I am thankful for Southern Baptist leaders at our entities. I am also thankful for our elected officers. I criticize leaders and entities occasionally; just as they criticize Southern Baptists occasionally. But, when I do, I try to interact with words, statements, etc. without using logical fallacies, speculation, etc. I also try to follow SBC leaders uncritically first and critically second. Here is why…
1. My heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:9). I walk every day depending on the finished work of Christ alone to justify me before God. I am also being renewed daily through the reforming of my mind based on the Holy Spirit’s work through Scripture. Although I was raised in church my whole life, I did not repent and believe in Christ until I was 17 years of age. Thus, I’ve only been a Christian for 15 years. The older I get the more I realize how deceptive sin is. Because my heart is deceitful, I can see the sins of others more easily than I can see my own. Thus, I try to temper my criticisms of others with prior criticism of myself. Furthermore, if my criticism is valid, I must be careful to offer this criticism in a manner that is not sinful. Because our hearts are deceitful, it is tempting even when we have a valid criticism, to make this criticism in an ungodly manner, packaged in arrogant or rude rhetoric, etc. In other words, because our hearts are deceitful, we must be careful to make sure our criticisms are Biblically and logically justified, and that our rhetoric does not undercut the truth we’re trying to defend. If a Southern Baptist is trying to protect the truth by sinning, then he or she undercuts his or her message with his or her method. Therefore, I try to make sure my criticism is Biblically and logically valid, and that I offer this criticism in a loving manner without arrogant or rude rhetoric and needless offense. Praise God I am justified by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!
2. I am trying to love God and my neighbor (Matt. 22:37-39). An accusation cannot be received against an elder except if there are at least two witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19). Granted, SBC entity leaders are not pastors (some are), but I think the Biblical model still fits. We should follow our leaders until they provide us Scriptural reasons not to. Furthermore, if you or I was in their positions, we too could only follow Scripture and our consciences; we would not please everyone. Therefore, I try to criticize in a manner similar to how I would want to be criticized.
3. Leaders have their necks out there answering to over 15,000,000 Southern Baptists and a board of trustees. I cannot imagine the stress that comes with being an entity leader. Just because an SBC leader may not heed my criticism does not mean that he or she is not submitting to Southern Baptists. In a sea of criticisms, whose voice do you listen to? The entity leaders may be receiving praise from other Southern Baptists for the very thing I am criticizing them for. Thus, if they do not heed my criticism, it may mean that they’re merely submitting to other Southern Baptists. Therefore, I try to give the benefit of the doubt when entity leaders do not receive my criticism, instead of assuming the worst.
4. SBC leaders do not answer to me; SBC leaders answer to all Southern Baptists. Most Southern Baptists think that their views represent the majority of other Southern Baptists (even this statement is anecdotal), often based on anecdotal evidence. One’s belief, however, does not make something true. You and I only represent the majority of Southern Baptists if we really represent the majority of Southern Baptists. Furthermore, entity heads and entity workers are not puppets but persons. I do not lead SBC entities through my website, blog, facebook page, twitter handle, or youtube account from a distance. I am not a puppeteer. I am one voice among many equal Southern Baptist voices. The vote of the convention reigns; I do not. Therefore, If I think a criticism is Scripturally warranted, I must bring it before the convention for a vote. Otherwise, I’m one Southern Baptist voice in a sea of other Southern Baptists that may or may not represent the majority of Southern Baptists.
5. I do not have the vote of the convention behind my criticisms. SBC leaders and entities have the vote of the convention. When I make a criticism of SBC entity leaders or entities, unless I have the vote of the convention behind my criticism, I cannot argue, “SBC entity leaders or SBC entities are not listening to me, and therefore, do not listen to Southern Baptists.” If I’m tempted to make such statements, I need to ask myself, “Who voted to make me or my church the leader of the SBC?” A single person or church does not run the SBC; gathered churches run the SBC. All SBC churches run the SBC. Therefore, I try to consider that my opinion may represent the minority. If I think it’s Scripturally warranted enough, I’ll bring it to the convention.
In light of these points, I do not want to discourage loving debate in the SBC. The SBC needs men of conviction in the likeness of Martin Luther, W. A. Criswell, Voddie Baucham, and Carl Trueman. Instead, I want pastors who levy criticisms from a distance to bring their criticisms to the annual Southern Baptist Convention. I also want to encourage pastors and other Southern Baptists to get more involved in the SBC so that you can help “right the ship.” This statement about “righting the ship” goes for all Southern Baptists who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. We need more interaction at the convention level, not less. To those who are frustrated with slow-moving change, please reject your arbitrary time-table for reformation, and instead, if you’re a Southern Baptist, commit your life to reforming the SBC from within. We need more longsuffering at the convention level. The SBC needs constant reformation based on Scripture alone. Yet, we cannot have reformation without reformers who are willing to love, sweat, bleed, and give their lives for the sake of the gospel witness in the SBC.
How will we respond?