Why work for biblical reformation in the SBC?

Some of what I have been doing in this blog can be compared to turning on lights in a dark house. The light does not bring the furniture, fixtures, junk, etc. into existence, it merely exposes it. It was already there, but just lurking in the shadows. It is painful to own up to much of the sinfulness and wrongheadedness in the evangelical world or in our denomination or in our local churches. We wish that the bad simply did not exist. Some want to overlook it completely and thus get upset with anyone who seeks to turn on the light. Charges of disloyalty and worse are quickly levelled. But if cancer is present in my body, I want to know the truth about it and I will not get mad at the diagnosticians who make me aware of it and call me to own up to it.

I also realize, however, that some of the things that I have spoken plainly about, especially in the realm of SBC life, can tend to leave those within and those looking at us from without disillusioned. “Why stay in?” Or (as Doug mentioned), “Why even consider joining?” Well, I wrote an article that addresses that kind of concern a while back and I will link to it below. But let me make this one observation (OK, two observations). First, every Southern Baptist church is independent. No one dictates to a church what to do. Now this autonomy gives some–really, only a few–associational and denominational workers a cramp, but there are over-the-counter medicines that they can take to help with that. No Southern Baptist church should allow any person or entity to infringe on its autonomy. We voluntarily associate and cooperate with other churches under the Lordship of Christ. This makes our position patently different from the Roman Catholic Church or even from Anglican or Presbyterian churches. No top-down structure defines a Baptist church. Our ecclesiology works from the local church down. The churches define the associational and denominational structures. It is simply time for churches to start taking this responsibility seriously and quit being intimidated by denominational employees who might like us to think otherwise.

Secondly–and this is the point I want to underscore–every problem that is brought out into the light, every erroneous idea, unhelpful practice, misguided promotion and biblically unwarranted practice is not a call to retreat, but rather a call to advance! What we need is a reformation mindset that, like the cavalry of old, rides to the sound of the guns. Where the battle rages the hottest, where the need is the greatest, let’s be willing to engage our labors there. Not to win arguments. Not for the love of contention (may such emotional perversion perish!). Not with the spirit of theological pugilists. But out of love for Christ and His truth and His church and with the conviction that reformation here will benefit the advance of the Gospel around the world. We must never lose site of this fact: the manifested glory of God and the eternal salvation of souls are at stake. This does not mean that everyone who loves the Gospel of God’s grace should be (or even remain) Southern Baptist. Every church and pastor must settle that question before the Lord. What I am saying is this: the problems that sometimes tempt us to throw up our hands in despair are the very reasons that we should keep laboring for biblical reformation.

Here is the article I wrote. May God raise up a mighty army of local churches who will begin taking more seriously than ever our calling to be the church!

Pastors and church members who are committed to historic Southern Baptist principles regularly find themselves confronted with the question, “Why stay in the SBC?” After all, when many denominational leaders have made it very clear that you and your theological convictions are suspect at best and unwanted at worst, why put up with the headaches and animosity that often accompany SBC affiliation? Wouldn’t it be easier and even better to disassociate oneself from a convention of churches that has deviated so far from its doctrinal roots? Isn’t staying in the SBC compromise–making truth secondary to denominational loyalty? (read more)

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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