The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention (Pt. 2)

Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if they continually make clear their commitment to the inerrant and infallible Word of God, affirming it’s sufficiency in all matters. (Matt 5:17-18; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21)

Southern Baptists won the “battle for the Bible” that began in 1979. Men of God like Jimmy Draper, Paige Patterson, Paul Pressler, Adrian Rogers, and Jerry Vines put it all on the line because they saw what the poison of liberalism was doing to our Convention and its institutions. These men are heroes of the faith and what they did must be honored and never forgotten. We must keep on reminding a new generation of what happened when they were small or not yet born. It is easy for young Southern Baptists “to forget Joseph,” to forget the sacrifices of their fathers.

However, the “war for the Bible” is not over and it will never end until Jesus returns. The war over the truthfulness of God’s word was launched in the Garden of Eden when Satan asked, “has God said?” The Word of God will continue to be under assault, and we must ever be on guard and ready to answer those who question its veracity and accuracy (1 Peter 3:15). A younger generation of Southern Baptists will face this challenge, and they must be warned not to squander away precious theological ground that is absolutely essential to a healthy and hopeful future for this convention of churches.

Dr. Russ Bush who is now with our Lord was absolutely correct. I heard him say in a seminary classroom in the early 1980’s, “the question of biblical inspiration is ultimately a question of Christological identity.” Why? Because Jesus believed the Holy Scriptures to be the completely true and trustworthy Word of God! Even Rudolf Bultmann said this about our Lord, he just believes Jesus got it wrong! To deny inerrancy is to say that Jesus was wrong or that He willfully deceived. That is both heresy and blasphemy. It is spiritually suicidal!

Do you doubt or deny the full truthfulness of the Bible? My counsel is go and join another denomination. We will love you and pray for you, but we do not want you infecting our people with a spiritual disease that is always fatal to the Church of the Lord Jesus. Inerrancy and the sufficiency of the Bible in all matters of faith and practice must never be up for debate in the Southern Baptist Convention.ueuk fldjhlc

Aspect 7(b): A Mission Based on Local Church Initiative and Supplemented by Entities and Associations (NAMB, state conventions, ERLC, local associations)

(By: Danny Akin & Bruce Ashford)

What are some challenges ahead for the North American Mission Board and the State Conventions? It is the charge of both the NAMB and the state conventions to reach the United States of America with the gospel. How might they partner together in order to serve the church and further the church’s mission in a 21st century context? A detailed answer to this eludes our grasp, but some things are certain. The state conventions must have a renewed focus on church planting and renewal, and NAMB must be a handmaiden who provides resources for that task. Unless there are major changes in the state conventions and at the NAMB, it is doubtful that younger pastors will give their money to the CP or seek the resources of the NAMB. They will bypass the CP and give straight to Lottie Moon, if they give at all, and they will seek church planting advice and training from sources other than the NAMB and the state conventions. This type of bypassing has already begun to take place, and at a rapid rate.

Our state conventions must streamline and focus themselves. They must get rid of whatever unnecessary bureaucracy exists and focus their energies on church planting and church renewal. If they refuse, they will be forced to reduce their budgets drastically because a younger generation of churches will not give to the state conventions merely out of a sense of loyalty. Likewise, the NAMB has its work cut out as it adjusts to the 21st century context. Many of our younger church planters are bypassing the NAMB for other church planting networks and resource centers. In terms of resource-access, these networks have become functional substitutes for the state conventions and for the NAMB. Perhaps a revisioning of the NAMB-state convention relationship would look something like this: The state conventions reorganize, streamlining their operations so that at least 50% of it goes to the national convention, while at least 30% of the in-state remainder goes to in-state church planting and renewal. At the same time the NAMB reorganizes, ceasing to become a mission-funding organization and instead becoming a small, sleek, and efficient group of church planting and renewal consultants who provide resources for the state conventions (as the state conventions focus primarily church planting and renewal themselves). This is a radical suggestion, for sure, but radical ideas are needed for our future effectiveness. All options need to be put on the table for careful and deliberate consideration.

What will be the role of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in a 21st century context? Southern Baptist churches have long been involved in public square issues, and the ERLC was formed to serve our local churches in that facet. Three challenges in particular lie ahead for the ERLC as it serves our churches in the 21st century. First, the ERLC, alongside of our churches, must stand strong in the midst of an increasingly relativistic culture. Nowhere is such relativism more evident than the controversies surrounding life, death, and sexuality. Second, it must seek to bear witness to the gospel, and to the implications of the gospel for our society and culture, in a way that is gracious, prophetic, and compelling. It must be prophetic in its willingness to point out evil and its consequences. It must be gracious, or else it will contradict the very message of grace. And it must be compelling, seeking to win and persuade our society to what is true and good. Finally, we must not tie ourselves to any one political party, because to do so would distort and domesticate the gospel: “Inappropriate is the only adequate term,” writes Paige Patterson, “to describe purely partisan politics or the use of the pulpit to endorse personalities running for political office.”[1] Likewise, I (Danny Akin) have argued: “Our hope is not in Republicans or Democrats, Congress or Capitol Hill. Our hope, the world’s hope, is in Calvary’s hill and a crucified and risen Savior….”[2] The gospel cannot be domesticated to fit the agenda of any one worldly political party.

What are some of the challenges facing local associations in upcoming years? In the years of horse-drawn buggies, local associations provided resources for pastors who could not travel to the state convention offices for assistance. In the ensuing years, local associations have also become facilitators of fellowship for pastors in the local associations. For some churches, their closest ties are to their local association. In the 21st century, however, many pastors and churches are able easily to find resources outside of the local association and look for fellowship based on affinity as much as geography. In light of the present situation, perhaps we will see local churches choosing their associations rather than having their associations chosen for them. In addition to county seat-based associations, will we see the creation of voluntary, affinity-based associations, formed for the sake of mission? This would give local churches the freedom to align with an association that best fits their needs, or to align with multiple associations. One could easily see a larger church that is part of a national megachurch network (that ministered to the unique needs of larger churches) as well as a local association with churches of all sizes (that is focusing on planting churches in a tri-county area, for example). The upshot of this discussion is that local associations, like state conventions and national entities, exist to serve the local church and further her mission.


[1] Patterson, “My Vision of the Twenty-First Century SBC,” 48.

[2] Daniel Akin, “Axioms,” 7.

Myths Concerning the GCRTF: A Postscript

In June at the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, I had a conversation with my father in the ministry and hero in the faith. That man is Dr. Paige Patterson. My love for this man cannot be measured in human words. My gratitude for his investment in my life is impossible for me to express. Now, I know he does not always agree with me, but I have never doubted he loves me and wants God’s best for me. That is why I am always ready for him to speak into my life. That is why I am always eager to hear what he says and to know what he thinks on almost any issue.

As we were talking about the SBC and the GCR Declaration that had gained more than 4,000 signatures he asked me, “Danny, what do you see as the end game in all of this? What is it that you personally hope to see come to pass?” My response was quick and simple. I said, “Dr. Patterson, it is about what you taught me when I was your student at Criswell College in the late 1970’s and the Conservative Resurgence was just getting started. It is about getting the gospel of Jesus Christ to the 6 plus billion people on planet earth.”

He then said, “Is that it?” I responded, “that’s it.” He then inquired if I had a strategy for all of this and I responded with one word: “no.” I went on to say I am not smart enough to come up with anything like that. I did say that I believed there were men and women in the SBC who could help us get there, and that I prayed that if Southern Baptists authorized brother Johnny Hunt to appoint a GCRTF they could lead us in getting there.

That is what the GCR is all about. This is what the GCRTF hopes and prays God will do. He will have to because even with many smart people on the TF we are not smart enough, wise enough, or gifted enough to make it happen. God will do it or it will not come to pass.

There are challenges to be sure. None is more obvious than the distrust and infighting that characterizes too much of Southern Baptists life at the present time. This must stop or we are going nowhere.

The greatest man I believe I ever met was Adrian Rogers. In God’s goodness we developed a very sweet friendship over the years. The last time I was with him we had lunch together in Memphis. Six months later he would step into eternity into the presence of his King and Savior whom he loved so dearly and served so faithfully. As we talked about the SBC he expressed concerns and disappointments at where we were following the Conservative Resurgence. I shared my agreement with his assessment and then asked what he saw as the problem. I will never forget what he said.

Dr. Rogers said the problem was we were no longer on the battlefield fighting shoulder to shoulder the real enemies of sin, Satan, death and hell. Rather, we were back in the barracks standing face to face and fighting one another. We were now squabbling and arguing over things that would matter little if we were out on the battlefield engaging the real enemy as we fought for the souls of men across North America and around the world. Dr. Rogers always had a heart for the unreached peoples of the world. Dr. Rogers said we needed to get back on the battlefield and recognize we are one mighty army, all on the same side, serving under our commander-in-chief King Jesus. What a timely word for Southern Baptists in 2009!

This concludes the “myth series.” It is my hope that they have been helpful in clarifying and making more clear the work of the GCRTF. Feel free to attribute any lingering fog to my shortcomings and inability to communicate well. The responses I have received from so many do encourage me that the time and effort put into all of this was worth the investment.

One more time the bottom-line is simply this: the nations need to hear the gospel. Without it they are eternally lost. We have the gospel and God has graced us with the personnel and resources to get the good news of Jesus to them. The question we all must ask and answer is this: what will I do to see this happen? Let’s not live wasted lives. Let’s not be a wasted Convention of churches. Jesus deserves better. Those who have never heard the gospel deserve better. I believe, by God’s grace, we can step up and be better. Dear Lord, please make it happen!