My Reflections on the 2009 SBC Annual Meeting

It is possible years from now that we will look back on the 2009 SBC in Louisville and see it as a historic watershed moment in our history. It is possible that on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the Conservative Resurgence (CR), we will have witnessed the natural and hoped for outcome of the CR in the genesis of a new movement of God among His people in a Great Commission Resurgence (GCR) that signaled a new day in the advance of the gospel across North America and to all the nations of the earth. I know this is my heart’s cry and desire.

Southern Baptists recently concluded what I thought was one of the most encouraging annual meetings we have had in years. I believe there are many reasons Southern Baptists should be excited about the direction the SBC is heading. I thought it would be appropriate to offer my personal reflections on the Louisville Convention and note some of the highlights of this year’s meeting.

I believe the Pastor’s Conference was one of the best in recent memory. Many people expressed similar sentiments to me. Southeastern was ably represented by evangelism and student ministry professor Alvin Reid and by adjunctive professors J. D. Greear and Ed Stetzer. David Platt brought one of the most powerful messages I’ve ever heard at a denominational meeting. One former SBC president told a friend of mine that David’s sermon was the best he’d ever heard in his four-plus decades of attending Pastor’s Conferences.

I am pleased with the way my dear friend (and SEBTS alum!) Johnny Hunt presided over this Convention. Bro. Johnny is a godly husband and father, a fervent evangelist, a faithful expositor, a model pastor, and a denominational statesman. All Southern Baptists should be thankful for the way he is leading us. I was also pleased to see another SEBTS alum and former faculty member Stephen Rummage elected to serve as our Second Vice President.

I am very encouraged by the number of younger faces I saw in Louisville. No doubt part of this was due to the close proximity of Southern Seminary, but I talked to many young pastors and seminarians who came to Louisville because they are excited about a Great Commission Resurgence. I was thrilled with the attendance at the two “Nine Marks at Nine” sessions and the Baptist 21 Panel Discussion, both of which attracted hundreds of young Southern Baptists. This bodes well for our future.

I am thankful that my close friend Al Mohler felt led to make the motion that President Hunt appoint a GCR task force to study the denomination and bring a report to the 2010 Convention in Orlando. I am thrilled that the messengers voted by an overwhelming majority (at least 95%) to approve Dr. Mohler’s motion. I am also humbled that Bro. Johnny asked me to serve on the task force with some of the godliest, most gifted Southern Baptists I know. Pray for us as we get to work with the important job the Convention has assigned us.

I am glad to see Southern Baptists are reaching across generational and theological differences to unite around the GCR. I heard messengers of many ages and backgrounds share their enthusiasm for the SBC’s future. I personally spoke before gatherings of younger ministers and SBC Calvinists who are longing for a GCR. I believe the tribe of Carey, Judson and Spurgeon type Calvinists is growing. That is a good thing! I was delighted to see former Convention president Frank Page publicly speak in favor of Dr. Mohler’s motion, despite their differences concerning particular details of theology that should not divide us. That’s a picture of the type of Great Commission unity we need in the SBC!

Before closing, I do want to address some of the criticisms of Southeastern Seminary and my leadership of the school. I think this is something I need to do. A number of motions and proposed resolutions expressed concern about my relationship with Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. Many of these concerns were based upon information that has been circulated around our Convention in the last six months in the form of Baptist Press articles, blog posts, and position papers. Some of that information was erroneous or outdated. Some of it is accurate, but my opinion usually differs from those raising the concerns. So, let me speak plainly and from my heart.

I appreciate Mark Driscoll and Acts 29. Southeastern has no formal relationship with either, but I am thankful for many aspects of both ministries. I think there is much that our students can learn from them. Mark and I have become good friends, but I do not agree with everything Mark says or does. In particular, I disagree with some of the language he has used in the pulpit in the past (though not in several years!) and I am uncomfortable with his position on beverage alcohol. I do appreciate his courage to tackle the difficult book The Song of Solomon and to address sexual issues with the adults in his congregation who have serious and important questions needing answers. Many of you know I have had a similar ministry through Marriage and Family conferences for years. I also wrote a book on the Song entitled God on Sex. Now it is the case I have chosen to address these issues in a different manner than has Mark, and at certain points I think he might have addressed some sensitive sexual issues in a more careful manner. But, I believe we can learn from those with whom we differ, and on the whole I believe Mark has much to teach us about missional living, theology-driven ministry, and culturally relevant expositional preaching. I also think our students, and Southern Baptists in general, are mature enough to treat Mark Driscoll (and every Christian leader) with appropriate discernment.

I want to remind our readers that good seminaries continually expose their students to diverse opinions, including the opinions of those with whom we disagree. There are few textbooks, guest lecturers, and even chapel speakers with whom I am in 100% agreement! Several times in the last decade the SBC annual meeting has been addressed by speakers who differ with Southern Baptists, including Condoleeza Rice (a Presbyterian who describes her views on abortion as “mildly pro-choice”), James Dobson (a Nazarene) and Bill Bright (another Presbyterian). Individual Southern Baptists also learn from others every time they read a book by Augustine, C. S. Lewis or John Stott and every time they listen to a sermon by John MacArthur or Chuck Swindoll. It is a healthy thing to interact with and appreciate fellow Christians with whom we have theological differences and even strong disagreements on secondary and tertiary matters.

Let me invite any of our readers who have concerns about Mark or Acts 29 to do three things. First, make sure your criticisms are up-to-date rather than rehashing issues that were settled several years ago. Second, acquaint yourself with the doctrinal convictions of both Mars Hill Church and Acts 29. Finally, please note that all of the Driscoll addresses are available online at our website. I would encourage you to listen to them as well as an interview David Nelson conducted with Mark last spring. I think you will be blessed and encouraged by what you hear. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me or call my office. I would be happy to talk with you, listen to your heart, and hopefully put your concerns to rest.

I remain very hopeful about the future of the SBC. I hope you will join me in praying for a Great Commission Resurgence among all Southern Baptists.mobi onlinemobi online

  27Comments

  1. Deek Dubberly   •  

    Greatly encouraged by your leadership in the convention and commentary in this post. Thanks!

  2. Brad Smith   •  

    Dr. Akin,
    Thanks for your great insight into the SBC. As a younger Southern Baptist, I am excited about where we are heading. Thanks especially for your words about Mark Driscoll. I also don’t agree with some of the very things you have pointed out, however, I believe we have much to learn from him.

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  4. Ivan Schoen   •  

    Thank you, Dr. Akin, for your leadership in the SBC. I am encouraged by the events of the Annual Meeting and believe we have brighter days ahead. It is a new day!

    In addition to your leadership, I’m also encouraged by the leadership of Dr. Al Mohler and President Johnny Hunt, among others. The Lord has provided Southern Baptists with anointed men! It is a new day!

    Finally, I am encouraged by all the young men that have come forward to preach the prophetic Word of God to us. David Platt’s sermon was nothing less than life-altering! It’s a new day!

    Now let us live what we believe!

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  6. Bill Pfister   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    I appreciate your leadership and am encouraged by the unity I am seeing among brothers. I was glad to see the various men represented last Tuesday at the luncheon at Sojourn. I believe that’s a good, healthy, biblical direction for our denomination to go in. I too thank God I’m a part of a Carey, Judson, Spurgeon-type convention. That’s the direction!

    My hope and prayer is that as the GCR goes forward, that no-one has a hidden agenda for self-preservation but that we are truly able to do what is best for the Gospel.

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  9. Sam   •  

    Dr Akin,
    You say that Mark Driscoll hasnt used any bad language from the pulpit in several years but just recently he screamed at the men from the pulpit asking them “who in the Hell do they think they are?” Do you agree with this sort of language coming from the pulpit?

    I find it ironic that you tell your readers to make sure they have up to date info about Mark and yet you seem to not have up to date info regarding his use of language from the pulpit or his use of homosexual imagery in his Peasant Princess series where he mocks people that hold to SoS as an allegory of Jesus and the church.

  10. Danny Akin   •  

    Sam, thank you for writing. Your questions could be stated in a more gracious and respectful manner with a brother in Christ, but I appreciate you writing just the same. The fact is I am familiar with Mark’s (in)famous “man rant” of a few weeks ago. I do appreciate his strong and direct challenge for men to play the man and be what God has saved them to be as husbands and fathers. I would not nor have I used the “who in the hell…” type of rhetoric in the pulpit and would discourage it. However, I did not allow it to get in the way of my hearing and the thrust of what he was trying to say. And, I have listened to the entire Peasant Princess series and I also am aware of the Scotland addresses which Mark pulled from his Website and asked others not to pass around since he acknowledged he was unwise and even inappropriate in some of the things he said. That was, by the way, in 2007 before I had even met Mark for the first time. You say he mocks those who hold to an allegorical approach to Song of Solomon. I would say he playfully expressed his disagreement with that hermeneutic. Now, I would not have used the particular illustration he did to make the point, though I have heard far worse from some other teachers of the book who read it in a straightforward manner. Was it, or anything he said in the series, so problematic that it kept me from listening and learning from him as he expounded the book? No, it was not. In fact overall his treatment of the Song was one of the finest I have heard in terms of biblical exposition and practical application. The way I see it Sam is that Mark is on God’s team. He may not always play on the field in exactly the way I do and sometimes he (like many others) can frustrate me. When he does I speak to him as a brother would a brother because I love him and I want him to excel for the glory of God. I pray the same for myself when I frustrate and disappoint my brothers and sisters. I hope this is helpful my brother. I leave early in the morning for several weeks in Africa. I will not be commenting again on this blog. I do covet all of your prayers as we travel and seek to minister. Sam, thank you again for writing.

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  12. Tim Brister   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    Just wanted to pop in to tell you that I love and appreciate you. Thank you for being so transparent and accessible to us younger folk. Under your leadership, GCR is off to a great start, and I look forward to praying, encouraging, and participating in the work of taking the gospel to my neighbors and the nations for the glory of Christ.

    Tim Brister

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  14. Chris Wilson   •  

    Sam,

    Dr. Akin is very gracious in his response to your questions. I would take his thought one step further in regards to your tone.

    James 1:19-20 advises us to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry for a reason. That reason is that “the anger of man does not produce the righteousness God requires.”

    In your efforts to speak to the inappropriateness or outright sinfulness of Driscoll’s language, I think you might want to be a little more careful with what anger you choose to inflict in your words. Using angry, and potentially snide comments will not bring about the the righteousness you imply you hold dear.

    Grace to you, Brother

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  16. Craig Schmidt   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    For my benefit and the benefit of others in the audience, could you elaborate on or explain what you believe would disqualify a pastor from serving as a pastor? Thank you!

  17. Brent Hobbs   •  

    Thank you for addressing those concerns in such a straight-forward manner. Your attitude in emphasizing areas of agreement and downplaying areas of disagreement in non-essentials is one I hope the SBC will be increasingly known for.

  18. Robert I Masters   •  

    Dr Akin:
    Are you sure that James Dobson is an egalitarian? I did a quick check on Google……if he is then most egalitarians are not aware of this fact. Also seems strange in light of the TNIV -Worldmag dustup years ago.
    Pardom me if I am wrong. I guess its possible that Focus on the Family could hold to different views then he personally holds too.

    Rob

  19. Ryan Lyons   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    Thank you for your clear, gentle, and transparent leadership, especially when responding to those who attempt to take you to task. Your forthrightness tempered with what appears to be genuine, biblical love for your brothers and sisters in Christ is a fine model for all beleivers, especially a young (27) and sometimes arrogant Southern Baptist pastor like me.

    Thanks again.

    Ryan Lyons

  20. Nathan Finn   •  

    To those who have asked Dr. Akin questions, please note he is on a mission trip and will be unable to interact with comments for several days.

    I want to personally answer Robert Masters’ very good question. BtT has checked into Dobson’s position on gender roles. Some sources have claimed he is an egalitarian concerning women in pastoral ministry (though we cannot find a first-hand admission). We know he is definitely a complementarian in terms of family roles and publicly defended the 1998 family amendment to the BF&M.

    But your point is well taken, so to avoid any confusion, the original post has been edited with Dr. Akin’s permission. The fact that Dobson is Nazarene makes the point that we have invited speakers with whom we disagree to address the SBC annual meeting.

    Thanks.

    NAF

  21. Sam   •  

    Chris,
    My tone was neither snide nor angry. I was merely addressing where Dr. Akin said:

    “In particular, I disagree with some of the language he has used in the pulpit in the past (though not in several years!) and I am uncomfortable with his position on beverage alcohol.”

    Dr. Akin said that Driscoll had not used any inappropriate language from the pulpit in several years. However, Driscoll’s recent tirade to the men of his church tells a different story. Even Dr. Akin in his response conceded:

    “I would not nor have I used the “who in the hell…” type of rhetoric in the pulpit and would discourage it.”

    My point is if Dr. Akin is going to exhort his readers:

    “First, make sure your criticisms are up-to-date rather than rehashing issues that were settled several years ago.”

    Dr. Akin does not need to make statements about Driscoll such as he has not used inappropriate language from the pulpit in several years when that is not accurate.

    And Dr. Akin states that:

    “And, I have listened to the entire Peasant Princess series and I also am aware of the Scotland addresses which Mark pulled from his Website and asked others not to pass around since he acknowledged he was unwise and even inappropriate in some of the things he said. That was, by the way, in 2007 before I had even met Mark for the first time.”

    The interesting part of this is that Driscoll preached the Scotland SoS message in November of 2007 AFTER he spoke at Akin’s seminary in Sept 2007 at the Convergence conference. Seems that Dr. Akin’s chronology is a little out of whack. Are we left to believe that Akin did not meet Driscoll at a SEBTS conference?

    If Dr. Akin is going to ask for accuracy in people’s concerns with Driscoll then I would implore him to present the same accuracy in his actions as well.

  22. Jonathan   •  

    Sam,

    Brother, don’t be that guy.

    However charitable you want to make your concerns, they are picky and critical. I understand where you are coming from but I don’t think it is a service to the readers, nor to the subject of Dr. Akin’s post.

    If you really want to help him perhaps a personal letter would be best. I can assure you that he would humbly receive your concerns.

  23. Curtis Pixler   •  

    Thank you for your leadership at SEBTS and the SBC. You are a great encouragement to every pastor regardless of age. Your humility and integrity is one of excellence. I am praying for you as my seminary president and brother in Christ.

  24. Matt   •  

    Sam,
    You say, “just recently he screamed at the men from the pulpit asking them “who in the Hell do they think they are?” Do you agree with this sort of language coming from the pulpit?”

    While I understand your concern about Driscoll’s statement and demeanor, I’d like to respond with a few comments.

    1. Let me start by saying that I would not use that sort of language (or demeanor) in the pulpit, nor do I think it is the wisest thing for Driscoll to do no matter what the context. However, I think when we focus on what in kingdom terms is very minor compared with what Driscoll, Mars Hill, and Acts29 are doing for the Gospel and for the church we are missing the big picture. Driscoll et al are doing a wonderful job of planting gospel centered churches around the country, giving others tools to use in contextualization (tools many SBC churches could probably use), and lifting up Jesus in everything he and his team does. I don’t think it is particularly helpful to “major on the minors,” which I think is what the GCR is also trying to avoid in the SBC.

    I think a helpful illustration (one that is probably very overused, but helpful nonetheless) is the one about the pastor who stands up and says to his people, “There are 2 billion people in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ and you don’t give a damn. And the saddest part is that you care more about the fact that I just said ‘damn’ and not that there are 2 billion people who have never heard the gospel.” What we need to focus on is the great example Driscoll provides in proclaiming the gospel to a lost and dying world, not on the lesser matters of our own 21st century oral Torah.

    2. I also think we need to recognize the fact that we are all sinful men and therefore all make mistakes. Mark Driscoll is not perfect, nor is John Piper or Danny Akin or Steve Gaines or Jerry Vines or Tim Keller (and I believe all these men would of course affirm that fact). The point is, we all are going to sin, and that includes when we preach. Just because someone messes up doesn’t mean we should not still be able to learn from them and even perhaps partner with them in some areas for the gospel.

    3. I’ll conclude by saying this: while I want to again affirm the fact that I would not use that language in the pulpit and do not think Driscoll should, I do not think it is helpful for us to point out the speck in someone else’s eye while ignoring the log in our own. Instead of pointing out what is comparably very minor in Driscoll’s preaching, why should I not instead be looking to my own preaching (and for that matter, my whole life) and asking if I am lifting up Jesus in all that I say in my sermon, if I am proclaiming the truths of Scripture to my people, and if I am living as a dying man among dying men in need of a Savior? I personally think Driscoll does these things consistently, and I think we would be wise to focus on that and not on the comparatively minor things with which we do not agree.

    In Christ,
    Matt

  25. Billy Mitchell   •  

    I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around the GCR and I can’t grasp one simple thing. Who hasn’t been “surging” with the Great Commission in SBC life? Local churches? State Conventions? NAMB?
    If possible I would love an opportunity to share with the leaders of the SBC some AMAZING men and women who have been “surging” with the Great Commission for years as if their very lives depended on it. Their churches, lives, families, money, and basically everything else is consumed by taking the Great Commission to every nook and cranny of their neighborhoods, town, states, and the rest of the globe. I can “friend” you on facebook with some of these guys. Maybe the SBC doesn’t need to “resurge” but really listen to those already surging.

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