On Theology and Evangelism

On Theology and Evangelism

WHEREAS, Southern Baptists are a Great Commission People, who initiated a “Great Commission Resurgence” in 2010, yet have seen a steady decline in baptisms in the ensuing decade, despite an increase in the number of churches; and

WHEREAS, among suggested causes for that decline—demographic shifts; media-driven worldview corruption; worldliness in the church; denominational sidetracks—blame is often tied to the growth of Reformed/Calvinistic theology; and

WHEREAS, the Southern Baptist Convention is an amalgamation of “Particular” and “General” Baptists (and of those who affirm various gradations of these convictions), and has, from these various camps, elected presidents, appointed professors, published writers, installed executives, and featured speakers, requiring none of them to forsake their deeply held convictions on this important matter; and

 WHEREAS, the seriousness of these family differences is evidenced by a range of conferences and publications which have stirred the waters (including, for instance, the counterposing books, Whosoever Willand Whomsoever He Wills, both of them with editors and contributors who played strong roles in the “conservative resurgence” for the cause of biblical inerrancy); and

WHEREAS, a battle over terminology, with the parties both embracing and shunning labels (e.g., “traditional” and “foundational”; “Calvinist” and “Arminian”), can obscure and undermine the fact that we, as Southern Baptists, have chosen to be “all in this together”; and

WHEREAS, there is a measure of truth in counter-charges regarding evangelism, especially when it comes to the “hyper” versions—that Particular Southern Baptists can let doctrinal zeal and reliance on predestination cool their concern to reach lost souls for Christ; that General Baptists can resort to manipulative appeals and cheapen discipleship through fixation on publishable results; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED that Southern Baptists who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 should refrain, responsibly and charitably, from disparaging other theological camps on the basis of their worst exemplars; and be it further

RESOLVED that these same Southern Baptists guard against misbehavior within their own camps, shunning sub-Christian patterns which give critics just cause for disdain; and be it finally

RESOLVED that Southern Baptists, across our accepted confessional spectrum, both listen to and learn from those who dissent from their soteriological perspective, and that they draw from the example and teaching of the finest evangelists within their own traditions.


Mark Coppenger is a former professor of Christian Apologetics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, senior pastor of Evanston Baptist Church in Illinois, director of Baptist Collegiate Ministries at Chicago’s Northwestern University, and managing editor of Kairos Journal. He holds degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D.).
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