Monday, November 13, 2006

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Bill Harrell, Chairman of the SBC’s X Comm stated that two problems in the SBC were worship styles and Calvinism. Bill Curtis Chairman of Trustees of NAMB has some exceptionally good words about cooperation in the SBC that everybody would do well to heed.

I’d like to point out a few things. Mr. Harrell stated that Five Point Calvinism ignores and radically interprets the Bible. Not only did he not substantiate that statement, he is, by defintion, stating that the first presidents and theologians of the SBC were radically reinterpreting and ignoring the Bible. This would include at least, one, Dr. James Boyce, who served a total of 8 years as SBC President, and another, RBC Howell, who served three terms, including one by acclamation. What’s more all the churches that formed the SBC in the 1845 Charter were from churches that affirmed the Philadelphia Confession. In short if it wasn’t for Calvinism, the SBC that Mr. Harrell loves and serves would not exist. Mr. Harrell needs a lesson in Baptist history and theology. Will somebody please send him Dr. Boyce’s book? Until Nov. 30, it’s only $12.50 plus shipping. Surely, he would do well to read it.

I’d also like to point out the problems that Brother Bill Curtis names in the SBC at present. These are, in contrast to Bill Harrell’s observations, of much greater concern:

• SBC baptisms are at their lowest levels in 12 years;

• 73 percent of SBC churches are plateaued or declining;

• 11,740 SBC churches reported zero or one baptism in 2005;

• 55 percent of SBC churches baptized no youth between the ages of 12-17 in 2004;

• From 1991-2004, the number of unchurched adults in America increased from 39 million to 79 million;

• Every county in North America is at least 50 percent unchurched (statistics available from NAMB).

Amen, Brother Bill Curtis! This hits the nail on the head! This did not happen because of differences in worship styles, and it did not happen because of Calvinism, since, according to Lifeway, only 10 percent of SBC pastors identify as “five point Calvinists.” No, this problem goes far, far deeper, and is much more extensive than Mr. Harrell’s, dare I say, superficial analysis.

In fact, I’d like to remind you all of these ACP statistics from the church belonging to our last SBC President:


3506 members
203 baptisms
253 other additions
2200 primary worship attendance


3812 members
296 baptisms
190 other additions
2100 primary worship

4011 members
209 baptisms
137 other additions
2031 primary worship attendance


4163 members
237 baptisms
204 other additions
1874 primary worship

It went from a counted Sunday morning worship attendance of 2200 in 2001 to 1874 in 2004. If my math is correct, that is a 15% decline.

Granted, they have baptized 945 people during that 4 year period and they have added 784 people by other means. But the church membership only grew by 657. It took 1729 new members for the church to grow by 657 members.

In addition those 1729 new members resulted in 326 fewer worshipers! This was the state of the church of the man that asked us to “baptize a million.” I am reminded of the old nursery rhyme, “Here’s the church; there’s the steeple/Open it up; where’s the people?” This same SBC President also took time to blast Calvinism in his church newsletter.

No, Calvinism is not responsible for these problems in the SBC, and if a good dose of evangelistic Calvinism (or even Amyraldianism), church discipline and order, and solid Biblical and deep expository preaching from the pulpit and teaching in the classroom is what it takes to fix these problems, then I submit that Bill Harrell needs to open his arms wide and learn to cooperate with the Calvinists in the SBC just like Bill Curtis suggests. What’s more, if the anti-Calvinists would stop with the monologues, they might do well to consider that they would do well to allow healthy, reasoned debate and discussion about these issues, because it will have the effect of driving more people to the Bible and away from PDL and The Prayer of Jabez and into more serious Bible study, theology books, and our own Baptist history. One more time: These problems did not arise because of worship styles between the churches or the reassertion of Calvinism in the SBC. This did not happen while folks on our side of that particular theological aisle were in charge. In fact, I submit that it is largely the legacy of the other side’s approach which is filling the churches with unregenerate, baptized persons. Let’s not forget, we were told at this past year’s SBC that the truants on our rolls were, “Some of our best prospects for evangelism.” This is the legacy of unbridled revivalism and theological eclecticism on the one hand and, on the other, the toleration of theological latitudinarianism. Mix with a dose of denominational politics, and this is what you get.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Bridges...great job...I am personally going to discuss these things with Mr. Harrell...He came to speak at my chapel at my school, and is a former pastor of the church I currently serve. I emailed him when I read that article, and he gave me his cell number...No I will not give that out, but I will contact him in the near future...good article, and may God bless you for staying faithful to his word.