Mailbag, Southern Baptist/SBC

The Mailbag: SBC Resolution 9- On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

Originally published June 17, 2019

2020 Update: A motion will be made at the June 2020 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention to rescind Resolution 9If you are Southern Baptist, I encourage you to serve as a messenger from your church and vote to rescind Resolution 9. Keep abreast of this and other SBC 2020 issues at Founders Ministries. Arrive prepared.

 

What are your thoughts on Resolution 9 that recently passed at the 2019 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention?

It seems like every year there’s that one controversial resolution that everybody’s talking about. This year, it’s Resolution 9: On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality. 

If you don’t know what CRT and intersectionality are, you’re not alone. Far from it, in fact. There’s no way I can fully explain each of them, so I would encourage you to Google the terms and get ready for some heavy duty academic reading, some of which is going to conflict with itself depending on who and what you read. Also, see the “Additional Resources” section below.

Briefly and uber-broadly, what you see playing out in race relations in the U.S. right now is basically the end result of CRT: Privilege. Reparations. Oppression. Repent of and renounce your whiteness. White people’s racism is so deep seated we’re not even conscious of it. White power and privilege are inextricably embedded in politics, education, religion, economics- every single system in existence. It is a paradigm through which social justice issues are viewed and addressed.

Intersectionality is almost like saying: “On a scale of 1-10, how oppressed are you?” The fewer minority groups you fit into, the less oppressed you are, and vice versa. A white, male, heterosexual, educated, middle class, Christian would be on the “privileged” end of the scale. A poor, black, female, homosexual, transgender, Muslim would be on the “oppressed” end of the scale. The more oppressed you are, the more you are to be heard and taken seriously on the social issues of the day.

(People are going to say those are over-generalizations. I agree. Like I said, Google it and study the issue more thoroughly.)

In the Southern Baptist Convention, any messenger (a church member representing her church at the convention) can propose a resolution about almost anything (It’s actually pretty interesting to go back as far as 1845 and read past resolutions.). If her resolution is approved by the Committee on Resolutions, it’s voted on by everybody else in attendance (why, in 2019, we haven’t come up with some method of distance voting online is beyond me, but that’s for another article). Because of SBC polity and the autonomy of each local church, resolutions are non-binding. Generally speaking, no SBC church or church member is required to abide by a resolution that passes, and resolutions are often a merely an encouragement for SBC churches/members to affirm something biblical or to repudiate something that’s unbiblical anyway.

Such was the case with Resolution 9, which called on Southern Baptists to – in a nutshell – recognize that CRT and intersectionality are unbiblical ways of addressing “social justice” issues and that they are creeping in to SBC churches and entities, repudiate CRT/intersectionality, and affirm that the Bible is authoritative and sufficient for dealing with these and all other issues.

At least, that’s what the original resolution authored by Pastor Stephen Feinstein of Sovereign Way Christian Church called on Southern Baptists to do. But that’s not the resolution SBC messengers got to vote on.

You see, when a messenger submits a resolution to the Committee on Resolutions for approval, “The SBC Committee on Resolutions is vested with the authority to…reword submitted resolutions…”. And reword, they did. Not just the format, but the content. So much so that the revised resolution bears so little resemblance to the original that had I authored any resolution altered to this extent, I would have ended up voting against my own resolution. The committee’s rewording changed the meaning of the resolution from “The CRT/intersectionality paradigm is sinful at its foundation. We need to repudiate it altogether, keep it out of our churches and entities, and address these issues biblically,” to “Some people have used the CRT/intersectionality paradigm unwisely, but we can learn some things by using it, so as long as it doesn’t override Scripture, it’s fine,” and the revised version of the resolution passed.

So that’s the quick recap of the issues at play (as I have read about them – I was not able to attend the convention this year). What are my thoughts?

•My first reaction to both versions of the resolution and the passage of the revised version was that most of the messengers likely did not understand what they were voting on for two reasons:

First, the format and wording of SBC resolutions tends to be somewhat formal and stilted. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, and I’m certainly not saying any of my SBC brethren are unintelligent (I struggle to slog through them myself sometimes), but I look at the wording and format of both resolutions and I compare them to simply worded and formatted social media posts, blog articles, etc., that many people seem to have trouble understanding, and I have to think it would be helpful to begin each resolution with a simply worded four or five sentence summary of its main points so people have a better shot at knowing what they’re voting about.

Second, the vast majority of Southern Baptists (and probably Christians in general) do not keep up with current events in evangelicalism and probably have never heard of CRT or intersectionality – which are relatively new terms and concepts anyway – much less know what those terms mean well enough to make an informed decision on which way to vote. (I don’t blame them. It’s impossible to keep up with everything going on in the world of evangelicalism.) Neither version of the resolution offered much of an explanation as to what CRT and intersectionality are. They both seemed to carry the assumption that those reading the resolution would already know. My guess is that most did not.

I later discovered that my friend, Pastor Tom Buck had a similar takeaway. I thoroughly agree with him.

•Tom also spoke against the revised resolution from the floor, and Tom Ascol, president of Founders Ministries, offered some clarifying amendments (which, unfortunately did not pass) to the revised resolution. I thought both were very helpful, and I wish the messengers had taken their remarks to heart.

•I am shocked and appalled at the changes the Committee on Resolutions made to Pastor Feinstein’s resolution. I realize that the committee has the right to “reword” resolutions, but I don’t think they ought to have the right to water down or change the meaning of the content of a resolution. Grammar, format, correcting objectively incorrect facts, eliminating redundancies – all fine. But for a revised version of a resolution to be so dramatically different from the original – no.

•I can only speculate as to why the revised version of the resolution differed so greatly – mainly in that the language seemed softened and the urgency and danger of the issue seemed watered down. Either the members of the Committee on Resolutions aren’t very familiar with CRT and intersectionality and the dangers they pose and watered down the language in order not to offend or alarm anyone, or the members of the committee are knowledgeable of, and at least somewhat favorably disposed to, CRT and intersectionality and are trying to fly them into the SBC under the radar.

As I said, this is only speculation and I am not making any accusations or casting aspersions. With the exception of Trevin Wax, I am not familiar with any of the members of the committee, but I will say this: I would be very surprised to encounter anyone on faculty or staff at an institution of higher learning (such as a seminary) that isn’t at least acquainted with the basics of CRT and intersectionality. I suppose it’s not impossible, but it would be very surprising to me.

•Big picture short term: Very few of the millions of Southern Baptists in the U.S. and around the globe will even know about this resolution since, proportionally, very few Southern Baptists attend the convention or keep up with convention business. Even most of those who were present and voted to approve the resolution will probably have forgotten about it within a month or so since it has no enforceability at the church or individual level and since many voters likely did not fully understand what they were voting about in the first place. While the adoption of the resolution is not a good sign, I don’t expect there to be an en masse mad rush of Southern Baptists into full blown CRT and intersectionality tomorrow.

•Big picture long term: Barring direct intervention from God Himself in the form of revival, the SBC will eventually go down the same path of theological liberalism as all the other major denominations. Doctrinally sound churches will split off and either form their own denomination or remain independent, autonomous churches. This resolution is only one of the the first steps down that road.

•It is my hope that some good will come from this resolution in the form of awareness. That average people in the pew will hear the words “Critical Race Theory” and “intersectionality” and wonder what they mean and how they connect to the SBC. That they will study and research and be moved by a holy zeal, not only cry out to God to keep these and other unbiblical ideas out of the SBC, but to stand up and act – to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Additional Resources

Overview of Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality at The Cripplegate

SBC19 – Resolution 9, Women in Mission, Mature Manhood & Critical Race Theory on The Sword and the Trowel

The Woke Tools of the SBC: A Review of Resolution 9 on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality by Josh Buice

The Briefing (6-14-19) with Albert Mohler (Click on, or scroll down to, “Part III”)

Resolution 9 and the Southern Baptist Convention 2019 at Founders Ministries

Tom Buck on SBC 2019 on The Dividing Line (start at 32:30ish for Resolution 9 info.)

Gabriel Hughes on Resolution 9 (start at 20:47 for Resolution 9 info.)

What’s Up with Critical Theory at Sheologians

Whiteness at Just Thinking

Critical Theory at Alpha and Omega Ministries

By What Standard from Founders Ministries


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.

Mailbag, Southern Baptist/SBC

The Mailbag: SBC Resolution 9- On Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

 

What are your thoughts on Resolution 9 that recently passed at the 2019 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention?

It seems like every year there’s that one controversial resolution that everybody’s talking about. This year, it’s Resolution 9: On Critical Race Theory And Intersectionality. 

If you don’t know what CRT and intersectionality are, you’re not alone. Far from it, in fact. There’s no way I can fully explain each of them, so I would encourage you to Google the terms and get ready for some heavy duty academic reading, some of which is going to conflict with itself depending on who and what you read. Also, see the “Additional Resources” section below.

Briefly and uber-broadly, what you see playing out in race relations in the U.S. right now is basically the end result of CRT: Privilege. Reparations. Oppression. Repent of and renounce your whiteness. White people’s racism is so deep seated we’re not even conscious of it. White power and privilege are inextricably embedded in politics, education, religion, economics- every single system in existence. It is a paradigm through which social justice issues are viewed and addressed.

Intersectionality is almost like saying: “On a scale of 1-10, how oppressed are you?” The fewer minority groups you fit into, the less oppressed you are, and vice versa. A white, male, heterosexual, educated, middle class, Christian would be on the “privileged” end of the scale. A poor, black, female, homosexual, transgender, Muslim would be on the “oppressed” end of the scale. The more oppressed you are, the more you are to be heard and taken seriously on the social issues of the day.

(People are going to say those are over-generalizations. I agree. Like I said, Google it and study the issue more thoroughly.)

In the Southern Baptist Convention, any messenger (a church member representing her church at the convention) can propose a resolution about almost anything (It’s actually pretty interesting to go back as far as 1845 and read past resolutions.). If her resolution is approved by the Committee on Resolutions, it’s voted on by everybody else in attendance (why, in 2019, we haven’t come up with some method of distance voting online is beyond me, but that’s for another article). Because of SBC polity and the autonomy of each local church, resolutions are non-binding. Generally speaking, no SBC church or church member is required to abide by a resolution that passes, and resolutions are often a merely an encouragement for SBC churches/members to affirm something biblical or to repudiate something that’s unbiblical anyway.

Such was the case with Resolution 9, which called on Southern Baptists to – in a nutshell – recognize that CRT and intersectionality are unbiblical ways of addressing “social justice” issues and that they are creeping in to SBC churches and entities, repudiate CRT/intersectionality, and affirm that the Bible is authoritative and sufficient for dealing with these and all other issues.

At least, that’s what the original resolution authored by Pastor Stephen Feinstein of Sovereign Way Christian Church called on Southern Baptists to do. But that’s not the resolution SBC messengers got to vote on.

You see, when a messenger submits a resolution to the Committee on Resolutions for approval, “The SBC Committee on Resolutions is vested with the authority to…reword submitted resolutions…”. And reword, they did. Not just the format, but the content. So much so that the revised resolution bears so little resemblance to the original that had I authored any resolution altered to this extent, I would have ended up voting against my own resolution. The committee’s rewording changed the meaning of the resolution from “The CRT/intersectionality paradigm is sinful at its foundation. We need to repudiate it altogether, keep it out of our churches and entities, and address these issues biblically,” to “Some people have used the CRT/intersectionality paradigm unwisely, but we can learn some things by using it, so as long as it doesn’t override Scripture, it’s fine,” and the revised version of the resolution passed.

So that’s the quick recap of the issues at play (as I have read about them – I was not able to attend the convention this year). What are my thoughts?

•My first reaction to both versions of the resolution and the passage of the revised version was that most of the messengers likely did not understand what they were voting on for two reasons:

First, the format and wording of SBC resolutions tends to be somewhat formal and stilted. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, and I’m certainly not saying any of my SBC brethren are unintelligent (I struggle to slog through them myself sometimes), but I look at the wording and format of both resolutions and I compare them to simply worded and formatted social media posts, blog articles, etc., that many people seem to have trouble understanding, and I have to think it would be helpful to begin each resolution with a simply worded four or five sentence summary of its main points so people have a better shot at knowing what they’re voting about.

Second, the vast majority of Southern Baptists (and probably Christians in general) do not keep up with current events in evangelicalism and probably have never heard of CRT or intersectionality – which are relatively new terms and concepts anyway – much less know what those terms mean well enough to make an informed decision on which way to vote. (I don’t blame them. It’s impossible to keep up with everything going on in the world of evangelicalism.) Neither version of the resolution offered much of an explanation as to what CRT and intersectionality are. They both seemed to carry the assumption that those reading the resolution would already know. My guess is that most did not.

I later discovered that my friend, Pastor Tom Buck had a similar takeaway. I thoroughly agree with him.

•Tom also spoke against the revised resolution from the floor, and Tom Ascol, president of Founders Ministries, offered some clarifying amendments (which, unfortunately did not pass) to the revised resolution. I thought both were very helpful, and I wish the messengers had taken their remarks to heart.

•I am shocked and appalled at the changes the Committee on Resolutions made to Pastor Feinstein’s resolution. I realize that the committee has the right to “reword” resolutions, but I don’t think they ought to have the right to water down or change the meaning of the content of a resolution. Grammar, format, correcting objectively incorrect facts, eliminating redundancies – all fine. But for a revised version of a resolution to be so dramatically different from the original – no.

•I can only speculate as to why the revised version of the resolution differed so greatly – mainly in that the language seemed softened and the urgency and danger of the issue seemed watered down. Either the members of the Committee on Resolutions aren’t very familiar with CRT and intersectionality and the dangers they pose and watered down the language in order not to offend or alarm anyone, or the members of the committee are knowledgeable of, and at least somewhat favorably disposed to, CRT and intersectionality and are trying to fly them into the SBC under the radar.

As I said, this is only speculation and I am not making any accusations or casting aspersions. With the exception of Trevin Wax, I am not familiar with any of the members of the committee, but I will say this: I would be very surprised to encounter anyone on faculty or staff at an institution of higher learning (such as a seminary) that isn’t at least acquainted with the basics of CRT and intersectionality. I suppose it’s not impossible, but it would be very surprising to me.

•Big picture short term: Very few of the millions of Southern Baptists in the U.S. and around the globe will even know about this resolution since, proportionally, very few Southern Baptists attend the convention or keep up with convention business. Even most of those who were present and voted to approve the resolution will probably have forgotten about it within a month or so since it has no enforceability at the church or individual level and since many voters likely did not fully understand what they were voting about in the first place. While the adoption of the resolution is not a good sign, I don’t expect there to be an en masse mad rush of Southern Baptists into full blown CRT and intersectionality tomorrow.

•Big picture long term: Barring direct intervention from God Himself in the form of revival, the SBC will eventually go down the same path of theological liberalism as all the other major denominations. Doctrinally sound churches will split off and either form their own denomination or remain independent, autonomous churches. This resolution is only one of the the first steps down that road.

•It is my hope that some good will come from this resolution in the form of awareness. That average people in the pew will hear the words “Critical Race Theory” and “intersectionality” and wonder what they mean and how they connect to the SBC. That they will study and research and be moved by a holy zeal, not only cry out to God to keep these and other unbiblical ideas out of the SBC, but to stand up and act – to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Additional Resources

Overview of Critical Race Theory & Intersectionality at The Cripplegate

SBC19 – Resolution 9, Women in Mission, Mature Manhood & Critical Race Theory on The Sword and the Trowel

The Woke Tools of the SBC: A Review of Resolution 9 on Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality by Josh Buice

The Briefing (6-14-19) with Albert Mohler (Click on, or scroll down to, “Part III”)

Resolution 9 and the Southern Baptist Convention 2019 at Founders Ministries

Tom Buck on SBC 2019 on The Dividing Line (start at 32:30ish for Resolution 9 info.)

Gabriel Hughes on Resolution 9 (start at 20:47 for Resolution 9 info.)

What’s Up with Critical Theory at Sheologians

Whiteness at Just Thinking

Critical Theory at Alpha and Omega Ministries

By What Standard from Founders Ministries


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can the problems in the SBC (or any denomination/church) be fixed?

I’m taking a short summer break this week. I hope you’ll enjoy this article from the archives. The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention  also took place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word in the SBC?


Originally published June 4, 2018

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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can the problems in the SBC (or any denomination/church) be fixed?

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.