbing her words, or not being as clear as she could have been.
  • If you’re seeing red flags and you’re a new Christian or you know yourself well enough to know you could be easily swayed by this teacher into believing something wrong, stop following her.
  • Consider that for every red flag you’re seeing, there could be another red flag that your’e not recognizing or that this teacher hasn’t revealed yet.
  • If you’re a mature Christian who’s following this teacher for biblical instruction and you’re increasingly seeing red flags, that’s God’s way of telling you -through what you know from His Word- that you don’t need to be receiving teaching from this person.
  • If you don’t want to follow or are uncomfortable following a certain teacher, that doesn’t require you to make any sort of public declaration that others shouldn’t follow her or that she is a false teacher. You can simply make the quiet, personal decision to stop following her.
  • Remember, there’s no law that says you have to follow any particular teacher, or any teachers at all for that matter. Christians have been doing just fine for 2000 years simply being taught by their own pastor, elders, and teachers at church.

While reading your article, McBible Study and the Famine of God’s Word, I finally realized my struggle with leading the women’s study is because I haven’t been trained to teach. Unfortunately, there aren’t any strong teachers in my church – a big problem. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations for learning how to learn? Online, books, etc.?

The first thing I would recommend is that you explain your dilemma to your pastor and ask him to train you (and others in your church – One on one meetings between a pastor and a woman are not a good idea. Plus, it sounds like a lot of people in your church need to be trained.) to teach.

If your pastor is not a “strong teacher” or is incapable of training others to teach, you probably need to start looking for a new church. One of the biblical qualifications for pastors is that they be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2) and be “able to give instruction in sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9). Paul exhorted Pastor Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Pastors ought to be able to teach others to teach.

As your pastor is training you, you may wish to work through some of my Bible studies, or use them as studies for your women’s class. My studies are designed to teach women how to study or teach straight from the text of Scripture in a “learn by doing” sort of way. Once you get a feel for the kinds of things you should be seeing in the text and questions you should be asking of the text, you can take off those “training wheels” and fly solo.


Are you suggesting that the churches listed at the search engines at your Searching for a new church? resource are the only churches that are teaching biblically?

Not at all. That resource is not, nor is it meant to be, a comprehensive list of every doctrinally sound church on planet Earth. That would be impossible. I’m sure there are thousands of other perfectly doctrinally sound churches out there (and if you are personally connected to any others, please let me know.) That resource is merely a suggestions of some of the doctrinally sound churches in various areas of the world that Christians can check out if they’re looking for one to join.

I would like clarification on 9Marks website.

It’s a little hard to “clarify” when I’m not sure what the question is. :0) I can only infer that, like others, you’ve noticed Mark Dever and a few other pastors/teachers in that circle who, over the past few years, seem to have occasionally dipped a toe into the social justice waters.

I added the 9Marks “church search” to my list of church search engines several years ago before that became an issue. I believe that the majority of churches that are listed at the 9Marks site probably also applied to be listed before this became an issue or are not aware that it is currently an issue.

So far, as far as I know, Mark Dever and 9Marks haven’t turned rabidly woke, given a full-throated endorsement of Critical Race Theory, spoken out in favor of clear progressivism or liberalism, etc. I’ll continue to keep an eye on them, and if and when that happens, I’ll remove the 9Marks church search. But right now, they’re still at the stage of being decent brothers in Christ who every once in a while make an iffy statement or two. The churches on the 9Marks list aren’t required to agree or align with everything Mark Dever and 9Marks say, and, at the moment, I believe that the majority of the churches on that list are doctrinally sound.

If you have misgivings about 9Marks, by all means, skip that church search engine and use the others I have listed. And, as the disclaimer on that page says: “Please use this list only as a suggestion of churches to check out using biblical wisdom and discernment.” You are responsible for personally vetting any church you choose to visit or join.


Do you know of, and/or recommend, any particular causes or charities that are… well, Godly (moral and ethical)? There are so many charities that don’t use their donated funds for their advertised causes (you know, instead the donations go to support the CEO’s million dollar mansion and such). I want to give, I just don’t know to whom or what.

The first place you should be giving is to the offerings of your local church – to support your pastor and staff, pay the bills, contribute to the upkeep of the church, support missionaries, etc. This is part of being a faithful church member.

If you still have money left over after that, ask your pastor about the missionaries and other Christian organizations (ex: a local crisis pregnancy center, orphanages, church plants, etc.) your church supports financially, and give more money directly to these organizations. You should follow your pastor’s leadership and work hand in hand with your church in supporting these entities.

And if you still have money left over after that, would you adopt me? :0) Just kidding. If you follow any doctrinally sound podcasts, pastors, teachers, or authors, find out which parachurch organizations they support. For example, two of the ministries I follow are Grace to You and Wretched. I would love to be able to support The Master’s Academy International, which trains indigenous pastors all over the world to minister in their context. One of Wretched’s sponsors I would contribute to is Pre-Born, a pro-life ministry that emphasizes sharing the gospel.

(And just FYI: I do not recommend Samaritan’s Purse / Operation Christmas Child.)

May God bless your generosity.


Will there be a 2021 version of the Arrive Prepared resource for this year’s SBC Annual Meeting?

I thought about that a couple of weeks ago, but to be perfectly transparent I am so disillusioned with and depressed by the state of the Southern Baptist Convention at the national level right now that I just don’t have the heart for it.

Last year, I was in more of a “Let’s charge into hell with a water pistol and DO this thing!” frame of mind. This year, that has been replaced by a heaviness of spirit. Though there are many individual (and autonomous – for those not in the know, all SBC churches are autonomous) doctrinally sound SBC churches out there, including my own (and I’m so thankful for all of them), I just don’t have any reason to believe that anything is going to change at the national level. I think it’s just going to continue to get worse – more false teachers, more false doctrine, more egalitarianism, more Critical Race Theory, more liberalism, more biblical ignorance, more tolerance for sin, more 11th Commandment, more erosion of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, and continued disdain for those of us in the Calvinist ghetto of the SBC.

I have never in my life more fervently hoped to be proved wrong, and I completely support my doctrinally sound brothers and sisters who are still standing in the flames brandishing their water pistols. But I’m shell shocked. That’s honestly just where I am right now.

In my estimation, about 85% of the information in the “Arrive Prepared” article is still accurate and relevant for this year’s annual meeting. Since the 2020 annual meeting was canceled due to COVID, my thinking is most of the same issues will be addressed this year, particularly abuse and Critical Race Theory / Resolution 9 (if you haven’t yet checked out the CRT video series I posted a few weeks ago, that would be a great resource).

I imagine issues surrounding COVID and the vaccine, the Equality Act, and persecution of the Western church will also be brought up. I hope the issues with NAMB (the North American Mission Board), including their church plants that have employed female “pastors” and co-“pastors,” will be biblically addressed, but my guess would be that that issue will be tabled or sent to committee or buried under procedural regulations and nothing will really be done about it clearly and publicly.

If you want to keep up on the issues, I would suggest following the people and organizations listed at the end of that article.

Sorry to sound like a Debbie Downer. I promise I’ll continue to think and pray about it, and if the Lord changes my mind, I’ll write a piece on it.


Could you please provide transcripts for each episode of A Word Fitly Spoken?

No, but we can come really close in two ways:

  1. Amy has started uploading our episodes (audio only) to our YouTube channel. There’s a “CC” button at the bottom of each YouTube video that allows you to turn on captions. (She has posted several of our past episodes as well.)
  2. All of our episodes are scripted, and we stick pretty closely to the script. Going forward, I’ll be posting the link to the Google Doc of our script for each episode in the show notes of that episode. Many of our earlier episodes have been scripted from one of Amy’s or my blog articles, and if you’ll look in the show notes for that episode, you’ll find the link for that article.

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.