A Call to Action for Southern Baptist Pastors

A Call to Action for Southern Baptist Pastors

My friend and fellow pastor, Josh Buice, announced yesterday that the church he serves, Pray’s Mill Baptist on the west side of Atlanta, has officially broken ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. Josh and his fellow elders are thoughtful, godly men and, as he thoroughly explains in his announcement, they did not come to this decision instantly or lightly. I am saddened that they felt compelled to take this step but understand and support them in it completely. What saddens me even more, are the reasons he cites that led them to this point.

In fact, what Josh describes as the concerns of their church is exactly what I have heard from countless other SBC churches and pastors over the last few years. They are concerns that I and many in the church I serve also share. I have written and spoken about these matters repeatedly since 2017—both privately and publicly. Sadly, as Josh explains, such efforts have been largely ignored if not repudiated all together. If SBC leaders want more churches to leave, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing the last few years.

The Southern Baptist Convention desperately needs a change of leadership. We need men in positions of leadership who have both conviction and courage. The former without the latter may sound good but is useless when the battle rages hot—and it is currently boiling over. The latter without the former results in mere useless bluster, or worse, in bullying tactics that are justified for the sake of “the cause.”

Currently the SBC has more “convictional” cowards (who sign all the documents but don’t have the courage of their convictions) than blustering bullies (who will slanderously condemn in the name of standing for truth), but in reality, it has too much of both. What we need are pastors who fear God, are full of the Holy Spirit, and free from the fear of men. Only such men will be able to lead their churches safely through the minefields of our modern culture. Other qualifications might be of some assistance (such as experience, formal education, and exceptional giftedness), but without the three previously mentioned qualities a man will be worthless in gospel ministry and should stay far away from the pastorate.

Godly, humble, bold pastors are what we need today. That is the need of every generation but it is glaringly obvious today. It is the greatest practical need of the SBC. Our convention of churches is in a mess and only God can lead us out of it. I believe that if He is pleased to do so it will be by bringing thousands of pastors to our knees, leading us to confess that the institutions and agencies that belong to our churches have drifted and strayed because we—the undershepherds of the flocks who own them—have let it happen. We have not led our churches to keep our denominational servants accountable to the churches that they purport to serve.

Godly, humble, bold pastors are what we need today. That is the need of every generation but it is glaringly obvious today.

The only way forward is the way of repentance and faith—repentance over our failure to do our duty as pastors, and faith in the crucified, risen, Savior who has promised to build His church in such a way that the very gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus was not talking about the SBC when He gave us that promise. The convention of churches known as Southern Baptists could stumble so as never to rise again. That would be a great loss and cause for genuine sorrow, but it would not threaten in the slightest the certainty of Christ’s promise.

So, these questions cannot be avoided—Will Southern Baptist pastors stand up and take the lead in calling our SBC institutions and agencies back to a humble, responsiveness to the churches that own them? Will pastors call for the repentance or removal of those who have led these institutions into the cultural capitulation that Josh touches on in his announcement? If so, then we can hope for better days ahead. God has worked reformation and revival in the past and as Isaiah 59:1 says, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” If it pleases Him to do so, He will do it. If not, then His kingdom will continue unimpeded in spite of the SBC.

To my fellow Southern Baptist Pastors, I issue this challenge. Where we have been derelict in our duty, let us repent. Where we have feared men or lived for their applause, let us repent. Where we have failed to exercise properly the stewardship entrusted to us in leading our congregations to be responsible members of a larger convention of churches, let us repent.

Then let us bring forth the fruits of repentance by resolving now to call for integrity and righteousness in our leaders. The presidents of our institutions and agencies who even tolerate godless ideologies being imbibed by those who work with them must be called to repent and to destroy every stronghold, argument and lofty opinion that is raised against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). If they refuse to repent, they should be encouraged to exercise enough integrity to resign. If they refuse to resign, they should be relieved of their duties.

The convention of churches known as Southern Baptists could stumble so as never to rise again…it would not threaten in the slightest the certainty of Christ’s promise.

A call should go forth from the churches of the SBC calling on our current President, Ed Litton, to resign over his egregious, public sins and dishonesty that have been clearly documented and repeatedly discounted by him and his co-conspirators. If he refuses, then we should elect a new president at the 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim, June 12-15. I believe that man should be the kind of pastor I described above, a man who fears no one but God.

I know the challenges. I have heard multiple reasons why it is “unfeasible,” “problematic,” and even to some “impossible” to hope for real change at the Anaheim convention. They are not without warrant. But, brothers, we serve a God who raises the dead! Will He be pleased to rescue the SBC? I honestly do not know. But I do know this—He can do it! And if he chooses to do so it will be through the humble, determined, courageous leadership of Southern Baptist pastors.

Brothers, we must resolve now to show up in Anaheim and to bring our full allotment of messengers with us. If the very churches that own the institutions will not fight for them, then let us be neither surprised nor upset as we watch them fall completely into the hands of principalities and powers to do the devil’s wicked bidding for generations to come.

Follow Tom Ascol:

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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