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
Southern Baptists have lost a million members in 10 years
Southern Baptist Convention Deploys Theology Referees To Elevation Church (satire)