Southern Baptists and evangelism

It was hard not to laugh when reading the Baptist Press story about Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president Johnny Hunt issuing a new declaration — with hundreds of signatures from other SBC leaders — calling for a “Great Commission Resurgence” within the denominational group.

Apparently, it has something to do with the dipping statistics about dipping new believers.Of course, they could just put evangelist and former SBC president Bailey Smith back on the mega-church trail to rebaptize deacons, Sunday school teachers and choir members along with near-infants to get the numbers back up.

Instead, Hunt and others think this declaration might do the trick. The best punchline in the lengthy document was this one:

“The promise of the Conservative Resurgence was that eventually we would find enough common biblical and theological ground that we could focus on the Great Commission.”

Perhaps “eventually” is the operative word. For those who don’t see the humor, you should have been around these guys a quarter-century or so ago.

All we heard during the red-hot days of the Fundamentalist Takeover of the SBC was that “liberalism” had infiltrated the convention. And if these true Bible believers were in charge, then evangelism would reign supreme.

The irony, of course, is two-fold:

One, Southern Baptists were in the midst of Bold Mission Thrust, the largest (and admittedly arrogant) worldwide evangelism effort ever tried when the takeover was launched.

Two, these guys who took over the convention have been running it for decades now with continuous infighting that keeps narrowing the circle of participation and with public proclamations that alienate large segments of society.

I’m sure the messengers to the SBC meeting in Louisville this summer will adopt this new document and feel proud that they are doing a good thing for the great cause of evangelism. Maybe it will work this time — eventually.

But I suspect Southern Baptists will have better success with the Great Commission when they start taking seriously the Great Commandment — instead of condemning and rejecting everyone who does not think just like them.


  1. Evangelism, baptisms, and missions – three more problems inerrancy didn’t solve.

  2. (went too far down the page to post this on an earlier entry!)

    One issue is the extent of the “truth” that we possess and how we came to have it. Some tend to extend the “truth” to include every part of their interpretation of scripture, such that if you deviate in any part you are heretic and therefore possess none of the “real truth”. Others extend the “truth” only to a limited set of issues, and allow deviation on others.

    Note that the leaders of the fundamentalist insurgency in the SBC sacrificed the Bold Mission Thrust on the altar of their extensive required “truth” — it was necessary to use their words to describe even common understandings, and agreeing on almost all of the interpretation was insufficient.

    So now they intend to evangelize their “truth” in their language?

  3. I guess now that moderate/CBF Baptists no longer have to worry about SBC conservatives, you all are doing a much better job winning and baptizing new converts?

  4. I’ve had a recent exchange with Adrian Rogers son David at
    David brought to my attention his election musings of Nov 11 08
    Subject: Fascinating, disarming honesty from Adrian Rogers’ son David

    I think David, Ben Cole, Harry Dent’s daughter Ginny Brant are at a different place than Adrian, Paige and Paul were.
    Still they face a juggernaut.
    Many of them want to find a more respectable place but until all of can get past carnivals like the recent one between Miss Teen California of David Jeremiah’s church, and the gay activist–The Alabama Baptist for one spotlighted the incident–doesn’t seem to be a lot of room for traction in the rank and file for SBCers who want to move somewhere else.
    As I have said before there has been some talk of the likes of David Gushee reaching out to some in the Memphis Declaration Camp of Anne Graham Lotz, David Rogers I would think some conversation between Charles Marsh and Charles Pickering who could not bring himself to the light Dan Vestal found in the 80’s; that conversation could help refine the point you are making in this blog.
    Even so lot next generation folks of the takeover mess are looking for some welcome from the progressive Baptist camp, some way of finding their way back home and are not finding an extended hand.
    Will Willimon has sung the praises of the new bio of Flannery OConnor. That may nuance this discussion as well, and I have every instinct to believe a close reading of Steven Miller’s new book on Billy Graham, Nixon and ther Rise of the Southern GOP could as well.
    At a minimum hoping you and David Currie go to Houston CBF this summer with conversational knowledge of the themes of that book
    My apologies for going on so long, but lot of this is what Marney called “cussedness”, and not rocket science at all.

  5. Great post, Tony! I remember well the days of the takeover. And it’s no coincidence that the takeover of the SBC coincided with the ultra-conservative surge in politics. But, as happens, the pendulum is swinging.

  6. Great post, Tony! It’s no coincidence that the takeover of the SBC coincided with the swell of ultra-conservatism in politics. But now the pendulum is swinging the other way. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with the “Resurgence.”

  7. David Mills, here’s a hint for you: Sharing the Good News is not a competition between Christian subgroups.

  8. I agree. I also agree that evangelism is not a matter of throwing rocks at other Christians. Seems to me that the rocks you threw at SBC house shattered your window.

    Nevertheless, let us pray for one another that we will both become more active, compassionate, and effective soul-winners.

  9. For years and years, people in the SBC (conservative and moderate alike) tried to focus on evangelism and missions, and for years and years the SBC leaders kept throwing the rocks and narrowing the circle. As Jesus demonstrated, sometimes the Pharisees need to be called out. It will make the Pharisees mad, but it will help the rest of the crowd understand the heart of the matter.

  10. There were many, many faithful then Southern Baptists in the SBC at the time of the Bold Mission Thrust, who only wanted an open convention that would tolerate a fairly narrow range of theological perspectives and was subject to democracy based on the priesthood of all believers within the convention.

    Another group despised there being any variation from their dogma, including their choice of words to describe the scripture, a choice that, when one digs in, really is meaningless except as a test of loyalty (inerrant in the non-existent “original autographs”).

    Those in the latter group took over the SBC using the foulest of political practices and calling those of the other group foul names, including “skunk”. That latter group has continued its infighting and purification campaign.

    May God forgive them for the great sin they committed.

  11. As past failures go, I do believe that we are to forgive and forget. As bad as they have failed in the past, that is no measure for which to judge this new direction, if God did that on us, then he would not be using the human race at all. Whether you agree or disagree with this new movement, it is important as followers of Christ to keep your focus on the race that God has set out for you. If you don't like the direction that these leaders are going, either pray for them, or go a different way. However bashing and bringing up bones from the past is just as sinful as some of the items discussed above. Stick you nose in the bible, get on your knees and seek the face of God, and all these will issues will grow dim, they will fade away. If more people who claimed Christ as their guide spent less time caring about what "leaders" did and said, and actually committed time to our calling, Col. 3 vs.7,

    And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

    and James 1 vs 26 and 27 26

    f you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. 27

    Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

    Why are we bickering about what is right, and wrong, why don't we just get out there and help our community, why do we need leaders to tell us what to do, when to do it and how to do it? was there a convention helping Paul guide his mission trips? Get right your relationship with God, set forth on the race that he has chosen for you.

  12. Are you suggesting that because the SBC views the Bible as inerrant that this is the reason people do not accept Christ? The implication from your article is that if the SBC did not hold to an inerrant view of the Bible more people would be saved. This can't be accurate, because everyone denomination (liberal and conservative) was down in confessions of faith, save for the Assembly of God.

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