What’s going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?

News sources have recently reported that well-known Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, Greg Laurie, has decided to align with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).  See the article below. I had wanted to write a post on the SBC at some future date, especially in light of reports about declining membership, but the news about Laurie got the ol’ brain synapses firing.

After my wife and I trusted in Christ in the early 80s, we attended an independent fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church for eight years. I subscribed to an IFB newspaper for awhile and one of its favorite targets was the “liberal” Southern Baptist Convention. I became increasingly unhappy with the legalistic preaching at our church and eventually walked out. Sadly, I allowed the experience to turn me away from the Lord.

The Lord graciously took me back three years ago and where did we start attending church? You guessed it! At an SBC church! I know I was purposely looking for a fellowship that didn’t resemble our previous one.

The small SBC church was a breath of fresh year because the new pastor just out of seminary emphasized God’s grace and mercy as much as His holiness. Regrettably, he was also very ecumenically-minded and often praised Catholic theologians, which is why we left after one year and began attending our current non-denominational church (with Baptist roots) about 20 months ago.

The Southern Baptist Convention reports around 15 million members in 47 thousand congregations. After one year in an SBC church, I’m certainly not an expert on the convention but I do have some thoughts on why it’s experiencing a decline in membership:

It’s too conservative

I believe the SBC is not attracting new members because it’s perceived as too conservative. In this era of egregiously hip church names – Resurgence Church, Elevation Church, The Gathering, etc. – having “Baptist” in the church name just doesn’t cut it for many. Research from Lifeway, an SBC organization, shows unbelievers and especially millennial unbelievers have a comparatively low opinion of Baptists. When Hollywood needs an “overly-zealous” religious character, who do they turn to? The character is invariably a Baptist. Then there’s the completely crazy Westboro Baptist Church nightmare in Topeka, Kansas. People also still link the Southern Baptist Convention with the White slave owners of the antebellum South and post-Civil War segregation. The young pastor of our previous SBC church dropped the “Baptist” from the church’s name only one year after he arrived.

It’s becoming too liberal

I believe some people are walking away from the SBC because it’s drifting into liberalism. An intense battle raged between orthodox and liberals over control of SBC seminaries beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the late 1990s with the orthodox eventually claiming victory. But liberalism continues to nibble away at the convention. SBC leaders, Richard Land and Larry Lewis, were initial signers of the 1994 ecumenical document, Evangelicals and Catholics Together. Popular Southern Baptists such as Rick Warren, Steven Furtick (pictured with his polar opposite, Charles Stanley), Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Dallas Willard (d. 2013) continue their assault on Biblical orthodoxy. Former SBC president, Ronnie Floyd, joined with pope Francis at Together 2016. Now, with ecumenically-minded and TBN-favorite, Greg Laurie, joining the SBC, the orthodox/conservative members of the convention have another reason to be concerned.

Too conservative? Too liberal? Is there a Catch-22 going on here or what? The rising number of “nones” (no religious affiliation) nationally is also assuredly affecting the SBC.

I am a Baptist Christian and I love my Baptist brothers and sisters. There’s many excellent, godly pastors and para-church leaders (Charles Stanley, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, and Paul Washer come to mind) and Christ-loving members in the SBC. No doubt about it. But in such situations as we currently see with the SBC, there’s the danger of fidelity to the organization and numbers taking precedence over fidelity to Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and Biblical orthodoxy. My prayers go out to those in the SBC who continue to uphold the Gospel and God’s Word.


Greg Laurie, Calvary Chapel’s Big Crusader, Joins Southern Baptist Convention
http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/june/greg-laurie-southern-baptist-calvary-chapel-harvest-crusade.html

Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years
https://baptistnews.com/article/southern-baptists-lost-million-members-10-years/#.WULHKuvyu1s

Southern Baptist Convention Deploys Theology Referees To Elevation Church (satire)
http://babylonbee.com/news/southern-baptist-convention-deploys-theology-referees-elevation-church/

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23 thoughts on “What’s going on with the Southern Baptist Convention?

  1. Well, that was interesting…thank you, Tom.
    Years ago I got to visit (twice) Saddleback Church in California. At the time I had just read “Purpose Driven Life.” Will never forget arriving at the Saddleback campus or walking around it. The property was huge. ..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally agree on the “ecumenism” part…what’s interesting is I don’t really even remember what I read in that book!

        On the other hand, I just finished reading The Final Quest Trilogy and I may need to read that again.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tom

    LOL…in our work, we sometime refer to the SBC as crazy liberals. Yes, I get bothered when Baptist churches drop the Baptist from their names. I also really like Charles Stanley. I suppose he is nearing the tail end of his preaching day, he sits down a lot now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I tune into Charles on Sunday AM before church sometimes. Yes, he’s getting frail. Can count on him to preach a good message and wears his love for the Lord on his face.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Interesting. I actually don’t think SBC being too conservative is probably like the main problem of their decline. I think I’ll have to blog about it sometime on my blog but statistically as a country denominations that are dying in deep dives tend to be liberal denominations that’s “comfortable” for contemporary unbelieving ears…
    Now I can see some conservative denominations decline but Southern Baptist conservativism isn’t that kind of odd ball conservativism that I’ve seen elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for bringing this up so I can clarify. When I was at the SBC church the new pastor pushed hard to drop “Baptist” from the name but was met with a lot of opposition from the congregation. He then provided a lot of recent research from Lifeway which showed that, of all the denominations, the unbelieving public’s perception of Baptists was most negative. It was true across all age groups, educational levels, gender. As far as geographic areas, I don’t remember about other areas but the negative bias against “Baptist” was most pronounced in the Northeast where we are. From an anecdotal perspective, I know from experience that many people up here cringe at the mention of “Baptist.” So that is what I meant by saying the perception among unbelievers is that Baptists are too conservative, i.e., “take their religion too seriously.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Tom

        I think you are correct here. I can speak for myself, in that when I was a non believer, I personally thought Baptists were the absolute craziest Christian of all. I had a special place of disdain for Baptist preachers.

        Oh, the irony. Now, I think the SBC is a bunch of nutty liberals LOL. Okay, that was really mostly a joke, I don’t want my SBC friends to be mad LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks, Wally. Yeah, Baptists were the only ones leaving tracts around at my workplace forty years ago when I was unsaved. I thought they were “crazy” too!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It was actually a point of contention with my own mother, as she REALLY hated Baptists. She was raised Cumberland Presbyterian. They are actually fairly conservative and correct for the most part. The problem is, they sprinkle for Baptism, or pour. Obviously, that is not going to be accepted at any Baptist church. Once, when she was young, she tried to join one. Well, they said she had to get baptized. She held that grudge for probably almost 70 years.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have considered writing a series on Baptism. I suppose I have avoided it somewhat, as frankly I don’t necessarily want to have to deal with the contention. Maybe I will, though. I wrote on it pretty thoroughly as part of a Doctrine class I taught at one time, so it’s all there really

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I would really like to see that, Wally. I had no difficulty seeing why I needed to be baptized again via immersion after I accepted Christ. I could see that my sprinkling initiation rite into Roman Catholicism as an infant had no basis in Scripture. I have a book about a guy who was also formerly a Catholic and accepted Christ but had a huge problem with being “baptized again.” I couldn’t relate to that hesitation at all.

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      6. I remember being very excited to do it as well, Tom, and just could not wait. In fact, I got to do something really cool. I was saved one Sunday and really wanted to be batpized the next. Well, we had the Lord’s Supper that night also, so to do both was pretty different. We practice closed communion, by the way. But what was cool was, as a newly Baptized member, I got to do both of our ordinances on the same day!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Now that I CAN relate to, Wally! I remember I was champing at the bit to follow the Lord in believers baptism. At that point my wife was still unsaved and not attending church yet but I wasn’t waiting! I know I shed a few tears when she was baptized.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. I’ll actually never forget the weekend I was saved. It was kind of crazy and unreal really. Only the week before I had been in our break room with some other rather strident doubters gladly making fun of the two Baptists kids we had working there at the time; the next week I was inviting people to come see me get Baptized. Talk about the twilight zone.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Funny how that works, Wally. Then there was Saul the Pharisee who REALLY didn’t take kindly to those crazy believers. Yeah, I categorized all born agains as dupes of televangelist shysters.

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