7 Reasons I Became and Remain a Southern Baptist

Reason #1: Southern Baptists Trust the Authority of the Bible

If God is the creator of all things then He has knowledge that we do not have and if this Creator spoke to mankind to reveal Himself and to reveal truth, then His revelation must be trusted more than the finite understanding of man. Southern Baptists have not always trusted the Bible as their main authority. In fact, many Southern Baptist leaders and scholars questioned the inerrancy of Scripture until the conservative resurgence which started in the 1970s.  The Conservative resurgence was a drawn-out battle for the authority of the Bible and ended with the Southern Baptist Convention affirming that authority and those who were Biblically moderate and liberal withdrawing and forming their own denomination. I grew up in a very Biblically conservative church which is a part of a very Biblically liberal mainline denomination. I left that denomination because of their equivocality concerning the authority of Scripture.  I am thankful that Southern Baptists believe that “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Tim 3:16) and “The law of the LORD is perfect” (Ps 19:7).

Reason #2: Southern Baptists Are Gospel-Centered

The Christian faith is entirely dependent upon the historical life, death, resurrection, and return of King Jesus. The church exists to make disciples for Jesus (Matt 28:16-20) by serving as witnesses to His person and work (Acts 1:8). Southern Baptists have been known for their evangelistic efforts. However, Southern Baptists are becoming known for a greater gospel-centeredness than sharing the news of Jesus with those who have never been born-again. In my experience, I have noticed that many Christians view spiritual growth as moving beyond the gospel—as seeing the gospel as a mere starting place in the Christian journey. However, the more I read and hear Southern Baptist leaders, the more I realize that they encourage Christians to view spiritual growth as moving deeper to the center of the gospel rather than moving beyond it.  As Dr. Daniel Akin states, “Christology is the focal point and essence of Christianity. As we have seen, from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is the Bible’s great theme…What we believe about Jesus, who he is and what he did, will greatly shape the rest of our theology.”[1] Dr. Kenneth Keathley adds, “Salvation is a person, Jesus Christ, and therefore, ‘he who has the Son has life’ (1 John 5:12). The Bible emphasizes several aspects to salvation—justification, sanctification, and adoption, among others—but all fit under the general heading ‘union with Christ.’ The New Testament presents salvation as the unity of Christ with the believer and the believer in Christ (John 15:5; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 2:20).”[2] Southern Baptists are more and more emphasizing discipleship as abiding in Christ (Jn 15:1-11).

Reason #3: Southern Baptists Are Mission-Focused

God is the missionary God who left His home in order to bring salvation to those who were far away (Jn 1:14). God calls His people to bring His glory to others (Ps 67). Jesus commissioned the church to take the news of salvation to all the nations (Jn 20:21, Mt 28:1-20, Acts 1:8). I am grateful that Southern Baptists take this call seriously. The Cooperative Program is the evidence of Southern Baptists’ genuine concern for Jesus’ mission. The Cooperative Program is a very effective financial plan that allows Southern Baptist churches to combine their resources for the purpose of the Great Commission. Each SB church gives to their state convention which withholds a portion of the funding for state mission work and sends the rest to the SBC. The SBC divides those funds between its entities for Great Commission work. Through this program, Southern Baptists have the largest international missionary agency in the world, the International Mission Board, which has nearly 3,600 missionaries in the field. Likewise, the Cooperative Program supports the North American Mission Board which has nearly 5,700 missionaries. CP giving is divided as follows:

2016-2017-HeartChart

Reason #4: Southern Baptists support six solid seminaries.

We expect our physicians to go through years of rigorous schooling before they prescribe medication or perform surgery. However, issues of the soul and eternity are of greater importance and greater complexity. The work of Christian leaders requires greater and more thorough training than that of physicians.  The six Southern Baptist Seminaries provide just that. After the conservative resurgence, these seminaries have boomed as a result of God’s blessing for their faithfulness to His Word. Indeed, they have become six of the most significant and largest seminaries in the nation. I am very grateful to God for my time at one of them, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC and am blessed to be a student at another, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. I have often heard pastors advise, “Seminary can be a Cemetery. Learn what they say, parrot it back, get your degree, and forget about it altogether.” I also know of a “Christian” seminary that holds Islamic chapel services. The other day I spoke with a fellow Baptist pastor (not Southern Baptist) in an airport who goes to a “Christian” seminary in which the majority of his professors openly claim that they are not born-again Christians. I can honestly say and rejoice that this is not the experience for students of the six Southern Baptist Seminaries.

Reason #5: Southern Baptists Have Been Blessed with Many Godly Leaders

I can think of several denominations in which many of the people and churches believe the Bible and seek to follow it while their leaders deny the Bible and seek to undermine it. Contrary to that, leaders (past and present) of the Southern Baptist Convention like Adrian Rogers, Paige Patterson, Albert Mohler, Danny Akin, Russell Moore, Jason Allen, Steve Gaines, and Fred Luter stand on the faithfulness of God’s Word and proclaim it.  I am always glad to see Albert Mohler and Russell Moore speak on behalf of Southern Baptists without fear or equivocation to the onlooking nation. I was so humbled and encouraged in the 2016 election for SBC president when Steve Gaines and J.D. Greer ran for president. When the ballots were counted and the election was too close to call, both men offered to withdraw and support the other. They were more concerned about the unity of the convention and the work of God than their personal ambitions. I have likewise been blessed with the counsel and guidance of regional Southern Baptist leaders like Seth Polk, Senior Pastor of Cross Lanes Baptist Church and Jacob Atchley, Lead Pastor of the Church at Martinsburg. Such men set a great example and provide strong Biblical leadership for fellow Southern Baptists.

Reason #6: Southern Baptists espouse Biblical Ecclesiology (church government and order)

Southern Baptists believe in the autonomy of the local church. We believe that each local church exists and functions under the headship of Jesus Christ and has no outside authority. As I’ve shared in a previous post, “The New Testament reveals that God has given authority to the local church to govern herself under the headship of Christ. New Testament churches practiced discipline (Matt 18:15-20; 1 Cor 5), baptized new believers and added them to their membership (Acts 2:41), selected and ordained deacons (Acts 6:3), appointed and sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3), and recognized and corrected false teaching (Acts 15:22). A New Testament church is a church who governs herself under the headship of Christ.” Southern Baptists know the importance of the local church and have many wonderful scholars who teach this faithfully such as Drs. John Hammett, Jason Duesing, and Thomas White.

Reason #7: Southern Baptists Work Hard Toward Racial Reconciliation

As our country becomes further divided along the lines of race, Southern Baptists have been working for years to bring reconciliation. In 1995 and in 2015, the SBC passed resolutions calling racism sin and seeking the eradication of racism and the advancement of racial reconciliation. At the 2017 SBC, after some confusion over the resolution, Southern Baptists condemned white supremacy.  In recent years, the SBC has had both Native American and African American presidents. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has become well known for its Kingdom Diversity Initiative.  Southern Baptist’s are striving to live out the  “renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:9-11).

Notes 

[1] Daniel L. Akin, “The Person of Christ” in A Theology for the Church. Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 542-543.

[2] Kenneth Keathley, “The Work of God: Salvation” in A Theology for the Church. Daniel L. Akin, ed. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 686.

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