The Slippery Slope Southern Baptists Need Beware

Leading with joy means leading by what God commands rather than tickling the itching ears of the masses (see 2 Timothy 4:2-5). Every denomination and organization comes to proverbial forks in the road as to which direction they will take.

As a lifelong Southern Baptist, many of the disputes that have arisen are from tribalism. Any comment that cuts against the established grain is met with vitriolic ad hominems rather than having a conversation regarding the particular issues at hand.  Whether it’s the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate, the comments Russell Moore made regarding the words and actions of then-presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, or a 1001 other debates that have arisen, all seem to stem from a notion of “That’s not who Baptists are.”

An example will help.

One time, someone wrote in to a Baptist newspaper that the advocacy of elders in Baptist churches was, well, un-Baptistic, even as a case could be made from Scripture. I was floored. I basically responded, “If we start looking at what’s Baptistic rather than what’s in the Bible to see what’s right, we’re in trouble.”  I still feel that way.  We are people of the Book, not people writing our own ‘book’ of unwritten codes and laws that may or may not be supported by Scripture.

How many pastors struggle week-in and week-out trying to preach the Bible, and find out the difficulty when it comes up against long-held traditions that have pervaded unhindered and unquestioned in many-a church’s culture? Many times, pastors find this out by accident only after preaching something from Scripture that exposed and ran counter to a culture a church had unknowingly developed?

Could this be exposing an underlying problem within the SBC?  We can talk about the Calvinism vs Arminianism divide all we want, or how a Baptist leader questioned the actions of a candidate, etc., but I believe there’s a bigger divide that needs addressing: mandates of the majority vs the mandates of Scripture.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that we have in evangelizing unbelievers, especially those in the cities, is the fact that the Southern Baptist Convention is seen as an arm of the Republican Party.  While we do agree on some policy markers, this has harmed the cause of Christ more than helped. For decades, Southern Baptists higher-ups have yearned for a seat at the political table. Now, we don’t have many leaders left ready to bow the knee to Caesar or wanting a place at with the academic elite. As a result, the culture looks upon the denomination at large and feels they sold out.

But we haven’t. Not all of us, at least. 

Think about this: you do not see any writer in the New Testament lamenting who is Emperor and who isn’t. Not one of them believed that the cause of Christ would be helped or hindered based upon who was on the throne in Rome.  No, the writers continued to point the church away from the seemingly inescapable circumstances of Christian oppression and persecution and toward a sovereign God who puts these men in place (Romans 13:1-7) and who takes them away (see the end of Acts 12).

Even my beloved Southern Baptists can be keeping our eyes more on what we see than don’t see, and succumb to fears with which all other citizens struggle. I get it. But when we have leaders who try from the Scriptures to show the inconsistencies of our actions, and knowing God is no respecters of persons, we must listen to the Word first and not to the unwritten code of our tribalistic machine. 

Let’s pray for our new President, but rally around our King Jesus. 




Why Church Attendance is Important–and Why You Should Stick with Your Church Through Ups and Downs

Why is church attendance important? “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Church is not about us, but it’s about glorifying Jesus, strengthening each other, encouraging each other, and having an urgency for others to know that Jesus is enough. Through highs and lows, goods and bads, we are a family. So thankful for how Christ designed it all.

But it’s not just about attendance. It’s about connecting with group of messed up sinners who have been rescued by Jesus.  No, not everyone will always get it right, but we have a Savior that we are pursuing together.

We get in trouble when it comes to church because we come in with a checklist that may or may not be from Scripture.  We live in a consumeristic society and, as such, we look to have our needs (wants) met, and once those needs (wants) aren’t met, we are tempted to look elsewhere.

I shared in staff meeting that it’s not just pastors that need to push through the five-year mark–church members need to as well. Many times, church members come into our churches for different reasons, but most transfer in from other churches. Why did they leave those other churches?  This question, answered honestly, reveals much about our expectations (good or bad) of churches. 

If your church is preaching the Word faithfully authoritatively with the crucified and risen Christ as front and center, observing the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, making the Great Commandment and Great Commission a reality by worship of Christ and the making of disciples, you should stay even if many of your personal preferences aren’t being met. 

We can do more together than we can individually.  Love Jesus. Love the local expression of His bride. 


What Should We Do With Critics?

Allow me to put a variation to a choice maxim we’d all do well to hear: “You cannot prevent critics or criticism, but you have a choice in how you deal with both.”

Anytime you do anything, not just in leadership, criticism will arise. How will you respond to it?

  1. Curl up in a ball because someone said something you didn’t like to you about something you did or said.
  2. Care less about what anyone does or says.
  3. Bring those criticisms to the throne of grace.

I suggest the third, and here’s why. Any criticism you receive (1) are for your sanctification, and (2) may (at times) have a kernel of truth to them.

If you choose the first, then you struggle with pride (and its offspring, self-pity). If you find yourself struggling with someone saying something against you or holding to a different mindset than you, and it decimates you, you need to repent. No one is above criticism, especially we who live in democracies. Whether the criticism is legitimate or not, time will tell.

If you choose the second, look in the mirror and ask why what they have to say means nothing. You may well struggle with apathy (not love, not hatred, apathy). Those in leadership, especially those who are shepherds of a flock, will find criticisms to sting to a greater or lesser degree. The more you love the person doling out the criticism, the more it will hurt.

If it’s a friend, be grateful.  Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are profuse.”  True friends have your back.  We’ve all been nailed by people we thought were friends, but were really just telling us what we wanted to hear because they were afraid to lose something (influence, employment, reputation, etc.). But the value of a true friend who ‘wounds’ is like a surgeon who cuts into us, but it’s for healing and restoration.

Take the criticisms to the throne of grace. The sting that comes may be, again, due to our own pride. Take them to Christ, who will help us process them in ways that will be beneficial to both critic and the one criticized (that’s you).

One last thing: if you’re a leader, you’ll get criticized.  “Well, I won’t do anything controversial or earthshaking.”  You’ll be criticized for not taking a stand and moving forward.  “Well, he’s moving too fast.”  You’ll be criticized for not slowing down.  It’ll happen.  Sometimes, it seems many have the spiritual gift of criticism.

Which leads me to the last, last thing: what if the criticism you receive is unfair and baseless? Sadly, this happens as well. And, even more sadly, like moths to a flame, these types of criticisms draw people in. With consequences.  When this happens, go to the person making the criticism and ask them, “Where do you base these accusations or statements of yours?” You may find that he put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5.  A quick conversation, plus an encouragement/admonishment to come directly to you, should suffice.

If this doesn’t work, Matthew 18:15-17 comes into play in taking someone else with you who knows you and can also attest to the issue at hand. This should work, but the real problem doesn’t lie with the fact that someone said something against you to others.  It’s that they said it. What kind of character/integrity issues are going on where this because acceptable? Either you or someone needs to help them trace it back to the root cause.

Go to the throne of grace, open up the Word, and look at where God is leading from Scripture and ask for wisdom how to apply what you’re learning in the Word and before the throne and see where He’s leading and what doors are opening.

Will critics come?  Sure.

But we should all long to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into your rest” (Matthew 25:23).

As long as Jesus is pleased, and we’re loving each other with all we have, we’re good.

After all, Jesus is enough.

Do You Follow Jesus Geographically, or Spiritually?

Are you a follower of Jesus geographically, or a follower spiritually?  In Luke 14:25-26a, when Jesus outlines in a rather uncomfortable fashion the cost of being His disciple, He turned to the immense crowd following him and say, “If any would come after me….” Jesus differentiated–just because they were part of the crowd doesn’t mean they are committed.  You can be a follower, but not a follower in the sense that Jesus calls for.

I just finished reading a book that should be in the laps, hearts, and minds of every Christian and church member.  “Real Christianity” by William Wilberforce. Wilberforce served in parliament for almost 40 years and was instrumental in stopping the slave trade in Britain. 

It is our good fortune that these wonderful truths have been written down for us. We recite these truths in our services, even if we hear nothing of them from the pulpit. How can these wonderful things be treated as some kind of ancient history with no bearing on the present moment? How can they be spoken of with so little emotion? We hear of them with indifference and respond to them as if by rote. We leave the church and do not think of them again until the next Sunday. The term “lukewarm,” given by Jesus Himself, aptly describes this tepid faith. I hope you do not think I am being too harsh or critical. I am only attempting to describe what I have seen. Again, remember, I am speaking here of those who claim to be Christians! How can these things, so precious to God, be treated with such coldness?” 

In John 6:60-68, approximately 20,000 people were following him. After a hard teaching on all-out commitment to Jesus, only twelve remained.  Hard teaching, most left. Disciples stayed because they saw nowhere else that had the words to eternal life. Jesus chose them.

Are you a follower, or a follower? Do you follow because of parents? Why are you here?  Does Jesus hold some fascination to you? Some sentimentality that may be a construct in your own mind, but may not fit what the Bible says?  People in Bible times followed him because he healed the sick, raised the dead, and came up with food out of nowhere. They loved things about Him. They loved His blessings, but would Jesus be enough for them if He didn’t provide those material things?

Why do you follow Jesus? Sentimentality?  Nostalgia? Pleasing the memory of someone you respect? The blessings you hope He gives? Or do you follow Him because He’s worth it, because He’s enough?  If the former, no wonder your faith may have grow cold. Pursue the resurrected and exalted Christ.  Those dying embers will come roaring to life!