Southern Baptist Evangelicals and the Future of Denominationalism (Live Blog-Day 3, Mark DeVine, Danny Akin, Michael Lindsay, Jerry Tidwell, and David Dockery)


Mark DeVine–Emergent or Emerging: Qsts for Southern Baptists and North American Evangelicals

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Danny Akin–The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention

The Southern Baptist Convention is at a crossroad.  This is clear in light of the appointing of the GCR Task Force, Geoff Hammond’s resignation, Jerry Rankin’s retirement, and Morris Chapman’s retirement.

Regarding the future of the SBC, “I’m not optimistic, but am hopeful.”

The question for the SBC is will we join God in His mission or will we sit on the sidelines.

8 pts of observation:

1. Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if we return to our first love, Jesus Christ.

2. Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if we continue to uphold the Bible as inerrant and sufficient in all matters.

3. Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if we will pursue a genuinely Word-based ministry that is theological in content and on fire in delivery.

4. Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if we can unite around and affirm the BFM2000 as a healthy guide for consensus that avoids both liberalism and sectarianism.

5. Southern Baptists have a hopeful future if our denomination at all levels begins to reflect the demographic and ethnic make-up of our nation and all nations.

6. We must have the courage to rethink our Convention structure at every level, clarify our mission, and provide a compelling vision that inspires our people to do something great for God.

7. We must have pastors who see themselves as a gospel missions agency, equipping people to see themselves as missionaries for Jesus, regardless of location or vocation.

8. We must devote ourselves to cooperation that is gospel-centered around a theological core, not methodological agreement.

Michael Lindsay–Denominationalism and the Changing Religious Landscape in North America

Chief divider between believers and non-believers, not conservatives and liberals. Since Constantine there has been a tacit endorsement of Christianity from civilization.

Dramatic shift:

5 Different numbers –

6-6-16 – 6% with no religious affiliation in the 50s and beyond. 16% with no religious affiliation today. This is a drastic shift.

56-16 – 56% of religiously affiliated said religion is very important in their lives, but so did 16% of non-religiously affiliated.

3 Things Institutions Do:

1. Institutions provide accountability…

2. Denominations matter b/c they excercise convening power

3. The instiutional bravitas provided by denominations is helpful due to the difficulty of “getting things done”

Contrary to the data the Americans don’t really believe in institutions, they get things done.  “We will not survive unless we think institutionally.”

“The amazing thing about institutions is that they outlive individuals.”

The challenges of denominations is that society is changing.  We must be faithful to God’s call for a better and just society, and institutions are the best way to do this.

Jerry Tidwell–“Missions and Evangelism: Awakenings and Their Influence on Southern Baptists and Evangelicals”

Myth #1: The  exact dates of the awakenings are without debate

Myth #2: Removing barriers of offense to unbelievers will lead to a larger church membership

– Along with the awakenings came a higher standard of church membership…

Myth #3: The awakenings was a push back against Calvinism

– If Edwards and Whitefield can partner with others in the awakenings, surely Southern Baptists can find enough common ground with one another to move forward for the Great Commission.

Myth #4: Prayer meetings were the catalyst for the awakenings

Results that i

1. The Awakenings certainly led to a fervency for missions and evangelism.

2. The Awakenings led Baptists to cooperate with other “evangelical” types of the day.

3. The Awakenings let to a greater desire for education for all.

4. The Awakenings led to anti-slavery views and love for slaves and Indians grew during this time.

5. The Awakenings wained not from secular society but from the religious institutions of the day.

Whatever else we may say about our own desire for an awakening, it is clear that during the Great Awakenings God visited His people in a special way as a result of the “Isaiah 6” factor–“woe is me” because he saw God, then clearly saw himself.  A fresh vision of God’s holiness and sovereignty seems to accompany awakenings.  Hopefully, this will be our cry that the “life of Christ flows not just to us, but through us.”

David Dockery–“So Many Denominations: The Rise and Decline of Denominationalism…And the Shaping of a Global Evangelicalism”

I. Introduction: An In-House Conversation

– The history of Christianity is best understood as a chain of memory.

– Following C.S Lewis’ comment, the “denomination” discussion should be kept for those who already believe in Christ.

2. History of Denominationalism

– Three major brances: Roman Cath, Eastern Orthodox, Protestant

– From Luther, denominations began to proliferate. Luther and Zwingli hoped to bring together two major movements, but were unable to reconcile their view of the Lord’s Supper and remained separate.

– 17th Cent; Baptists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers

– 18th Cent; Awakenings

– 19th Cent; Revivalism-Restorationists and Holiness Movements

– 20th Cent; The Holy Spirit and Sign Gifts-Holiness and Pentecostals

– Today over 1,000 denominations around the country.

– Theological Differences

– Polity,  Liturgical Practices, Sociological Perspectives

– Denominationalism in America

– In the Colonies, there were three major denominations

3. The Birth of American Evangelicalism

– The Rise of Liberalism

– Characteristics; adapt substance of faith to changing times, naturalistic perspectives, skepticism, reason over revelation, experience over tradition.

– Great response to liberalism by J. Gresham Machen…basically Machen argued that liberalism was empty.

– New Movements: splits in several denominations, presbyterian splits, new missions groups and Bible colleges

– Soon came leaders such as Carl F.H. Henry and Billy Graham

– New Affinity Groups: Transdenominational Evangelical Networks, eventually these groups became more important than denominations.

– The evangelical movement is largely understood as a grassroots type of ecumenism.

– In 2009 approx 60% of church persons will make a denominational change.

4. Denominationalism and Evangelicalism: Qsts about the Future

– Perhaps the most significant part of the future of denominations will be working together with networks.

– By 2025 it is estimated that there will be more than 360million Christians.

– Greatest changes are coming from Latin, Asian and African Christians.

– “The look of Southern Baptist Churches must change.”  “What is at stake is a loss of a missional focus in the church.”

– What Do We Do With Denominations and Denominational Distinctives?

– Recognize that denominations still help give guidance.

– A model of dynamic orthodoxy must be reclaimed.

– Do denominations still matter? Yes, if and only if they stay connected to Scripture and mindful of tradition.

“Let us move from handwringing to hopefulness.  May God grant to us a genuine renewal and a renewed spirit of cooperation for the good of the Church and for the glory of God.”