Addressing Membership Decline in the SBC (part 2)

pewsAs I noted in part one of this blog, this article was ready nearly a month ago, closer to the time these articles were released in the Tennessean, but because of the site transition they were postponed. I now offer these thoughts on quotes from the articles in the Tennessean about SBC membership decline, though a bit late.

SBC Should Shed Divisive Practices
By Robert Parham

Below are some quotes from the article:

Reversing the Southern Baptist Convention’s decline and loss of influence will demand new leadership and theological transformation, two very unlikely possibilities in the next decade.

Parham is partially right, but mostly misguided and showing his presuppositions here. There is a need for leadership change in some ways, though it seems that there is change coming and being called for by leaders, especially those calling for a Great Commission Resurgence. Parham’s bitterness and dislike for the Conservative theology of the Conservative Resurgence shows in his call for theological transformation. This must never be the case in Southern Baptist Life if we are to be truly relevant in culture with timeless truth.

After a decade-long internecine war, fundamentalists defeated the feckless moderates and took control in the early 1990s of SBC agencies and seminaries. Their successful campaign was built on…the promise was that the SBC would enter a golden age of growth when Southern Baptists read the Bible literally and had conservative positions on issues like women and abortion.

We may not be in a golden age of growth, but we are most certainly in a golden age of opportunity. As I will mention in the Stetzer section, the massive amounts of students that are hoping to pastor and plant and go to the mission field shows that there are those that are taking the Conservative Resurgence seriously and this is all fueled by the recovery of the bible. These students would not be having the missional conversations they are if it were not for the preservation of the integrity of the bible.

It adopted a faith statement against women working outside the home.

I only comment on this statement because it never happened and reveals a little bit of his bias.

Even if rank-and-file Southern Baptists had the power to hold accountable those who presided over the denominational fall, reversing the situation would require fundamental theological changes. Positive growth requires that an authentic inclusivity must replace a rigid exclusivity for women in leadership. Civil, ecumenical and meaningful interfaith engagement must supplant arrogant theological purity.

To call the SBC away from theological purity is the most asinine of his statements. If we abandon the theological purity of the Conservative Resurgence, then regardless of what the culture says we need to believe in order to be relevant we would be irrelevant. What Parham misses is that the most relevant thing the outside world could hear and NEEDS to hear is that there is one way to heaven through one savior, and the infallible words of Holy Scripture point to Him. Growth that results from compromising our theological integrity and the authority of Scripture will not be “positive growth.” It may produce numbers or it may not (cf. mainline liberal denominations), but it will never be positive growth because lives will not be saved and radically changed by a compromised gospel. This leads finally to his last point, which is partially right.

Finally, reversing the decline would require Southern Baptists to redefine how they determine God’s favor. The current measurement of success is numerical growth, which the SBC does not have, meaning the denomination is out of favor with God, according to the body’s own definition.

We must think through real success. If numerical growth were the lone test of success, then Joel Osteen would be the most successful pastor in the US. Instead, several factors must go into measuring success. The first measure has to be theological accuracy. Some of the decline in the SBC may be attributed to the preaching of the whole counsel of God. If that is the case then the Resurgence is not a failure. Yes, numbers are part of the measurment of success, after all the NT seemed to be concerned with numbers, and the church is a living organism. If it doesn’t grow, then it may be dead. Holding to biblical integrity does not cancel out our responsibility to utilize methods that are biblically acceptable and culturally relevant. But since theological integrity is a major factor, we must not abandon it in the name of a supposed relevancy that might appeal to and draw in large crowd but fail to produce more, vibrant and growing disciples of the Lord Jesus. As has been said, the responsibility of the church is to deliver timeless truth in a timely fashion.

Readers Opinions: What Should Southern Baptists do to Stem a Membership Decline

Here are some excerpts from readers of the Tennessean:

Who will give more money and send out more missionaries than Southern Baptists have all over the world right now?

This statement should help us understand that the situation is not yet as dire as we might think. The people called Southern Baptists are still experiencing successful ministry.

They’ll be radiantly happy in their cloud of righteousness, bellowing hymns and slithering back to the glory days of slavery and the Inquisition. Meanwhile, most of the world will disappear over the horizon into a new era of hope and progress.

A challenge for us will be to show the world that the way they want to go is not as hopeful as the future for the people of God. Even if they hate us for what we say, we must humbly and lovingly show them this is not progress instead it’s a foretaste of hell.

The declining number of supporters in the Southern Baptist Church is congruent with what is happening in other U.S. Protestant churches. Paradoxically, there has been a steady increase in membership in nondenominational and unaffiliated churches. Some experts claim this is due to the hard biblical stand that they have taken opposing homosexuality, premarital sex and abortion. In other words, it is easier for people to belong to less restrictive and more tolerant religions. To reverse this trend, they must redefine their message and change their approach to people.

It makes sense that a call for theological purity might lead to decline, but this must not swerve us in our call. The Lordship of Christ over a life demands radical obedience and sometimes this may cause people to leave, however, this does not make us unsuccessful. Even so, we must seek to reach these people and show them with love that the call to discipleship means taking up our Cross.

We live in a society of “what’s good for me” mentality. This is why many are leaving the Baptist denomination and other churches. For the Christian faith, the Bible is the true written and spoken word of God. But too many people today are buckling under to the worldview in that, if they don’t like what the Bible says, they determine to adopt their own philosophy or other church’s philosophy that will speak more to them.

Baptists are not really so much against people of differing beliefs or lifestyles. To Baptists, the bottom line is, what does the Bible say?

This must continually be our mantra. However, we must continually do this humbly and lovingly, pointing out that God’s Word says this is what is best for them, but in the best of the Baptist tradition if they disagree with us they are completely free to do so. We live in an increasingly anti-authority culture and that is why some will leave with stricter membership calls, but this may not be all bad as we seek to show that this is what the people of God look like. At the same time, we are called to grow and be on mission, so while we must never totally rely on numbers, we must also NOT settle for people failing to come to Christ by simply touting, “We are theologically pure, and they are missing it.” Success must include doctrinal purity and cultural relevance.


Comments 0

  1. Although it seems SBC21 is directed more to the under 40 3rd generation conservatives that Steven McKinion referred to I would like to post some thoughts. I would like to refer to your 2 posts on membership decline and also like to refer to McKinion’s comments on 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation conservatives. I am a 61 year old at least a 5th generation Southern Baptist theological conservative and an inerrantist. Of course I am referring to biological generations and McKinion is referring to generations of those who support or follow the Conservative Resurgence. In fact, however, there are many generations of Southern Baptist conservatives. I am concerned that there may be some who actually believe that the SBC was not theologically conservative before 1979.

    I grew up attending RAs and BTU instead of AWANA. I went to an SBC college, Ouachita, and an SBC seminary, SWBTS, before the conservative resurgence. My conservative heroes were Baker James Cauthon and Keith Parks at the FMB and Robert Naylor and Russell Dilday at SWBTS as well as many conservative pastors, missionaries and laypersons that I have know through the years.

    I was appointed by the FMB during Cauthon’s presidency and served though Parks tenure. Cauthon and Parks led the FMB to be the largest Protestant mission sending organization in the world. I believe this was because of our commitment to the Bible as the Word of God, salvation only through Jesus Christ and the Great Commission. The FMB was as conservative theologically when I was appointed in 1978 as it is now.

    Naylor and Dilday led Southwestern to be the largest protestant seminary in the world. It was known for its conservative theological stance. I attended during in the 70s and 80s under both Naylor and Dilday. Among the teachers I knew in the 70s and beyond were Russ Bush, Roy Fish, Oscar Thompson, Curtis Vaughn and Jack Gray. All of my teachers were solid conservatives and at least as theologically conservative as the professors at Southwestern now. In those days students came from all over the Southern Baptist convention, often passing other SBC seminaries and Mid-American and Criswell College, because of its well deserved reputation as an academically strong, theologically conservative seminary.

    You have made some excellent points about the SBC. The decline in baptisms as well as in churches and attendance has been a concern for at least the last 20 years. We need to look for solid reasons for these declines and you have pointed out some factors that I agree with. Compromising with culture, bureaucratic problems and political infighting have been factors that have been exacerbated by the conservative resurgence. Your description of our convention as little charity, much distrust and little unity have been the defining characteristics of our convention for the last 30 years. I find it interesting that after 30 years of CR control you state a problem in our convention is weak theology. Wasn’t that supposed to be corrected by the conservative resurgence?

    McKinion wrote of non Southern Baptists we have cooperated with during the CR. He mentioned Billy Graham and others that we have always cooperated with but failed to mention others that are a recent phenomenon. Sun Myung Moon is one. Recent Southern Baptist activists such as Jerry Falwell, before his death, and Tim LaHaye had a long term mutually beneficial financial and political relationship with Moon. Pressler, Patterson and other CR leaders were members of the Committee on National Policy that has been heavily influenced by Moon and his associates. Google Moon and Falwell or CNP to read more details about these relationships. I found it interesting that leaders of the CR have no problem cooperating with a man who says Jesus Christ was a failure and that he is the new Messiah and that the United States is the great Satan. They find it difficult to cooperate with the WMU or the BWA though. The week that the SBC Executive Committee voted to break the relationship I had dinner with BWA president Billy Kim. He told me that he had told Patterson and others that their claims of liberalism in the BWA were wrong and begged them not to break the relationship. I understand last year at the SBC meeting they gave Billy Kim a special award of some sort. I wonder if this was to make up for their failure to trust Kim’s word.
    I believe in order to increase our membership decline and correct many of the problems you have described we need not only a great commission resurgence but a true theological conservative resurgence to correct the mistakes of the political resurgence that we have lived through for the last 30 years.

    I look forward to hearing your description of the key theological issues that make us SB. I invite comments and dialogue on my statements above.
    Ron West

  2. Post

    Mr. West,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on our blog. I am not sure what you mean by a true theological resurgence. I think that is what we got in the CR. I am also unaware of the connections with Moon and the whole story behind the BWA, but I doubt that Patterson et al. would have anything to do with Moon’s theology, so I am unsure what you are implying by saying they cooperated with Moon. If the relationship was political in that we agree on the same moral issues then we all think we can cooperate with those that we could not covenant with in a church community. We have alluded to some weak theology in other posts but that is in our churches not our seminaries and I believe that is a hold over from the fact that our seminaries were not conservative prior to ’79. Also, I believe you are lamenting the political nature of the CR, but any type of resurgence will be labeled political, I would need to know more of what you mean by this true conservative resurgence to speak more clearly because I am little unsure on what you mean. I think the CR was needed and delivered, I think the conversations we are having now flow right out of the CR and hopefully naturally lead to GCR, and I believe this is so regardless of generational gaps (we have talked about these gaps, but mainly in involvement at the annual meeting, we know that these age divides are not easy and neat and clean). We think we need somewhat of maybe what would be called a missional movement of the SBC and this would coincide with a GCR and flows right out of a CR.


  3. I am thankful for the CR….even though I wasn’t in the SBC…not even a believer at the time. I’m thankful for the changes they brought to the SBC….but how far does it go? The BI is the new face and voice of this movement and their focus seems to have changed from reforming to protecting. Now that they’ve cleaned house they’ve positioned themselves as not only gate-keepers of the convention but also as police of the various SBC entities. SBC can be autonomous and have their various beliefs (to a point) but if you want to attend or teach at a SBC school or serve with NAMB or the IMB you must fit within extra-biblical guidelines. It’s this “vanillazation” (I just made up this word…I like it) of the SBC that drive people away.

    Until we get out of the protect mode and into the expand mode we’ll continue to decline….the old ones are dying….the young ones are leaving….and in the end they’ll be a handful of BI guys blaming the decline on everyone else. It is possible to maintain biblical purity on issues that scripture is 100% clear on and be missional at the same time….but we can’t keep raising the bar…beyond scripture and expect growth.

  4. Nathan,
    Thank you for your willingness to respond to my concerns. You and I have very different backgrounds so it is not surprising we would see issues differently. I am 61 and came up in the SBC during the days of RAs, Baptist Training Union, and Bold Missions Thrust while at the same time in our society we had the Jesus Movement, Vietnam War protests and Watergate. I assume you are in your 20s or 30s and your entire SBC life has been when the convention was controlled by the Conservative Resurgence leaders. I was raised in Arkansas and Texas and was greatly influenced by the Baptists leadership of those states. I have spend most of the last 30 years outside the US serving with the IMB. I assume you were raised in Kentucky and North Carolina and I do not know much about the Baptists of those states.

    I will tell you why I say we need a true theological conservative resurgence to correct the mistakes of the political conservative resurgence. I supported most of the theological concerns that were expressed in the 1979 when the resurgence began. I believe there were a few theological problems with 5 to 10 professors out of the 400 or more at our seminaries. I think some should have been fired. However, I quickly discovered that 95% or more of the actions taken by and in the name of the CR have nothing to do with theology.

    I will give you two examples that I personally witnessed. You stated that the seminaries were not conservative before the CR began in 1979. That is not true. It is part of the mythology of the CR that has no basis in fact. I was at Southwestern seminary before 1979 and it was conservative theologically. If you don’t believe me, ask Roy Fish who was teaching there then. If Russ Bush who was my teacher for Philosophy of Religion at SWBTS in 1978 were alive, you could ask him. I am sure they would say SWBTS was conservative. If it was liberal, why didn’t they tell me then? Evidently the members of the Peace Committee agree with me and disagree with you. Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines and Charles Stanley were all members of the Peace Committee that reported there were no theological problems at SWBTS. They made no statements about problems with Russell Dilday’s leadership. If there were problems in either area, surely they would have stated them then when they could have been debated and discussed and Dilday and SWBTS could have defended themselves. Instead a short time later Rogers, Vines and Stanley encouraged their surrogate, Owen Collins, and other trustees to fire Dilday. I suppose they felt more comfortable working with a man of Collins integrity and moral character than they did with Dilday’s. They went into Dilday’s office and locked him out while he was at chapel. Dilday’s firing had nothing to do with theology and all to do with power and control. I believe it was accomplished in an unethical manner. Another person you could ask is Ken Hemphill. When he was brought in to replace Dilday, I believe he stated that SWBTS was a conservative seminary.

    The second example is at the IMB. I have been a field missionary with the IMB for 30 years. For those 30 years we have had a parade of trustees with little knowledge of the IMB or its missionaries and who have shown little support for the IMB before their appointment as trustees who have made charges of liberalism of our missionaries. Some of these would be Ron Wilson, Bill Hancock and Jerry Corbaley. Wilson, who was described as a hero of the resurgence by Paul Pressler, once circulated a letter where he stated our missionaries were controlled by liberals, were neo-orthodox and had been spreading heresy all around the world for generations. I challenged him on those statements and asked him to offer his proof but he would not respond. I have also written other trustees who have made similar statements and have never found one willing to be accountable for his statements. Their attacks have nothing to do with theology but are dishonest efforts to control and intimidate our missionaries and staff. Unfortunately no leaders of the conservative resurgence have had the courage to speak out in support of us when these types of charges are made.
    I can give many more similar examples. During the years of the conservative resurgence trustee appointments and entity leadership decisions have been based on loyalty to the conservative resurgence with theology or competence playing little or no part in the qualifications.

    As far as the Moon connection, it was much more than cooperating on political issues. There was a question if Liberty University would exist today if Falwell had not traveled to Korea to ask for financial help for Liberty in the early 90s. With that financial support came understanding of support for Moon’s programs and Falwell, LaHaye and others often appeared on programs with Moon supporting his organizations. Roger Moran and others have gone to extreme lengths to connect those who do not support the CR with all kinds of pro homosexual or abortion organizations and ignored the connections of Falwell, Pressler and others to some heretical organizations. It is that kind of hypocrisy that keeps me from supporting the CR and causes me to ask for a truly theological conservative resurgence.
    I write this because it seems many of the 3rd generationers have little knowledge of the history of the conservative resurgence. I look forward to further dialogue.
    Ron West

  5. Post

    Mr. West,

    We did grow up in different eras, and I should not have made a blanket statement about all of our seminaries, though there is definitely some question as to where Dilday fell in all this. I don’t think it is as cut and dry with him as you make it. I have studied the Resurgence and I understand they were not all liberal, I would probably disagree with you that it was only five to ten professors. At our Seminaries at the time of the transition in leadership we had things going on like: Homosexual campus groups, gay union ceremonies, a hanging of Mohler in effigy from a tree, protest sit-in groups, liberals in our O.T. departments, just to mention a few. I think, along with most others, that a true Conservative Resurgence took place and that it was necessary and a great thing. I think we are feeling the effects of it now on at least two seminary campuses (I only mention 2 b/c I have only been on two for any significant time). I think at the base root of the CR it was all about theology, they may have used other means to bring about a CR but that is necessary in any organization where change is needed or else change wont come. I am unaware of the factors and examples you mention so I can not speak intelligently to them. I will say that Liberty is not SBC and for most of his time there Falwell was not SBC that has little to do with our conversation of SBC. I am still unsure of what you think a true Conservative Resurgence would look like and why we would have needed one in ’79 if nothing was wrong with our theology and why we would need one now?


  6. Nathan,

    Thank you for your patience and courtesy and responding to my comments. Most CR supporters would just call me a liberal and ignore my concerns. I did not say there were no problems in 79. I have said clearly there were problems then and some professors should have been fired. I do not think the problems were to the extent that the CR people claim now, for example, your statement that all the seminaries were not conservative. I have heard that before from leaders of the CR and it is not true.

    I have heard once before about the situation you mentioned at SEBTS or SBTS with the homosexual group or gay union, etc. Let say first that if the situation was as you described it, I believe the President of SEBTS or SBTS should be fired for allowing that to happen and any professor who was involved in those organizations should be fired and if it could be done legally, any student involved should be dismissed. That being said, I have never seen a situation like that at a SBC school of any sort much less a seminary. My friends who were at SEBTS back in the 60s or 70s were not aware of this. Since the CR has controlled the trustees and has had a CR president at SEBTS for over 20 years I assume this situation happened more than 20 years ago or we would be blaming the CR for it happening. I am guessing you are in your 20s or 30s and probably had no first hand knowledge of this. Are you sure it has not been exaggerated with the telling from one person to the next. It is just a little hard for me to believe this was as blatant as you describe. Is this supposed to have happened before 79 or was in on the watch of the CR leadership?

    I will describe a situation that is true and has been documented in Baptist Press. In the 90s at the IMB we had a CR leader serving as trustee chairman who was instrumental in bringing about a crisis that harmed our relationship with European Baptists, brought about the resignation of Keith Parks and was calling our missionaries liberals and heretics. At the same time we know now he was having an affair with a woman in his church. Henry Blackaby told me he thought this person’s sinful lifestyle was instrumental in allowing Satan to use him to harm the IMB.

    At SWBTS there was a CR leader who was a trustee who was instrumental in the firing of Russell Dilday and was even elected chairman of the trustees. We know now he was having multiple affairs with women in his church. At the NAMB during the time of the recent leadership disaster that crippled the NAMB there was a trustee chairman who was having an affair with a woman in his church. The Peace Committee back in the 80s was a complete failure at bring about any peace or reaching accurate conclusions about the reasons for the CR. Even the members of the peace committee ignored its recommendations to stop certain political activity. We know now that the chairman of the peace committee who was instrumental in keeping the committee from making an honest search for truth was having an affair with a woman in his church during the entire time the peace committee was functioning.

    I believe in each of these cases Satan was able to use the immoral lifestyles of these CR leaders to do great harm to the institutions they were supposed to serve and the missionaries and professors who were innocent bystanders in the war going on for control in our convention. Each of these men was put in their position by leaders of the conservative resurgence and encouraged and applauded by these same leaders. That is why I think we need a true theological conservative resurgence to replace the pseudo-conservative resurgence and appoint men of integrity to leadership positions in our convention.

    I will not be adding further comments unless you ask me a specific question. I don’t want to take further time away from your excellent posts on membership decline.

  7. Mr. West,

    Thank you for your kind words about my father, Russ Bush. I am glad that he is remembered even from the beginning of his career as someone who stood for the truth of scripture and who could be turned to for honest answers.

    I also appreciate your honest approach of putting more emphasis on first hand knowledge than stories told over many passing years. I remember my father strongly disapproving of the manner in which Dr. Dilday was removed from his position. I heard him comment in recent years that Dr. Dilday was more conservative than he was given credit for at the time. I remember Dr. Dilday as a kind man that my father would have called a friend, regardless of whether they always crossed their theological “t’s” in the same way. Let me relate some first hand knowledge of what my family encountered when we moved to North Carolina in 1989 after my father was hired as dean at SEBTS. My father was unanimously rejected by the Southeastern faculty as someone whose conservative theology made him unfit to teach at the school. If it was not for the trustees and then President Drummond’s support, he would not have been hired. It was the practice of one SEBTS faculty member to begin the semester by handing out a list of all the errors in scripture. It was the belief of another faculty member that neither Hell nor Satan were actually real. I remember standing around a Christmas tree one year at a faculty party when someone lifted up a prayer to “our Mother God.”

    He was personally treated with cruelty and disrespect, not only at work but in the town newspaper. The same paper carried front page pictures of SEBTS students holding support rallies for homosexuality. We had to put lock boxes on our home telephone connections to stop people from tapping our phone lines. On one occasion when my mother was home alone someone came into our house and rifled through my parents’ bedroom.

    I cannot speak to everything you have heard about reasons for the conservative resurgence, but it was sorely needed at SEBTS. If numbers are actually a guide the fact that the school is today larger than ever before in its history I think shows the success of that movement.

    I write this for two reasons. The first is that hopefully by first hand account we can see that the “1st generation” SBC leaders had a positive effect on our convention (at the very least on SEBTS). The second is that perhaps we can understand what some of these leaders experienced and what may have shaped their current leadership style.

    If we hope to rebuild a cooperative convention, then perhaps what happened at SEBTS can be a guide. The change did not take place by dismantling the faculty or school and it did not happen overnight. The previous faculty decided on their own to retire or move to new positions because those wanting change showed kindness, patience and, in my father’s words, they stood on “the Bible as the sole, infallible, and inerrant authority, given to us by God to lead us to think and act within the divinely revealed world-view.”

    If we want change in our convention today I think the same principles still apply. All of the “3rd generation” seems to agree on the authority of scripture, but let us not forget to show kindness and especially patience. If we can do these things, trust will be gained and our influence will be felt.

  8. Josh,

    I will make one more entry on this blog in order to answer Josh Bush’s kind remarks. It was a pleasure to hear from you. You mother would probably not remember this but we were in the same Sunday School department at Gambrell Street Baptist Church in Ft. Worth. In December of 1978, the day we packed out of our house to leave for missionary orientation before going to Taiwan, your parents brought a meal over for us to eat while we were packing. I was impressed that a seminary professor and his wife would take time to do that for a student. Your father’s class was probably my most challenging and most enjoyable class when I was at SWBTS. I was told he would be tough but I would learn a lot and that was why I signed up for it.

    Your father is one of the reasons I have always considered it absurd when I hear Paige Patterson and others say that there were no conservatives teaching in our seminaries or that our seminaries were not conservative before the conservative resurgence. For that and many other reasons the conservative resurgence has no creditability with me when it comes to speaking the truth. They are a perfect example of the old saying that if you repeat a lie long enough some will be foolish enough to believe.

    I had heard some of the situation you described when your father arrived at SEBTS. I regret that happened. You need to remember these were not leaders in the SBC and these people probably didn’t know your father. The students were reacting as students often react to change. The faculty members were probably reacting out of fear that they would lose their jobs whether they were conservative or not. I wil trust your word that the stories you quote about SEBTS are true and I am thankful that type of thing does not happen today. I believe that was an aberration because in my over 50s years as a Southern Baptist I have never observed anything like what you say. I don’t know what happened at SEBTS but I do not what happened at SWBTS because of the take over at SWBT. Many of your father’s friends who were solid conservatives and outstanding teachers were forced out simply because they were not obedient servants to the conservative resurgence.

    What I am referring to is the actions of the leaders of the CR and therefore leaders of the SBC since 1979. Let’s look at what SEBTS became after the takeover and Drummond was forced out to make room for Patterson just like Hemphill was forced out at SWBTS to make room for Patterson. Patterson and his sidekick Keith Eitel began an immediate attack on the IMB. Here is the response of Jerry Rankin to their attacks on the IMB and missionaries such as myself.

    “I had wondered why so much criticism of our program and policies, disrespect of leadership and even threatened litigation was being generated by students from Southeastern,” Rankin told Eitel. Another memo written by Eitel to an IMB staff member “clearly indicates that they were being programmed to hear certain distortions out of context and encouraged to engage in a subversive response.”
    Eitel’s criticisms have endangered collaborative efforts between Southeastern Seminary and the IMB, Rankin said. “It is hard to see how we can continue such a partnership when disrespect for leadership and policies is being nurtured, non-biblical subversive behavior is encouraged and blatant disregard for truth is propogated.”
    Rankin also said he would write Patterson, “to seek an explanation as to why he would cast aspersion on our board relative to the conservative resurgence.”

    I can attest to the truth and accuracy of Rankin’s charges. Unfortunately this is has been the hallmark of Patterson’s career wherever he has been and it has followed him to my seminary SWBTS. He can only promote himself by tearing down others. This has also been the general pattern of the CR since 1979. It has been the testimony of Ben Cole and others that Paige always has some one on his cooperative program funded payroll whose job is to research dirt to use to attack his enemies or those who are in his way. I hope SEBTS is no longer used for partisan political purposes and is now fulfilling its true purpose. It is hard to know which was worse at SEBTS, a few professors who were liberal and misguided or a president who propagates a blatant disregard for truth.

    I appreciate your father’s remarks that validate my statements about Russell Dilday. The trustees at SWBTS made the following statement about Dilday in order to justify their firing. Dilday is “dedicated to berate, misrepresent and assail those who hold the Bible to be God’s inerrant, infallible and authoritative Word.” Either your father or the trustees at SWBTS were not telling the truth. I trust your father more than I trust the trustees who were being used by Rogers, Stanley and Vines to get rid of Dilday.

    Nathan mentioned that Mohler was hung in effigy by students at SBTS. That was terrible but that was not nearly as bad as when Mohler actually hung Paul Debusman, the seminary librarian, out to dry and fired him because he had the courage to tell the truth. Tom Elliff had repeated one of those mythical statements the CR loves so much when he said conservatives were not allowed to speak at Southern before the CR. Debusman had the audacity to point out to Elliff that he was wrong and gave proof. Instead of writing back to Debusman and thanking him, as he should, Elliff sent the letter to Mohler who promptly fired Debusman. He did this because there is nothing Mohler and other leaders of the CR fear more than someone who speaks the truth. That is why when a Wade Burleson at the IMB begins questioning some of their actions or a Keith Parks or Russell Dilday at the IMB or SWBTS demand proof of their charges of liberalism they will spare no effort to attack their character or motives and get rid of them using any means they can. When the CR began back in the 80s I noticed that many of the people labeled liberal by the CR leaders were actually more conservative theologically than the leaders of the CR. I promised the Lord at that time that when I heard people being accused of heresy or liberalism I would ask for proof and believe nothing unless it could be verified. This has gotten me in much trouble with leaders of the CR so even though I would encourage you to also ask questions you need to be aware you may be called a liberal if you do.

    I have lived half of my life in or near China and I see many similarities to what happened there in the SBC. The first generation of CRers used guerilla warfare tactics and a slash and burn mentality to take control of our convention. The second generation CRers were much like the Red Guard. The traveled around quoting mindless slogans and attacking and destroying anyone who might be a threat to control by the CR. Reading this blog gives me some hope for the 3rd generation. I hope they will be dedicated to seeking truth and will return our convention to where the Bible is our guide and not orders from the CR leaders. I hope they will return us to where our leaders are doers of the Word and not hearers only. Too many CR leaders talk about inerrancy but live their lives as if the demands of the Word of God do not apply to them. The Bible says those who are a false witness and breath out lies and sow discord among brothers are an abomination. I pray the 3rd generationers will return our convention to where doctrine, missions and evangelism are the priority and not control. If your generation follows through on your statements about trust and influence, there is hope.

  9. As a just over 40, pastor/missionary’s son, lifelong Southern Baptist, non-clergy professional, most of my life has been a witness to the events since those years immediately prior to the CR. Having been a child when my father was completing seminary, I remember a kitchen table that seemed to have a different student or professor visiting several times per week. Since my father pastored mostly small and rural churches, I was weaned in the old training union discipleship system and remember when the “discipleship” era began with the introduction of the Masterlife study series.

    But what I mostly remember was my father’s passionate and diligent commitment to seeing the churches he pastored produce (rather than just attract) mature lay leaders who were able and enthusiastic to reproduce more mature lay leaders. Unfortunately, my father ran into the usual power issues in local churches where tradition was king and expectations had been kept low for so long as to squelch most possibilities for growth. Still, he soldiered on. As a result, as he approaches 70, he can look back on a legacy of several churches, across 3 states and 2 continents who now have had multiple generations of deacons who understand what ministry is; Sunday school and small group leaders who understand what real teaching (and learning) is; and even a number of now mostly middle aged pastors who understanding what an overseer is.

    What I find ironic is that while we live in the age of the greatest access to excellent resources that assist in fueling growth in the history of the church, we also live in an age that is witnessing a decreasing number of active and mature laypeople who are committed to the local body.

    My father understood that one of the most important measurements of leading a church was how effective he was in growing other leaders who were equipped and enthusiastically engaged in growing yet other leaders and so on and so on.

    If the pastors of my generation (and ones coming behind) were serious about this, the issue of declining membership across the denomination would be less of a concern. But we tend to be gluttons for distraction. For example, I am heartened by the relatively recent rise in popularity of expository preaching among pastors in my age group. But I am less heartened when I see so many of these well educated and trained men focus so much on the preaching with so little focus on the shepherding that is required for those excellent sermons to take root and blossom into folks who are more about the taking of the Gospel to the ends of the Earth and less about just talking about it.

    I’ll close these comment with a challenge to the fine men who write for this blog and those who read it. Examine the church you pastor and specifically consider those members that you would consider to have grown to the level where they are fit for and are engaging in serious and productive leadership within the body and, more importantly, in their communities. Did they grow to this level of maturity as a result of what your church is doing or did they join your church most of the way/all of the way there? What does your answer say about your own leaderhip?

  10. This may be old news to you but I just thought you guys might wanna check out one of the headlines of Newsweek, including an interview with Dr. Mohler

    I have not formed an opinion on this particular publication yet, it is disheartening but it is definitely worth reading. God bless, Marybeth

    The End of Christian America
    The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become.
    By Jon Meacham | NEWSWEEK”^%22jon%20meacham%22$&sortDirection=descending&sortField=pubdatetime&offset=0&pageSize=10

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