Southern Baptist/SBC

The 11th Commandment: 6 Principles for Boldly and Biblically Breaking It

Every organization has them. Those unwritten rules that everybody seems to know. That newcomers learn through whispered admonitions or perhaps by inadvertently breaking them. The Southern Baptist Convention – and probably a lot of other denominations and parachurch ministries – has them too, and one that more and more people are learning about has, tongue in cheek, been dubbed “The 11th Commandment”:

Thou shalt not publicly criticize
other Southern Baptist leaders.

It seems to apply mostly to the upper echelons of SBC leadership: entity heads, celebrity pastors and authors, seminary leaders, the SBC president, the head of LifeWay. Basically anybody with power, position, or name recognition.

And we’re not talking about slandering or lying about someone. Naturally, that would be sinful and worthy of reproof. We’re talking about anything negative or critical even if it’s biblically correct and necessary.

I don’t know anyone personally¹ who has told me he’s/she’s been in this situation, but I’ve heard several stories from reliable sources over the past few years of pastors, people who work for LifeWay, SBC seminary employees, etc., who would like to speak publicly, biblically, and truthfully about sinful situations or unbiblical decisions in the SBC, but are reluctant to do so for fear of losing their jobs or positions. (On a smaller scale, I have heard from plenty of women who have been spiritually abused and bullied into silence, or out of their own churches, by church leadership for daring to speak out against LifeWay-endorsed false teachers.)

Think about that for a minute. This is a purportedly Bible-believing Christian organization in which doctrinally sound Christians are afraid to publicly stand for biblical truth for fear of retaliation from other Christians. Hush up. Cover up. Don’t shine the light of Scripture into the dark corners of the SBC.

This is an organization which, not so many years ago, battled to preserve the concepts of the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of the Bible. A Bible which says:

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is
good and right and true)

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:8b-9,11

If we truly believe these words are breathed out by God (inspiration), completely trustworthy (infallible), and without error (inerrant), how can there be a culture of back room intimidation in the SBC?

Why isn’t the Scripture we say we believe being obeyed?

Sin. People are sinning and it’s negatively impacting fellow Believers. Just like when I sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers. Just like when you sin it negatively impacts fellow Believers.

Anyone¹ who is helping to create a culture of intimidation against fellow Believers for speaking out in accordance with Scripture is in sin and needs to repent and be forgiven by the grace and mercy of Christ.

But, often, when we’re sinned against, even by brothers and sisters in Christ, the person sinning against us doesn’t repent right away (or sometimes, ever). She continues in her sin against us. Although we might be able to talk to the person and encourage her with Scripture to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord, we can’t change her heart. Only the Holy Spirit can convict someone of sin and give her the gift of repentance.

So, as leaders continue to attempt to enforce the “11th Commandment,” the only remaining decision to be made by those feeling pressured into silence is, “How do I respond to this? Do I speak out and risk my job, my reputation, my church, and a peaceful life for my family, or do I remain silent?”. I would encourage these folks to prayerfully consider the following biblical principles about this issue.

1.
Be Wise

As Ecclesiastes tells us,

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

Don’t just let your default response be to keep your head down and your mouth shut regardless of the issue that comes your way. There are times when it is biblically valid to remain silent, but there are also times when we are required by Scripture to speak up, regardless of the personal cost. You must ask God for wisdom to discern how to respond biblically to each situation, and then you must act accordingly, trusting God with the outcome.


2.
Know the Issues

You’ve got to know your Bible and know where Scripture lands on various issues. That goes hand in hand with making a wise decision about whether to speak out or remain silent. Using wine versus grape juice for the Lord’s Supper isn’t a make or break New Testament issue for the church, so you probably won’t want to risk your job over something at that level of adiaphora, but false teachers who are wreaking spiritual havoc on your denomination and the church when you have the power and the platform to biblically denounce it? Speaking out on that issue is all over the Old and New Testament, and you’ll want to be sure you follow Scripture appropriately in your particular situation.


3.

Count the Cost

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. Luke 14:26-33

Have you counted the cost of being Jesus’ disciple? It’s high. Jesus says you “cannot be My disciple” if you aren’t willing to sacrifice relationships with your closest loved ones in favor of Christ and His Word. If you aren’t willing to sacrifice your physical life. If you aren’t willing to bear your own cross and follow after Him. If you don’t renounce all that you have. That includes your job, your reputation, comfort, ease, and security for your family, your church, your friends, book deals, speaking engagements, and sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table with evangelical celebrities. Jesus was despised and rejected by men. Are you, His servant, greater than your Master?


4.
Don’t Miss Your Calling

Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

Go back and read the entire book of Esther. One of the main ideas of this little book is this:

Any position, power or platform you have is given to you by God,
and you are not merely to preserve and protect it, but to steward it for His purposes.

Just like God didn’t make Esther queen as an end in itself, God didn’t give you that job at LifeWay or that position at a seminary for you to protect it at any cost. He gave it to you as a means to an end – His glory, and the furthering of His Kingdom. Esther was willing to risk death, divorce, even banishment to speak up because she realized God had put her in the position of queen as a means of bringing about His purpose of delivering God’s people. Is it possible that’s why God put you in the position you’re in – to give you the voice and platform to speak out so others could be informed and inspired to stand up for biblical truth? Don’t let fear of the consequences rob you of the joy and honor of being used by God to bring about His purposes.


5.
In His Steps

Jesus. John the Baptist. Peter. Paul. Isaiah. Jeremiah. Samuel. Gideon. The Minor Prophets. All of these men (and more) spoke out against ungodliness among the people of God, and all of them paid dearly for it. Maybe some of them were afraid. Maybe some of them were concerned about their families and livelihoods. But all of them put God’s Kingdom and His people ahead of personal concerns and trusted that if they did what was right in God’s eyes, He would take care of them. And the same God who never failed them will never fail you.

Let the boldness and bravery of these men inspire you to be unwaveringly courageous. Let their unflagging resolve inspire you to forge ahead with no turning back. Let the depth of their faith inspire you to take God at His Word and believe Him for everything. We still need heroes of the faith today. Be the next one by following in the footsteps of the heroes of Scripture.


6.
Share in Suffering

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:3

Suffering for the name of Christ and the truth of His Word is such a major theme of the New Testament I couldn’t begin to list all the passages that address it. When you’re a servant of Christ, suffering the same reproach He suffered from the same kind of people for the same reasons isn’t an option. It goes with the territory.

Second Timothy 3:12-13 says:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

And not only is suffering the reproaches of Christ guaranteed, we need to grasp the fact that this kind of suffering is an honor for the Believer.

And when they had brought [Peter and the apostles], they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men…and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. Acts 5:27-29, 40-41

Read the whole account in Acts 5:17-42. Men of God were threatened, imprisoned, and subsequently beaten, by their “denominational leadership” for boldly proclaiming the Word of God to the people of God in the house of God. And those men of God got back up, dusted themselves off, and rejoiced because God Himself had seen fit to bless them with this honor.

We’ve got to radically transform our perspective on suffering for the name and Word of Christ:

  • We need to internalize and embrace the prospect of suffering rather than fearfully kicking against it and avoiding it.
  • We’ve got to fully wrap our minds around the fact that we won’t just suffer at the hands of unbelievers outside the church, we’ll also be persecuted by unbelievers (and sometimes even Believers) inside the church.
  • And finally, we not only desperately need to see suffering the reproaches of Christ as an honor rather than an embarrassment, we need to support, encourage, and stand with fellow Believers who are being persecuted rather than being ashamed to be counted with them.

When you face an “11th Commandment” issue there are some hard questions you need to ask yourself: Am I embracing the prospect of suffering for Christ, or avoiding it? Am I grasping the fact that the attempt by other Christians to silence me on a biblical issue is persecution? Am I ashamed of God’s Word and ashamed of being counted with those who are standing for it? Am I choosing to stay silent because that is the biblically wise decision regarding an inconsequential matter or am I just being a coward? Am I fearing God or fearing earthly consequences? Those are questions only you can answer through prayer and by rightly dividing and applying God’s Word.


Sometimes it is biblically wise to remain silent, but in the times when Scripture requires us to boldly take a stand for Christ and for His Word, we dare not seek to avoid suffering by caving in to the pressure of the 11th Commandment.

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand. Ezekiel 33:6


¹I am not personally privy to specific examples of specific people intimidating others or being intimidated by someone, so this article is not aimed at any specific person/people. This article is about the principles surrounding the “11th Commandment”.
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

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


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.

Christian women, Church, Southern Baptist/SBC

Is the SBC’s Tent Big Enough for ALL Marginalized Christian Women?

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 22, 2018

It started with Paige Patterson’s gobsmackingly horrible and unbiblical advice to an abused to wife to return to her husband. Then it was the lurid remarks he made about a teenage girl, with which he regaled a congregation during a sermon. Next came the allegations of his mishandling of two separate sexual assault cases at two different seminaries.

In response to all this turmoil, Beth Moore added to the conversation some vague stories of various unnamed men in Christian circles who had, in her perception, condescended to her or otherwise not treated her as an equal, leaving the impression that there is widespread, systemic misogyny within modern evangelicalism. Jen Wilkin, from a more biblical – yet, troublingly, similarly vague – perspective, joined the chorus, and has been afforded a wider audience for the “they can’t be pastors, natch, but we need more women in church leadership” platform she has been advancing for the past several years. (Which leadership positions or roles? We’re still waiting for Jen to specify.)

And the icing on the cake was SBC pastor, Dwight McKissic, publicly declaring that the way to “heal” all of these woes against Christian women and “right historic patterns of wrong against women” is to elect Beth Moore as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

So this nebulous idea has been introduced that Christian women are getting the short end of the stick across the board in evangelicalism (specifically in the SBC) and that the way to fix things – all the way from genuine abuse and rape on one end of the spectrum to women whose feelings have been hurt because they’re not seen as equal to pastors on the other end – is to make sure, somehow, that women’s voices are heard and validated.

That’s a pretty “big tent” idea. And if it’s going to be a big tent, there’s room under there for everybody, right? To be consistent, compassionate, and fair, wouldn’t these folks have to make space for the voices of, and give influential positions to, any Christian woman who feels she’s been diminished? Let’s find out.

Allow me to introduce you to a group of Christian women who have been silenced and brushed aside for years, often by the very same people who are now hypocritically crying out that women need to be heard in order to keep them from being marginalized.

I give you discerning, doctrinally sound, often Reformed, Christian women.

We are women who have been subjected to insults, and accusations of heresy and hatred of the lost, because we hold to the doctrines of grace. We are women who have been attacked by pastors, pastors’ wives, women’s ministry leaders, and fellow church members for pointing out the false doctrine of popular women’s “Bible” study materials and merely asking to properly be taught the Word of God in our own churches. We are women who have been shouted down or ruled “out of order” at denominational meetings for asking that our Christian retailers stop selling materials containing false teaching. We are women who have been forced out of our own churches for taking a biblical stand against women preaching to, teaching, or exercising authority over men in the church. We are women who have been called haters, legalistic, divisive, threats to unity, jealous, and all other manner of slander simply for holding to Scripture and refusing to budge from it.

All this mistreatment of women at the hands of Christian celebrities, denominational leaders, pastors and other church leadership, and fellow church members.

Do we qualify as marginalized? We’ve been hurt, and in many cases, sinned against outright. No church discipline. No redress or recourse. Nobody wants to make sure we have a voice or a place of power – quite the opposite, in fact. A lot of us saw our own pastors hand-wringingly share Beth Moore’s detailing of her grievances against Christian men even as they pushed us and our biblical concerns aside.

Everybody feels sorry for Beth Moore. Who will cry for us?

We don’t want much, just a return to what’s biblical.

We want sound doctrine in the church and solid preaching in the pulpit.

We want this nonsense about a female SBC President – especially a false teacher like Beth Moore – to stop. Not only is it not biblical, it’s a patronizing toss of a trinket or pat on the head attempting to dry the tears of fussy little girls, and it won’t work to solve any of the real problems that are going on.

We want false doctrine off the shelves of LifeWay, and for LifeWay, the ERLC, and others in leadership to stop organizing and promoting conferences and other events headlined by people they have already been informed (yea, as seminary trained pastors and leaders, should know without having to be told) are false teachers. Among the many things Jen Wilkin has rightly said is that we need to promote biblical and theological literacy among Christian women. When you go on a diet, the first thing you do is go through your kitchen and throw out all the junk food. You’ll never start eating healthy if you have an endless supply of candy bars in the pantry. The only way to begin to properly train women in Scripture and theology  is by “putting off” false doctrine in order to “put on” sound doctrine.

We want LifeWay to demonstrate that it actually cares about the spiritual health of women by putting its money where its mouth is. Ridding the shelves of false doctrine and the event docket of false teachers is going to cost LifeWay a lot of revenue. Women who want their itching ears scratched will quickly find another source of false teaching to pour their cash into. There’s not a lot of money to be made in encouraging women to study straight from their Bibles, sit faithfully under the teaching of a doctrinally sound pastor, and humbly serve the local church. Are Christian women worth it to you, LifeWay?

We want a strong doctrine of sin and church discipline to be understood and taught by our pastors and denominational leaders. The fact of the matter is that a woman who has been genuinely sinned against by a man who has abused her is in a different category from a woman whose feelings are hurt because she’s been told she can’t teach a co-ed adult Sunday School class. The first woman needs compassionate brothers and sisters in Christ to come alongside her and walk with her as God begins to heal her body and her heart. The abuser needs to be prosecuted to the full and appropriate extent of the law as well as to be placed under church discipline. The second woman is either in sin and rebellion (in which case she may need to be placed under church discipline) or she just hasn’t been taught God’s Word properly and someone needs to disciple her in that area. To put these two women underneath the same “big tent” just because they’ve both experienced some sort of hurt diminishes and confuses their situations and the solutions that would be biblically appropriate for each.

We want pastors and leaders to herald, praise, and validate the biblical role of women in the church. Women should not be taught only the things we cannot do in the church, we must also be taught what we must do in the church – what only women are uniquely and ontologically gifted by God to do. Women need to hear – particularly from the mouths of pastors and denominational leaders – the vital necessity of women discipling other women, women training the church’s children in the Scriptures, women serving in hospitality and mercy ministries, women properly using their administrative gifts, and so much more. Train us to teach. Equip us to serve. Encourage us to use our gifts in obedience to Scripture and for the glory of God.

We want men – from the heads of our denominations to the newly saved sinner in the pew – to step up and be godly men. We desperately need you to biblically and fearlessly lead the church. Don’t be afraid to stand up and put your foot down squarely on Scripture. Even if it makes you unpopular. Even if it rocks the boat at church. Even if people leave and never come back. As godly women, we can’t do our job if you’re not doing yours.

So how about it, brothers and sisters who are crying out for Christian women to be heard? Do doctrinally sound women get a seat at the table? Do we get to be heard? Will anything be done to correct the mistreatment we’ve received?

Or are there only certain women you want to hear from? Women who fit the popular social narrative. Women the world and most of the church will applaud you for listening to. Solutions that do more to glorify people than to glorify God.

Just how big is that tent…really?

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.

Church

It’s Time for a Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right

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 is also taking place this week. Will you please pray that God will bring conviction of sin, repentance, and obedience to God’s Word?


Originally published May 25, 2018

I don’t know the brother who said it, but I saw a remark the other day from a Presbyterian gentleman who said something to the effect of, “It’s time for all doctrinally sound Southern Baptists to leave the SBC.”

I get that.

When you have an organization as large, open, and widespread as the Southern Baptist Convention, problems – even major ones – are inevitable. At this point, there are many things the SBC is still getting right, biblically speaking…

There are many good and praiseworthy things going on in SBC life. We have hundreds of doctrinally sound pastors faithfully preaching the gospel week in and week out. Discernment and biblical literacy among Southern Baptist church members is slowly but steadily growing. The SBC takes a public, biblical stand on abortion and homosexuality while many other denominations do not. Our organizational structure for funding and sending out missionaries, while sometimes flawed in its execution, is without peer. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is one of the finest relief organizations in the world. And there’s so much more. Find a godly Kingdom effort going on somewhere, and you’ll probably find a Southern Baptist involved in it. By the grace of God, while we’re far from perfect, we’re getting a lot of things right

…But for some individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches, the biblical error and other problems pervading the SBC have become too much to bear, and they have deemed it time to walk away from what they see as a system damaged beyond repair, seeking refuge in ARBCA, Bible, Independent, or non-denominational churches and networks instead.

Like I said, I get that, and I don’t blame them one little bit. Believe me, I’ve had leaving on my mind more than once. And if the SBC continues its downward spiral, it’s an inevitability for nearly all of us who hold to sound doctrine.

But there are still plenty of us crazy, “glass half full” doctrinally sound optimists out there who, like Luther, don’t want to abandon the SBC to the rubbish heap if it can be avoided, but would rather see it reformed (little “r”), renewed, and restored to the glory of God.

If you’ve ever labored through the entirety of the Old Testament (and if you haven’t, stop denying yourself that blessing, and study it), you know that God exercised patience with Israel through centuries of idolatry, rebellion, and paganism of the vilest sorts, sending them prophet after prophet, warning after warning, discipline after discipline, lovingly calling, urging, and commanding them to repent and be reconciled to Him before finally executing judgment on them.

I’m just not sure we’re quite at the point of exiling the SBC… yet. I think maybe these are the days of Elijah. And Jeremiah. And Isaiah. And even Luther. A time for godly Southern Baptist men and women to stand firmly on the written Word of God and speak prophetically, chapter and verse, into their beloved churches and denomination, “Thus saith the Lord.”

And in that same spirit of the prophets of old, we don’t speak from a position of “I’m right and I’m here to prove it,” or because we’re haters, or because we’re power-hungry. It’s because we’re cut to the heart over the sin and idolatry we see among our brothers and sisters. We’re grieved that those things dishonor our precious Savior and bring His judgment and discipline upon those who participate in and propagate them. We deeply desire that our denomination and our churches experience the joy that comes with being spiritually healthy and biblically submitted to Christ.

So, while there are probably at least ninety-five theses that could be nailed to the doors of the Executive Committee in Nashville, here are three that would be a good start.

1.
The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture

Nearly forty years ago, Southern Baptist movers and shakers in the conservative resurgence went to war for the inerrancy of Scripture. It was a long, hard battle, but they won. Now it’s time to fight for the authority and sufficiency of Scripture in the SBC.

The Bible is our authority as Christians, not the ideas, opinions, and traditions of denominational leaders, SBC celebrities, pastors, or any other person. The Bible. If the Bible commands us to do something, we do it. If the Bible commands us not to do something, we don’t do it. We don’t formulate our own programs and methods and try to squish the Bible in to make it fit. We start with the Bible. We stay with the Bible. We end with the Bible.

Because the SBC does not always submit to the authority of the Bible, we have leaders, celebrities, and pastors looking to, and promoting, sources outside the Bible for direction instead of simply trusting and obeying God’s written Word. We have influential “Bible” teachers who stand on stages in front of thousands and dare to proclaim, “God told me…”, functionally denying the sufficiency of Scripture by relying on supposed extra-biblical revelation (and teaching their followers to do the same). We have pastors and denominational leaders who look to polls and surveys to decide how to conduct their worship services or which social issues need to be addressed and how to address them. We have church growth gurus teaching our pastors to adopt all manner of worldliness that “works” to get sinners in the doors of their churches.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is to survive as an entity of biblical Christianity, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture is the number one issue that must be dealt with.  If this issue is properly addressed and corrected, it will alleviate or minimize nearly all other problems facing the SBC. We must submit to God’s written Word and give Scripture its proper place – first place – in our denomination, our individual churches, and our personal lives.

Basic Training: The Bible Is Our Authority

Basic Training: The Bible Is Sufficient

2.
False Doctrine and False Teachers

If the SBC truly regarded the Bible as authoritative and sufficient, the cancer of false doctrine and false teachers that is slowly killing us would be cured or in remission. Indeed, the aforementioned false teaching of extra-biblical (God told me, showed me in a dream, spoke to me, etc.) revelation is probably the most pervasive false doctrine accepted among Southern Baptists.

When Hilkiah found the Book of the Law in the temple (Imagine a house of God in such a shambles of idolatry that people had to dig and search for the actual Scriptures. Selah.), and Shaphan read it to Josiah, Josiah tore his clothes in grief and began to set God’s house and God’s people in order. After covenanting together with the people to obey God’s Word, the very first thing Josiah did was to have the altars and vessels of false gods carried out of God’s house and destroyed. If the SBC would follow in Josiah’s footsteps we would see things like:

LifeWay would immediately remove and destroy any and all materials by Beth Moore, Andy Stanley, Priscilla Shirer, TD Jakes, Lysa TerKeurst, Sarah Young, Christine Caine, Bethel Music, Jesus Culture, Hillsong, and all other false teachers and promulgators of false doctrine.

There would be no more conferences, simulcasts, or leadership training seminars featuring false teachers, and false teachers would certainly not be invited to speak in any capacity at the annual Southern Baptist Convention.

Pastors, authors, and speakers who attempted to build a career inside the SBC by teaching false doctrine would be subject to church discipline for their sin, not turned into celebrities or appointed or elected to denominational leadership positions.

Messenger voting privileges at the Convention would be revoked for churches which habitually and unrepentantly welcome false teachers.

If the Bible were to become our sufficient authority for both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, our eyes would quickly be opened to the enormity of the hold false doctrine has on our denomination, churches, and individuals, and we would act accordingly and biblically.

A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention

10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists

The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies

3.
Disfellowshipping Errant Churches

Earlier this week, the Southern Baptist Convention severed ties with the District of Columbia Baptist Convention (DCBC- an association of Southern Baptist churches in the Washington, D.C. area) for refusing to disfellowship one of its member churches, Calvary Baptist, which had called a legally “married” lesbian couple to serve as its co-“pastors” over a year ago.

It was absolutely the right thing to do (the SBC has disfellowshipped several churches that embrace homosexuality), and I’m glad that this standard remains in tact, but…lesbian co-pastors…? That’s how bad it has to get before the SBC can, or will, act to remove a church? What about churches that are embracing sins other than homosexuality?

There are plenty of apostate Southern Baptist churches, and we have no mechanism in place for kicking them out of the SBC.

This is a verbatim quote from the FAQ section (5th question from the top) of the SBC’s web site:

“According to our constitution, if a church no longer makes a bona fide contribution to the Convention’s work, or if it acts to ‘affirm, approve, or endorse homosexual behavior,’ it no longer complies with the Constitution of the Southern Baptist Convention and is not permitted to send messengers to the annual meeting. These, however, are the only explicitly stated instances in which the SBC has the prerogative to take action.”

What does that mean? As long as your church doesn’t affirm homosexuality and gives to the Cooperative Program, you’re in. Never mind if your pastor twists God’s word until it’s unrecognizable. Or lets women and false teachers get behind the pulpit like Steven Furtick does. Or plays AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” on Easter Sunday and says he probably wouldn’t have strippers on stage like Perry Noble does. Or any of the other ridiculous and blasphemous shenanigans so many of the seeker sensitive types in our denomination pull. Nope, as long as you give your money and stand on the right side of homosexuality, you’re good to go.² ³

I’ll be the first to admit, it would be a difficult standard to set and implement, but look at the standards the New Testament required of churches. We’ve got to set the bar higher than a homosexuality litmus test and an offering for a church to be in good standing with the SBC. Doctrine and practices simply have to be a factor.

 

Can there be another conservative resurgence that brings reform to the SBC? I believe there can.

The Bible says “nothing will be impossible with God.” I believe that. I believe that the God who spoke the universe into existence from nothing, who opened sealed tombs and barren wombs, who parted seas and walked on water and turned water into wine can change the hearts of Southern Baptists and the trajectory of the Southern Baptist Convention.

By His grace. For His glory. For our good.


¹A Naked Emperor in the Southern Baptist Convention
²10 Things I Wish Southern Baptists Knew About Southern Baptists
³This verbiage has been removed from the FAQ section of the SBC website. See “Susan’s” comments and my replies in the comments section for more info.