10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Southern Baptists

Are Southern Baptists even Southern? Why don’t they baptize babies? And more.

Russell Moore is the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of the forthcoming Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel. We asked him to list 10 things he wishes people knew about Southern Baptists.

1. Westboro Baptist Church isn’t one of us.

Sometimes people assume when they see Westboro Baptist Church with its hateful signs, picketing, and protesting that this church is one of ours. It isn’t. As a matter of fact, Westboro pickets us, too, most years. They reject what we believe is the core of our belief — that the gospel is offered to all persons — and instead they believe that God delights in condemnation and damnation.

We are a missionary people, who want to see everyone — including people who hate us — reconciled to God through the gospel. That’s why, when I have reason to write about the group, I usually do so with the Westboro Baptist (sic) Church (sic). If I lived in a place called “Westboro,” I would probably add a third sic.

 2. We emphasize hellfire and brimstone, but probably not how you think.

Southern Baptists — like all orthodox Christians — believe in a coming Day of Judgment. Like Jesus and John the Baptist, we warn people of the eternal consequences of their spiritual decisions. But some think that Southern Baptists think the judgment of God is reserved for people who don’t believe or behave like we do. That’s far from true.

One of the first things we learn as children is that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). That includes us, and when we speak of “sinners,” we are speaking about all human beings (except for One notable exception).

3. We are defined by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is good news.

We share our faith with our neighbors and send missionaries all over the world because we believe that God has made a way for sinful humanity to be reconciled to God. We believe Jesus took on our humanity, died under the curse we incurred with our sin, was raised from the dead, and stands now as our High Priest before the throne of God.

Our lives are hidden in Christ, so that his cross is our cross, his life is our life. We are forgiven of sin, but this is not just some sort of amnesty for the afterlife. In Christ, God has adopted us as his children, and we are named “joint heirs” with Jesus so that his future is our future — and it is more than we could even imagine right now.

This sort of peace with God is offered to anyone, no matter who that person is or what he or she has done, on the condition of repentance from sin and faith in Christ. When we’re not as joyful as we ought to be, it’s because we need to be reminded of how good it is to be those who were lost and are now found.

This commitment to the gospel is why Southern Baptists, through their International Mission Board, support 4,734 international missionaries around the world and why the North American Mission Board supports 5,611 missionaries, not to mention 3,600 Southern Baptist chaplains who serve in the U.S. military.

It’s why when there’s a disaster — whether it’s Hurricane Sandy or the Nepal earthquake or a famine in Africa — Southern Baptists are among the first in and the last out to minister to those affected.

4. Southern Baptists are committed to a believers’ church.

We don’t baptize babies because we believe that people come into the Body of Christ not by physical birth but by a new birth that takes place when one is joined to Christ in repentance and faith. Baptism, for us, is a sign of our identification with Jesus in death, burial, and resurrection.

That has implications for how we admit members to our churches — only those who profess personal faith in Christ and who follow him in baptism and in how we hold one another accountable in our churches to live lives that reflect the lordship of Christ.

5. We don’t agree on everything, but we’re more united than you might think.

Many think Baptists are always fighting, and there’s some truth to that. We were birthed, after all, in dissent from established churches and we’ve lived through all sorts of controversies, so there’s a fighting side to us.

That said, Southern Baptists are unified around a common theology. We believe, for instance, that the Bible is completely true and is the Word of God. Our theological consensus is found in our Baptist Faith and Message statement.

There are lots of other secondary issues where Baptists happily agree to disagree. We all believe in the Second Coming of Jesus, but we don’t all see eye-to-eye on the timing of the Rapture, and so forth. We all believe in both the sovereignty of God and in the responsibility of human beings, but we don’t all agree on how those two fit together.

We gladly join together across such differences to affirm primary doctrines together and to work together through our funding mechanism (we call it the “Cooperative Program”) to send missionaries, plant churches, and train future leaders.

6. Lots of us aren’t “Southern.”

The name “Southern Baptist Convention” can confuse people who assume that this means we are limited to the states below the Mason-Dixon line. That was true at our founding, but isn’t true at all now. There are Southern Baptist churches in all 50 states. That’s why you might be surprised to meet a Southern Baptist from Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine who doesn’t say y’all or like sweet tea.

Our geographical diversity had led us several times to consider changing our name, but we decided against it because the name “Southern Baptist” has “brand identification” in American life, distinguishing us from some other groups.

Think of it the way you would an airline. Southwest doesn’t just take you to Arizona or New Mexico, and Delta doesn’t just take you to Louisiana or Mississippi. The name tells you about a history, and doesn’t describe boundaries.

7. There are some things in our past we’re ashamed of.

When I say that we are all sinners, I don’t just mean that all of us individually have a past. Sin expresses itself through structures and systems, too — and the SBC is not exempt from that.

The SBC was founded over the issue of human slavery — precisely over the question of whether slaveholders would be appointed as missionaries. It’s not just that the SBC was on the wrong side of the issue on that, we were on the wrong side of the Bible, on the wrong side of the gospel, on the wrong side of Jesus.

Some brave Christians — some Southern Baptist, many not — prevailed by showing that white supremacy is directly contradictory to what Southern Baptists profess to believe, that all persons are made in the image of God and that the gospel reconciles us to God and with one another.

8. We’re more ethnically diverse than you might think.

Among the fastest growing demographics in the Southern Baptist life are African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American congregations. The most vibrant of our churches often include many languages and ethnic groups.

Though positive steps have happened, it’s not good enough for many of us, since we believe the church is designed to be a preview of the coming kingdom of God, a kingdom that is made up of those from every tribe, tongue, nation, and language. Most of the Body of Christ, on earth as well is in heaven, isn’t white and has never spoken English.

We celebrate our growing diversity, including seminary programs intentionally training the next generation of ethnic minority leadership, even as we note that we have far yet to go. With every year that passes, we have more and more salsa at our church potlucks, and we like it that way.

9. We believe in religious liberty for everyone, not just ourselves.

Baptists began as a persecuted people, hunted from our homes in England and later colonial America because of our convictions. Many of our heroes were in prison for preaching the gospel.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is there because of the persistent agitation of those such as Virginia Baptist preacher John Leland, who demanded full religious liberty for everyone — believers and unbelievers.

Because of what we believe about the gospel, we don’t think a state-coerced faith is a genuine faith. And because we believe that each person must give an account, personally, before the Judgment Seat of Christ, we don’t support any king, dictator, legislature, or bureaucrat inhibiting anyone’s free exercise of religion. Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s — and the conscience doesn’t belong to Caesar.

10. Authority goes to autonomous churches governed by Christ, not a hierarchy.

Some churches and denominations have decisions made at the top — by bishops or other leaders — and these decisions filter down to the churches. Our decisions go the other way. We think every church — no matter where or what its size — is governed by Jesus through his Word and by his gifts and is free from dictation by any other church or by some religious bureaucracy.

This commitment to what we call “the autonomy of the local church” shows up even in our annual meeting. Any “messenger” — someone sent from our churches — can make any motion or come to a microphone and say anything. This leads to unpredictability because our meetings aren’t scripted and choreographed in some “headquarters.”

That’s why the SBC was able to turn around from its direction toward theological liberalism in the 1970s and 1980s toward orthodox, evangelical conviction. The people had the final say.

Image courtesy of Paul W. Lee.

Russell D. Moore
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  • http://www.lysaundrajanee.com/ LC

    Very well said!

  • Lewis Oneal

    Those of us from the south are still trying to convince the rest that there is no Tea apart from ice cold sweetened kind 😉 Great read though as always Dr. Moore

    • Robert

      Which is one example of why obesity, heart disease and waddling is more frequent in the south- sugar. Christians need to learn that “gluttony” is still a sin.

      • Lewis Oneal

        For the record I was merely attempting to make a joke. I understand the concern you have, and while I share it, sugar is not the issue, but rather the lack of self-control precisely because it is listed among the fruit of the Spirit. You seem to hint at that with the example of gluttony but obscure it with the direct ‘attack’ on sugar. Sorry for the late response, also you don’t need to worry about responding unless you feel led to, I don’t check disqus frequently.

  • Stacey McCully

    As a Jesus follower who came from the Catholic Church upbringing, this is great information. I chose the Southern Baptist church solely for the way it follows Jesus and the truth of the Bible, but I have no idea of the history of it or many of the other Protestant denominations. Would there be a book you would recommend on that subject? Thank you in advance!

    • Randy Galat

      read the trail of blood,it is online and very informative!

      • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

        I’m sorry, with respect, I must say the “Trail of Blood” is not at all historically reliable.

    • Richard Burks

      Traditions of Men versus the Word of God by Alvin Jennings.

    • Kharl Saqs

      Read By His Grace and for His Glory by Nettles. It will give you a reliable history of the SBC.

    • sofie foster

      Volumes I and II. A History of Christianity. – Reformation to the Present – by Kenneth Scott Latourette. PRINCE PRESS is
      The best explanations we have found as SB. Many histories are not reliable while others are biased and incorrect. Read both volumes. You’ll want the whole picture.

    • bdlaacmm

      I would strongly recommend When the Church was Young by Marcellino D’Ambrosio. It is that rare combination of being packed with information yet still being a real page turner – hard to put down.

  • stevie1910

    Just one question on religious liberty, does the SBC still have the Trail of Blood in the archives. A little booklet everone can benefit from.

    • Randy Galat

      the trail of blood can be found online,i encountered it in an american baptist church…

      • stevie1910

        Good I still have my copy that I received many years ago. It would be nice though. to republish the booklet

    • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

      I hope not, except as an example of bad historical theology.

    • Bruce Chowning

      I have read the pamphlet and have seen it used to support other “denominations’ and their claims to not be “protestant.” Baptists do not have the exclusive use of this very bad piece of historic propaganda.

  • SolontheWise

    All members of the body of Christ should be believing and sharing the evangel of the grace given by Christ to Paul for us, not denominational doctrine. At the great white throne all unrepentant evil-doers are punished in accord with their acts, and then reenter the death state – a state of unconsciousness. Then, at the end of the eons, or ages, God conciliates ALL to Himself through the blood of Christ. That’s when EVERY knee shall bow, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
    See “A Truer God: The Supreme Spirit of Light and Love in the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.”

    • Randy Galat

      sounds fishy to me solon the misinformed!

    • Woah

      I’m always wary of the religious-speak that comes with CAPITAL letters every THIRD or so WORD. Oh, and terrible theology.

  • Ruth Ann Cook

    Oh, yes-this was good. I love our denomination-except for LIFEWAY giving away Glorieta for one dollar, without an SBC vote; and now there’s a list of (advertised) secular bike races going on now and even beer-drinking! I so wish our people could have had a voice in this; as power is often still help at the corporate “top.” We need to stay vigilant and faithful to the good things which define us.

    • Woah

      Beer-drinking is not wrong, nor is it a sin. And when the church can have the secular peek into the sacred, wonderful things happen. Let’s not kid ourselves and think that cutting off from the world completely is what Jesus wanted.

      • Andy

        “Beer-drinking is not wrong, nor is it a sin.” That depends on the conviction of the individual believer and the position(s) of leadership that they may hold. There are valid points on both sides of this argument. I have argued against drinking for decades but have come to the conviction that sin is not only about what is specifically written down in Scripture but about what makes God happy.
        I believe drinking is a sin for me because of the position that I hold as a Student Pastor, the influence that I have with teenagers, and my reputation in the community and how it MAY “cause a brother to stumble.”
        I do not teach that alcohol is a sin but that underage drinking is a sin due to it being illegal and therefore violates God’s command to honor and submit to the authority He has placed over us.
        Let us be very careful about reading into Scripture what is not there; specifically whether something is a “sin” or not when Scripture does not clarify either position except in specific circumstances and situations. Let’s remember that we are to teach the Word of God and not our own viewpoint or opinion.
        Alcohol is irrelevant in the grand scheme of salvation by grace through faith and the sovereignty of God and responsibility of man.
        Obedience is about glorifying God and making Him happy not about being able to drink alcohol (which, in my viewpoint, is unwise) or not.

      • Ruth Ann Cook

        Thanks for your thoughts. Southern Baptists were told the new camp would be “religious” and not secular; so I think at issue is the statement regarding that, religious exemptions and protections under the law, etc. I prefer not to take a secular peek at the sacred, in the area of beer.

  • bakabomb

    The author recognizes that the SBC initially came down on the wrong side of the truth in the slavery issue back in the day, and therefore it should be obvious that even today’s more enlightened SBC doesn’t necessarily have a hammerlock on the truth in every instance — any more than any other denomination does. It’s just not possible to say that any denomination’s theological errors and misinterpretations are fully behind them now in 2015. Don’t forget all the bulletproof Bible exegeses back then that “fully justified” slavery. Pride goeth before a fall, doesn’t that scripture still ring true?

    Our Creator’s house has many mansions; if it were not so, would Jesus have told us that? I’d never begrudge you your mansion, and I’d like to think you’d treat me — and every other Christian — the same way. We’re not here to judge one another, are we.

    • Woah

      I’m not in the SBC, but I’ve got to defend here. No one’s judging. He acknowledged a past mistake and said the denomination has moved on. I’m not sure where you got the “judge” part from.

      • vhistory

        A “past mistake”? That’s it? bakabomb has a good point. If they were wrong about slavery in the 19th century while professing that the Bible supported their belief, they just might be wrong about a few things today. Which things? I think you could find a lot of opinions, but that’s not the point here. The point is that they were so certain they were right about slavery and condemned other points of view and yes, judged others as having incorrect beliefs, and then, oops, we didn’t get that quite right at first — but we’re really, really sure about everything else we say, so we re-wrote this non-creed Creed a few times, and now we’re even more sure it’s right, and maybe you don’t like it, but trust us, if it does turn out that there’s anything wrong with it, we’ll figure it out in the next 100 years or so, and we will then say we’re sorry again (very softly, like we did on the slavery issue so that when it came to the civil rights movement we could jump up and support people who didn’t want change in their so obviously racist society).

        Yes, I’m from the South, am still a Southern Baptist because I believe in the (however increasingly rejected) idea of the priesthood of all believers, the still somewhat allowed viewpoint that I don’t have to follow a creed, sort of exemplified, ironically enough, by the fact that the the SBC won’t call the “Baptist Faith and Message” a “creed” because it’s not binding on anyone (except the people they force to sign it in order to get funding for their work).

        I really shouldn’t have to present my “credentials” to make these points, but the reaction is typically that someone who writes something people don’t want to hear doesn’t really understand the situation, issues, etc because s/he isn’t one of “us.” And that’s where you have it really, the more you define yourselves as “us,” the more those who disagree with you become “other” and easy to dismiss because they didn’t just walk the line like a whole lot of commentators here. But, I am a Baptist, a practicing Christian, and I don’t agree with a lot of what is said here in the article or in the comments. What can you do with that? Realize that you really don’t have the jump on salvation, examine what you believe and find something that you are pretty sure is wrong or that makes you uncomfortable and explore it and investigate it on your own; don’t just say, oh, that article didn’t have any judgment in it, of course it did; find it. Ask yourself why the slavery issue was referred to with the mild language of “past mistake.” I’m not trying to pick on anyone in particular, just to use examples you can find right here. It’s okay to follow the leader when the leader is actually Jesus, but there wouldn’t be so many arguments within the SBC if everyone had come to the exact same interpretation, and they wouldn’t have to compromise to make decisions on doctrine.

        • Woah

          Sure, they might be mistaken. But seriously, the judgment that is being alluded to isn’t clear. Someone can make a case for it, but it’s a stretch. Again, you’re going off the depend on something that I didn’t say. But, fair enough. Keep arguing, my good sir!

    • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

      You are right, and I’m so glad this article did none of that.

  • Brian Schaefer

    The Lord’s Supper, Baptism, and Ice Cold Sweet Tea. Oh, and Weds night Potluck. These are essentials.

  • Joe Skaug

    I agree with every statement written by Dr. Moore.

  • Brian Mattey

    so please tell me the difference between non-domanational and baptist Cuz im a non-domanational christian and have trouble with some of the baptist pastors or just singing hymns without any drums or such… I guess a new age kind of person does that sound right or just werid.. or just a personal feeling and or thought

    • stevie1910

      Keep looking you will find the church that suits your needs be a baptist or some other denomination

    • DanandHolly Dehner

      I have seen all kinds of variations within the many SBC churches I have attended! Some are very traditional and would NEVER allow a drum set in the service while others rarely sing the traditional hymns! Personally I like a little of both! 😉

    • Jennifer

      Tim Hawkins says non-denominational churches are simply Baptist churches with better websites. In many respects, he is spot on! The beliefs and practices usually vary little between the two.

    • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

      Some Non-denominational churches are radically different from Southern Baptists, some are not. “BIble” churches who come from a conservative Theological viewpoint are often very similar as are some Charismatic churches. However some Charismatic churches are very, very different in beliefs and in practices. The style of music a church uses is not a very good basis to decide whether a church is a Bible believing church or not. You need to go deeper into what they believe.

  • Joslyn Bloodworth

    #10 is exactly why I’m not a member anymore. The hierarchy was set up in Acts for a good reason and is a Biblical model for any denomination. I’ve seen a lot of corruption and politics in the hierarchy system, but there is something even more dangerous than big egos causing issues in SB churches. A single pastor can hijack a church into believing a lot of really wrong things and can take an entire congregation astray without them ever realizing it. There is no one he answers to, so there is no one to stop him. I’ve seen it happen and a good church can go bad really fast. When there is no requirements for someone to become a messenger, any old Joe with no Biblical or theological training can speak for a church. This is just a scary slippery slope in which we are giving the task of leadership to the best liked, or the most active member instead of the most qualified person. Too much of church history and biblical teachings get set aside without the many other members of a hierarchy ready to stand up and stop a church from going the wrong way and I’ve seen it happen too many times.

    • DanandHolly Dehner

      “There is no one he answers to, so there is no one to stop him.” The pastor answers to #1 – Jesus Christ, and #2 – the congregation he is called to lead. IF the congregation does not take their responsibility seriously and hold him to the standards of Scripture then, yes, a pastor can lead many astray. In part that is the fault of the pastor but it is also the fault of the members of that congregation who are slack in their own responsibilities. The same applies to the comment “When there is no requirements for someone to become a messenger, any old Joe with no Biblical or theological training can speak for a church.” Again, the congregation has the responsibility to set the standards for a messenger who is to represent their congregation at the state/national meetings. In my experience that is usually what is meant by the phrase “priesthood of the believer”. Not only are believers called to relate to God as “priests” for themselves but corporately as a body of believers.

      • Joslyn Bloodworth

        Yes and all that is the problem. I’ve watched congregations cheer while a pastor steers their entire ship right over the cliff and Jesus doesn’t usually come down and stop them because of free will and because the Acts church set up a really great system to keep that from happening. It’s the hierarchy system that has been using for 2,000 years.

        You are also not using priesthood of all believers accurately. It is the idea that we are all called to be witnesses for Christ. Everyone isn’t intended to be a priest and you’re really proving my point with the misguided theology that you are spouting. Not everyone is qualified to make policy, especially theological policy. Not everyone has the education and study time done. That is why we have pastors and deacons/lay leaders. These are people who have done serious study in a way that the average believer doesn’t have time for. That is a good thing.

        • DanandHolly Dehner

          Yes, we are called to be witnesses for Christ. I never meant to imply otherwise. But that is not all of the priestly duties! Part of the priests duty was to represent the people before God (and himself as part of the congregation). Don’t forget what the Bible says in this passage. “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9 ).

          We all, as believers, are called as priests. Peter wasn’t talking to just the leadership of the church here, he was talking to the whole church. ALL believers are called as priests.

          BTW, you seem to have gotten the impression that I have little to no experience in this matter. I have been a member of SBC churches for over 40 years, went to an SBC college and an SBC seminary, so I am one of those “people who have done serious study in a way that the average believer doesn’t have time for.” I beg to differ with you on this point. EVERY believer has a responsibility to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 HCSB

          Again, in this passage, although it was addressed directly to Timothy, Paul was not just talking to him but to every believer.

          I’m sorry that it sounds like you have had some bad/disappointing experiences in SBC churches. In 40+ years so have I! Yes, many times there were problems becasue someone (sometimes a pastor or deacon or other “leader” in the church) got the idea that they were “special” and more qualified than anyone else to the point that their leadership was not to be questioned , etc. Where does the fault lie in these cases? Most lies with the person “in charge”. But much of the fault lies with the people of the congregation not taking their own responsibilities seriously enough. Putting the pastor (deacon/lay leader, etc) on a pedestal the way you imply is exactly what leads to the abuse of that power.

          Sorry for going on so long. Here is a link to an article that has some good info about “priesthood of the believer”.

          God Bless! 😉

          • Joslyn Bloodworth

            You’re still using the phrase “priesthood of all believers” completely wrong. It was referring to the the Priesthood of Melchizedek, not the Levites. We are priests in that we are anointed children of God, not that we all take on every priestly duty. The common man isn’t meant to bless the Lord’s Table and they aren’t to baptize people. Not everyone should be able to be a pastor or elder. These things are for the pastors, not all members of the church. That passage is not asking us to do any of the duties of a Levi Priest and the fact that you have been to Seminary makes how wrong you are just sad and even more reason not to ever be a member of the SB again. Every believer has the responsibility for their understanding of scripture. Not everyone has the time to know it the way a well educated person has. To truly understand scripture takes far more study and in depth learning than any person with a normal job has time for. It requires the learning of dead languages and spending years and years of dedicated study.

            I grew up in the SB for 20 years but the things I’ve seen are just the symptom. The cause is the blatant and willful ignorance of the intended structure of a united church body as set down in Acts and observed throughout church history. We are to be united and not autonomous single churches. It is a recipe for abuse and the real issue, wrong doctrine and theology, like that which you are using. You didn’t actually leave a link by the way.

          • DanandHolly Dehner

            One more thing: If I am found to be as wrong as you seem to think I am I would stand to be corrected. But please do not stoop to insulting my intellegence again. I am doing quite a bit of reading on the subject as a result of this conversation and so far I haven’t found anything to contradict in any significant way what I said before. Do you have any resources that you would suggest I consider in my search?

          • Joslyn Bloodworth

            Well I wrote a great post to this but apparently I’ve been censored by the page.

          • DanandHolly Dehner

            Sorry to hear that.

    • Andy

      I can understand you thinking on this. I have been in the Baptist church for over 45 years and have seen sinful leadership and abuse destroy churches. However, I am still a proponent of autonomous churches because even leaders such as bishops and the pope can be deceiving and, at that point, who do they answer to? I would rather have a single autonomous church be led astray by a deceiving pastor than an entire denomination be led astray such as what is happening in several of our denominations on the United States. So, if I had to choose between a pastor who is a false teacher and a denominational leader than I would choose the pastor.

      • Joslyn Bloodworth

        That is why the Catholic method doesn’t work very well either. Think of Catholics as the Royal family ruling old time England and then churches like the UMC run more like Congress running old time America. There are a lot of checks and balances that do keep people from getting to crazy. In Acts, they set up the leadership much like the Jewish priests. If an issue became to complicated for a single church they could ask for a few people from the leadership to be sent to them and if a church started doing crazy things that weren’t right, someone could be sent to put them back on the path. That’s what most of the letters of Paul are about. Without some kind of higher counsel, it is so easy for a church to be led astray.

    • xlthim

      But, if other member churches see a problem one particular member church, the issues can be addressed. If the member church in question (and all of its congregation) refuse to change, that church can be removed from the SBC. There is an SBC church in my town that is about to be removed due to its views on the acceptance of homosexuality.

    • Lisa Giovino

      I agree, and this is the only real problem I have with SBCs. I also believe that the only real requirement or training per se for someone to be a pastor is that of God Almighty. I believe in GOD CALLED preachers. The preachers and pastors of past years had no seminaries or theological schools to attend and were GOD LED by the HOLY SPIRIT and did better than any theological school could ever do. The sheep in the church are just that…followers, and are to be lead..by the shepherd who God gives the authority (the pastor). There are deacons, however, the church itself is supposed to be a democracy and it is supposed to be allowed to vote on any issue that comes before it.

  • Bob Rogers

    Great post. Just a footnote on #3: I’m thankful for military chaplains– my father was a U.S. Army chaplain– but chaplains also serve in prisons, hospitals, in disaster relief, etc. I am a Southern Baptist and a staff chaplain at a hospital, where I visit several thousand patients every year and have the joy of sharing the gospel with many.

    • http://thankyouvets.org/ thankyouvets

      Thank You for your service Bob Rogers!!! Thanks to all our Vets! Pray for America…. 2 Chronicles 7:14

  • Kelly Keith Dunn

    What has saddened me is the in fighting and factions. I was ordained (SBC) right about all of that began to pick up momentum. Frankly it has been embarrassing to all of my family from the Midwest where the SBC is not so common. To argue about biblical inerrancy, and the Arminian / Calvinists debate breaks my heart. One of the worst experiences I ever had was at the 1985 SBC at Dallas — it was sickening and disheartening to me. I don’t want say that the SBC has not been a force for the kingdom of God, but when you talk with some they talk as if the Christian faith revolves around the SBC. — This is my view.

    • ConservativeAmerican

      I was also at that Convention in Dallas in 1985 and it was neither sickening nor disheartening. It was the righting of a ship that had taken the wrong course. Sometimes moving something that large comes with a little “wave making” as the ship turns . Southern Baptists are simple a people of the ” Book” and that is inclusive of all who are believers who have placed their faith and trust in the Lord through the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone. Either all of the Bible is the precisely written inerrant word of God or it is untrustworthy. There can be no middle ground. As one great man of faith said during that time frame , ” They ( those who say the Bible is only partly inspired in spots) think they are inspired to spot the spots. It is all or none. As far as the Calvinism / Armemian / hybrid of each discussion goes. That isn’t arguing but a difference of opinion about it, we ,no matter which one you believe, still love each other and recognize that we who are truly believers are brothers and sisters in Christ. Salvation transcends race, denomination and nationality. It , true salvation in Christ, makes us all brothers and sisters and just like all brothers and sisters, we sometimes disagree but we still love one another…

  • Brian W.

    I would just offer that Westboro is also the name of a fine town (formally, Westborough) in Massachusetts, and is one of several ‘boroughs to informally adopt ‘boro as the spelling, so don’t be too down on the name – in fact, people have been confused and looking for the church there, not realizing it’s in Kansas.

    Also, since SB-types are supposed to embrace religious freedom, while it’s nice to see disavowing of the Westboro BC and their hateful ways, it would be nicer to see more organized support by the SB churches to support marriage equality, at least as far as the secular contract between consenting adults-version; the article admits they were wrong about Slavery, even though the Bible has passages supporting it, so it would be nice to have this social issue recognized as wrong as well. There might be room to not commit to a religious recognition of such unions, but no faith’s rules should be imposed on all who don’t believe in that faith, in a secular society, and that’s the flip side of our religious freedom. There has not been much in the way of public support of this aspect of religious freedom from the SB folks, though, to be fair, that could be a result of the lack of unified message as there’s no top-down structure.

    • Chris Brooks

      Slavery and same-sex marriage are very different issues. While the water is a bit murky with respect to slavery, the clear push of the New Testament is toward the equality of all the children of Adam, but there is nothing to suggest that sexual morality ceases to be a concern there, and there is no murkiness with respect to homosexual relationships.

    • http://brotherclarksblog.blogspot.com/ Clark E. Dunlap

      That is not likely to happen as the Bible is very clear that marriage is only bewteen a man and a woman. Any other arrangement is simply not marriage. Yes the Bible does talk about slavery. It was in no way justifying the the person-stealing, horrible arrangement that was slavery here in the USA. It dealt with it as an ancient form of economics. Hardly a good form to be sure. But the BIble in both Old and New Testaments clearly supports heterosexual marriage as the only kind. Anything else is adulterous and clearly outside God’s expressed will.

      • David Davis

        I like your reply God winked at a lot things but in the Christian faith we should do better. I am beginning to understand 1Cor 2 :14 better all the time..

    • Leslie Brown

      Brian, I agree with you that the SB was right to recognize its error on the issue of slavery. I must point out, however, that, while the Bible does contain a number of passages referring to slavery, it doesn’t actually say it is a good thing or support the institution of slavery. Rather, it tells people if you are a slave or a master, there are certain ways in which you must treat each other. The issue of “marriage equality” is a different matter. On that issue, you are unlikely to see many SB churches admitting to any wrong beliefs or standing because of the fact that the Bible very clearly states that homosexual behavior is a sin. It is no worse, nor better than any other sin such as adultery, lying, fornication or stealing, but it is a sin. I realize that it may be difficult for many members of the LGBTQ community to accept the idea that Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular can believe this and not somehow hate them or be prejudiced against them, but that is, in fact, the case. Also, for a true follower of Jesus Christ, whether one is part of a SB church or another denomination, there is no real separation of “religion” and the rest of one’s life, so their decisions and actions should always be influenced by and a reflecting of their beliefs.

  • David Jordan

    #10: the autonomy of the local church. Congregational polity is probably the thing I miss the least since leaving Southern Baptist pastoral ministry. While always mindful of my roots and thankful for all the SBC did for me as I learned how to pastor a church, I feel tremendously blessed to have left behind a system of church governance that is spectacularly flawed at best, and potentially un-biblical at worst. I must have witnessed countless disputes and church splits during my tenure in the SBC, including but not limited to: custodial responsibilities, acceptable Bible translations, and the always contentious carpet color. In my church today I find myself thanking God regularly for a church polity that follows the biblical model for elder-led congregations. Praise God for the evangelical fervor of Southern Baptists, but praise God again for deliverance from congregational polity.

  • compguy83

    “9. We believe in religious liberty for everyone, not just ourselves.”

    Ahaha. Good one. Man, I needed that laugh this morning.

    • Matt

      went to a baptist school, and what I learned about other religions and even other churches was that they were all liars and not to be trusted, even though they believed the same thing basically. Crazy. I’m glad I’m no longer associated with the ‘baptist’ church.

  • Paul David Larrimore

    As a Southern Baptist pastor in Virginia I can tell you the Southern Baptist Convention has changed and is still evolving into a convention like it never was. I was saved and began ministry in the SBC as a young man and left during it’s flagrant liberal leanings and entered the Independent ministry for many years before returning to the SBC to find it was not the SBC I grew up in. While there is still for the most part autonomy in the local churches, for now, it is a slow quiet growing away from that full autonomy since the conservative resurgence. Yes the conservative resurgence is good, but there are some things that have come along with it that some are not aware of and do not realize is slowly creeping into the churches through the influence of the pastor’s from the strongly conservative leadership on some state levels. For example the return of pastoral authority and the deacons to not being governors of a church and over the pastor to servant’s with the pastor being in full control over decisions with the exception of congregational involvement dealing with money disbursement’s. This is an INDEPENDENT BAPTIST trait that is being brought in by many fundamentalist’s that have and are coming into the convention. I BELIEVE THIS IS BIBLICAL AND GOOD, though historically the deacon were the governing body I the local SBC church. Some of the older churches still adhere to that which is why they keep changing pastor’s so often cause the newer pastor’s are being taught the new way and newer churches being planted are being set up that way or with a board of elders with the pastor being the lead elder. THIS IS SOMETHING YOU WILL NOT HER FROM OUR NATIONAL LEADERS THAT IS GOING ON BUT IS A REALITY. I to feel however having been in both, that the so called hierchy system is BIBLICAL!! No where in scripture do you find a pastor being voted on by the people. The Elders/pastor’s were always appointed to a church by the Apostle Paul and then those he appointed under him to appoint. There is good and bad with both systems due to fallible men running them, but it is in scripture where the democratic process is not. Plus this get’s rid of the family run church that wants to oust a pastor for whatever reason on a whim or because they cannot control him. This is the new SBC that as they start new churches as the older ones close or adapt to the unspoken change, will change the face of the SBC.

    • Bruce Chowning

      Liberal is an interesting word. Would you care to define this term for us? Most often I have found that those with independent and fundamentalist leanings tend to use that term to describe anyone who doesn’t agree with them on every theological issues. How accurate is that statement to you?

    • Faith Smith

      Apostle Paul is gone. Please explain who “appoints” pastors now? Who “appointed” you? Were you not hired by a congregation as a leader, not a dictator? This appears to be no more than a rant by a person who wants total, ungoverned control of a congregation. I might point out that in churches with hierarchical control, a congregation can, and often successfully does, petition the removal of a minister or priest.

      • Paul David Larrimore

        My point exactly you have made in your final statement. Those who do not except the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God in it’s literal interpretation that conservatives do will take your position. The SBC and the SBCV have turned totally toward this position in the 1980’s and left the nominal middle of the road position they held for so long. I was a fundamentalist for years before returning to the SBC after hearing about and understanding the conservative resurgence. And part of that is churches run by pastoral authority. Yes it comes from the independent circles, but that is who entered the SBC in the 80’s and have turned the denomination around. Paul is held in highest esteem in these churches as the apostle to the gentiles of which we com from. We believe that while in the desert for 3 years he was personally instructed by Christ through the Holy Spirit on the further parts of the scripture which he then wrote and preached. You will not hear that in liberal/moderate churches or so called schools of higher thought that just teach religion and not the God breathed scriptures. Jesus did not man he was building the church on Peter or anything Peter said except his profession of faith that Christ was the Messiah. As far as appointments, centuries the clergy were appointed. I have been in both types of denominations and it is still by far the best, and it is only on extreme situations do churches rarely have any say in petitioning removal of a pastor. While congregational churches still do not appoint, this is beginning to change in a number of other Baptist denominations as well as the COG and AOG and many of the reformed denominations now are turning that way as well as Methodist’s, and Episcopal churches, and Apostolic denominations. The SBC is going in that direction with the new minister being taught to start the new churches with elder boards of which the pastor is the lead elder. The older churches will feel this as years go on and the younger preachers are the only ones left to fill the pulpits.
        The regional Missionaries are already beginning to act in this capacity, slowly when they funnel resume’s that THEY only approve of for a particular church committee to look at. They tell us when seeking for a church which church we are a good fit for after they study the condition and past history of the church and only then recommend the resume or the church to the pastor to send a resume to or they do it.
        There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that the normal church member does not know in denominational working’s which they are not privy to as the pastor’s are. As to the family church style. I have recently set in a number of meetings where young pastor’s have been taught how to deal with them and the problems of family run church. I do not agree with what I have heard on how to slowly change these churches. But I do agree that in many way’s that is why they never grow and stay small and eventually die off over years.
        The church, does not change or adapt to the cultural changes around it but continues to preach the old time Gospel that you MUST have a BORN AGAIN experience to be saved and that alone will change a person and that does not change with the culture nor the call to holy living. Oh and to your comment about dictatorship some people se pastoral authority as that who have never been raised under it and have not been taught the respect and authority of the local church pastor.
        I hope you understand the intent of my instruction and unlike part’s of your statement’s not given outside of Christian love to one who is understandably misinformed on evangelical matters. You may have had studies in a college on religion, but that was man made religion and liberal thought not the Bible instruction that conservatives have. My words to others of the SBC background such as I came from, is if they cannot accept the new trends the SBC is beginning to enforce then they need to consider leaving the SBC. I doubt it will ever return to it’s moderate/liberal leanings as it was in when I was growing up in the SBC and left it due to those leaning and teachings.

  • Allison Duddleston

    I was raised in a southern baptist household and attended a southern baptist church in my youth and throughout my early adulthood. While some of your points are dead on, I have trouble with southern baptists/Christians.
    In my twenties I went through one of the hardest times of my life. The people of the church that claimed to support those who had “issues” was the same group of individuals who mercilessly judged me and looked down on me as if I were a leper. I found more support and love in those who had no religion. Later in life, I decided to give the church another go, being that I was taught we should surround ourselves with like minded individuals. I joined the choir, showed up faithfully every Sunday and throughly respected our pastor. Wasn’t until I was about to become a member that I found the church wasn’t what it was cracked up to be. The pastor was involved sexually- while married- with the choir directors cousin among many, many other things. I stopped attending immediately. Shortly after, the church fell apart.
    I now have no faith in any church or people who call themselves Southern Baptists. My relationship with God is personal and my own and I don’t feel in this day and age that the church is a relevant source of companionship. I understand that all church’s have their problems and that people are sinners no matter what their affiliation but, for me the church has always been a source of hurt, extreme judgement and self righteousness.
    So, talk up southern baptists all you want but, the truth is while they may not be directly associated with the likes of Westboro, most are just as bad.

    • Bruce Chowning

      As a life long Southern Baptist I tend to agree with you. I have no faith in any church or people who call themselves So. Baptists. I would have to add more to that. I have no faith in churches or people to call themselves Christian of any kind. Why? Because my faith is in Jesus not the church….not those who possess faith. Churches and people have let me down so many times I can’t number them all. I still attend. I still worship. I still trust Jesus Christ. If my faith depended upon those who call themselves Christian, I would not with to be named among them. I’m happy to say that I am a Christian, not by my beliefs but by Jesus. He did it. He is worthy to be worshiped. I stay Baptist because they tend to preach what Jesus preached. Yes, there are tons of problems, and I am one of them. If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive those who let me down.

      • Robert

        Churches are hospitals for sick people, like you and me. Welcome to reality.

    • Robert

      Don’t view all churches like the Southern Baptists. I grew up in it, president of the BSU in college, finally realized they have so many theologically wrong views it’s unreal. The church I grew up in was more of a country club. Nondenominational is the growth trend now. Keep searching, keep the faith.

  • Bruce Chowning

    “We believe, for instance, that the Bible is completely true and is the Word of God.” Really? Interesting. As a life long, seminary trained Southern Baptist I can’t say we agree on this at all. Not even the bible agrees with this statement. Of course I’m focusing on the last part of the statement. John 1:1 teaches us that the Word was with God and IS God. Verse 14 says that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Thus, according to scripture, Jesus is the Word of God, and not the bible. Jesus is the Word OF God. The bible is the word FROM God. The bible didn’t give its life for me, Jesus did.

    • Robert

      That’s quite legalistic of you but thanks for your rant. No wonder some shy away from organized religion!

      • Bruce Chowning

        I’m sorry you think this was a rant. It is just a nice calm disagreement on one point. Dr Moore will understand this position. I’m simply pointing out that not all Baptists agree on this issue. Which should come at no surprise to anyone. Do you really think some folks will shy away from membership in an established denomination because some folks disagree on some theological issues? I will admit that I don’t understand this. Common sense tells us that no two people can agree on all things all the time. Do these same people shy away from marriage? From being a sports fan? From organized schools? Very interesting.

  • Gary Ban

    It is time for the SBC to be just as ashamed of its history of homophobia as it is of its history of racism. The exegesis behind both is antithetical to the Gospel. Until the SBC repents of both it should not be taken seriously when it talks about the Gospel being for all.

  • bakabomb

    This article, being intended for a diverse audience already interested in faith and religion, is intentionally quite anodyne, written with an eye toward ecumenism and therefore deliberately intended not to annoy anyone by emphasizing doctrinal differences. In this, the Rev. Dr. Moore largely succeeds.

    But now today I see he’s written a piece for the Washington Post and its broad readership, “Why the church should neither cave nor panic about the decision on gay marriage”. (This site doesn’t seem to like links, therefore I’m providing the article’s title so that you can find it on the WaPo site where at this moment, it’s on the right-hand sidebar of the main page.)

    In this piece, he has the audacity — nay, the presumption — no, the outright effrontery to claim to speak for “The Church”, stating that “The Church” will not be bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling. Sorry, sir, but there is no such entity as “The Church” on behalf of which you’re qualified and entitled to speak. There are many Christian denominations, and some of them have not just accepted this decision, but approve of it wholeheartedly and have acted long before it was promulgated. Our church is one such. We have a married gay pastor and have performed a number of same-sex weddings already. Most emphatically, sir, you do not speak for us!

    Also, please don’t lump us into “The Church” that believes “a previously dead man … will show up in the Eastern skies on a horse.” The SBC may take this as literally as it wishes, but nobody else need do so. We certainly don’t.

    Jesus rode through the dirty streets of Roman-occupied Jerusalem on a donkey to the fulfillment of his mission. That’s plenty good enough for us. You’re welcome to the apocalyptic fireworks. Our doctrine and our faith don’t require them. Neither does our salvation. Our mission, as laid out for us in passages such as Isaiah 1:17, Micah 6:8 and James 1:27, is plenty enough in itself to occupy each and all of us for a lifetime. For us, that includes celebrating the love of two individuals — irrespective of gender — and binding them with a threefold cord in Holy Matrimony.

    I could add further examples of the Rev. Dr. Moore’s lack of humility in claiming to speak for “The Church”, but time and space prevent it. So I’ll just repeat: Do not presume to present yourself to the public as speaking on our behalf, sir. You don’t represent “Our Church”, and quite likely you don’t even represent the majority of modern Christians.

    In keeping with the “10 things I wish…” theme of this OnFaith article, I’ll playfully title this “1 Thing I Wish Everyone Knew About the Rev. Dr. Moore”. And I urge the reader to go to the Washington Post website and read the article there. You’ll come away with a fuller measure of the man, and I daresay your impression of him will be a much more accurate one.

    • Sam

      I doubt he would find your church to be part of the Church…

      • Herb Mearing

        I concur with Sam. I find it difficult to believe that anyone can engage in unrepentant sin and truly be a Christian. If the building attendants approve of the situation I question where their heart is as well. Homosexuality is the result of rebellion against God (see Romans 1)

        • Sam

          That’s not what I said.

  • Wyrt Wicce

    Wow, I wish someone would tell my family these things. They seem to be mistaken on points #2 and #9, especially.

  • Terry Austin

    I pastor in a denominational church, we have a polity and we have a yearly convention. We can not be defined by the above and you walk into one of “our” churches and it look or sound per say like the last one you visited. My hope is we take people from caring less what “name” is on the sign and believing more in the Name we preach! And that through personal decision their name would be added to the Lamb’s Book of Life. Most would say of course that is our vision, yet we champion and strive to define the name on the sign and which name inside get’s the credit. Jesus came that we might have life and life more abundantly (full). I pray we as followers of Christ do not conform to this world, but let’s not set up traditions of our own and validate those above the Way ascribed in the Bible or by Jesus and those who followed Him. There is, those in Christ and unbeliever. And as for the unbeliever we contend that they might come out of the darkness, as we were once in darkness, and into His marvelous light.

  • Robert

    I grew up Southern Baptist, until I became informed on the history and incorrect beliefs on “once-saved-always-saved”, a “tribulation” etc. Nothing was written about any tribulation until the 1800’s (ever, never) and the Baptists didn’t exist until the 1800’s either. Being informed and educated, it’s a good thing. They frequently use the “Let’s scare people to Jesus” approach and “There is an AntiChrist around every corner”. They have used this approach for decades. Jesus didn’t scare people to him, they should learn from that.

  • Reta Griffith

    There’s an absence of Scriptures supporting the basis of what is mentioned here. When I see Bible quotes, when I read more than one Scripture supporting a Bible concept, I recognize the ring of truth as being the word of God… not the word of Man. Nehemiah 8:8, James 1:5, 1Timothy 4:15…. and Acts 8:30,3 – Joshua 1:8, then consider what Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 3:12 -16. If so then you have found God.

  • Matt

    #11, we’ll tell you what you want to hear to your face, and then talk about you behind your back.
    #12, we really think that if you’re not a fundamentalist, you’re a second class ‘merican., after all Jesus did come from the USA didn’t he?

  • Pro Print Ct

    So if a child is born to Muslim parents, and they convert to Christianity, what becomes of the child? Is the child not part of the family of God? Do the child not get benefits of children of God? Why then do you muddy the waters with baby “dedications”? If you really believe it, why only go half way?