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Guest Editorial: Young, Southern Baptist and…irrelevant?

by Brad Whitt

I’m not “young, restless and reformed.”

I guess you’d say that I’m young, Southern Baptist and, it seems, increasingly irrelevant.
You see, I’m just a pastor’s son who grew up with a love for my denomination—a Southern Baptist boy by birth and conviction.

I received my B.A. from Union University, a Tennessee Baptist university, my master’s from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (not supported by the Cooperative Program, but supportive of the Cooperative Program) and a D.Min. from Southeastern.

Moreover, I have never wanted to be anything but a Southern Baptist. Being a Presbyterian has never appealed to me like it seems to some leaders in our convention and their protégés.

As I travel around the SBC, I can see that I’m in the majority; nonetheless, I can’t get away from the overwhelming feeling that in our current denominational world, I am presented as the dinosaur—albeit only a 37-year-old one. It’s obvious when I see who is lifted up as the future of our convention—the hip and cool up-and-comers with whom I have little in common—that my breed is in danger of becoming extinct.

I don’t mind wearing a coat and tie when I preach (at least on Sunday mornings), and I still love to hear a powerful or dynamic choir special. I believe in giving an invitation at the end of every service. Public invitations are still effective. The church where I serve baptized more than 100 people just last year.

I like for the auditorium lights to be on so that I can read my Bible. Also, I don’t get so tired from preaching on Sundays that I need a stool, and I still preach from a pulpit (or, technically, a podium).

While the current batch of “young leaders” so many reference these days appear to be weaned on non-Southern Baptists like Tim Keller and C.J. Mahaney and are taught to give rock-star status to John Piper and R.C. Sproul, I grew up loving men like Adrian Rogers and Jerry Vines. Both men invested their lives in and among Southern Baptists.

I have pastored a new work in Tennessee, served as a NAMB church planter in Ohio and have served as the pastor of a nearly 100-year-old church in South Carolina for the past nine years.

I’ve been honored to serve on committees or as an officer at the associational, state and national levels. Unlike the hipsters and their mentors, I’ve led the churches where I’ve served—sometimes at the expense of hiring another staff member or building a new playground or expanding facilities—to give sacrificially through the Cooperative Program as well as to the Lottie Moon Christmas and Annie Armstrong Easter offerings. At the same time, our churches were personally involved in mission projects here and abroad.

I am not ashamed of being a Southern Baptist, and I am proud and passionate about my SBC involvement. I have benefited personally from the cooperation among Southern Baptists, and I don’t believe that there is a more effective and efficient way for churches of all sizes to make an eternal impact on this world for Jesus.
It’s not that we can’t and shouldn’t make changes. But everything being proposed now is presented in such a way as to sweep in this new breed that has, at best, “soft” Southern Baptist convictions and commitments.
I’m constantly counseled to “forget about it”—to pastor my church, preach and reach people for Jesus and let the convention do what it’s going to do.

At times, I think my counselors are right.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a desire to include the majority view and membership in the future of the SBC. Just look at most of the personalities who headline our conferences and conventions.

And it isn’t that I haven’t tried to understand what this new in-charge minority thinks—I read their books, listen to their messages and peek at their blogs and tweets. It’s just that they don’t have anything in common with the context in which I minister.

Their theology is different from that which I read in the Bible, and their methodology about how best to reach the world for Jesus is foreign to me as well.

I support international missions, but the hard work God has prepared me mainly to do is reach my neighbors. I believe God planted Southern Baptists where we are to reach our immediate spheres of influence first, and then by expanding outward we are to reach the world. And I believe that we can only reach as far around the world as we are strong at home.

It gets so frustrating that it would be easy to succumb to the refrains I hear (“just forget about it”), but the thing is, I really don’t want to forget about it. I determined when Jesus called me into the ministry that I would be a Southern Baptist pastor, and that I would do my best to serve my church and reach this world for Jesus through the ministries and institutions that our spiritual forefathers had the insight and wisdom to put in place.

Do those ministries and institutions need to be fixed or tweaked from time to time? Absolutely.

Do we need to make sure that we’re just as effective and efficient with our personnel and funds as we can be? I don’t believe Jesus would have it any other way. After all, when you get right down to it, our entire ministry is funded through the tithes and offerings of believers in our local churches.

I love being a Southern Baptist, and I believe that our historic method of cooperation is the most effective means of helping churches of all sizes, from all parts of the country, with all sorts of different structures and styles, to reach the world for Jesus. It’s not always easy, and sometimes hard decisions have to be made when it comes to cooperating together for the Gospel.

But what would happen to the mission and ministry efforts of our convention if pastors like me supported the work of the convention in the same fashion of the “young, restless and reformed,” or their fathers in the ministry? What if we treated the convention with the same disregard or disdain some entity leaders seem to treat us?

The bottom line is that not everything in Southern Baptist life is broken. It appears to me that the larger issue is that much of that which has been, and continues to be, good about the SBC is simply out of favor with many of those who have managed to rise to positions of leadership within our convention. They have gained possession of the microphone, and they have determined that we’ve got to do things “radically” different—whatever the facts might be.

Definitely, some things need to be fixed and some just need to be tweaked, but changes should come from within by committed Southern Baptists who have invested themselves in the cooperative missions and ministries of Southern Baptists . . . and the Cooperative Program. Right now, too many “outsiders from within” have influence, and they resent who we are, what we do and how we do it.

The fact is that, despite my being dismissed by those in vogue, I’m not irrelevant. The opposite is true.

If the Southern Baptist Convention is to grow and thrive, it won’t happen from the actions and attitudes of those who view our cooperative missions and ministries as outmoded and ineffective, or who see stateside ministry as “bloated” compared to missions overseas. It will take a greater emphasis from me, and others like me, on cooperation for the sake of the Gospel if we are to succeed in our combined efforts to win the lost. There is no limit to what Southern Baptists could accomplish for the kingdom if we didn’t care who received the credit.

I’m not irrelevant. My kind of commitment to Southern Baptists’ cooperative missions and ministries just happens to be out of style with some at the moment. But styles change, and so does possession of the microphone.

Brad Whitt is pastor of Temple Church in Simpsonville, S.C., and immediate past president of the South Carolina Baptist Pastors’ Conference. This article first appeared in the Baptist Courier, newsjournal of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.


Author: Staff

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  • Chris

    If the Southern Baptist denomination stays the way that Mr. Whitt would like it to, it will quickly die once the current members pass away. I have been a lifelong Southern Baptist and have been a member of a more conservative SBC church and now a more modern, contemporary SBC church. The first has hardly any members left who are under the age of 45 while the church we are members at now is growing leaps and bounds with young families. Young adults, especially non-Christians, do not feel comfortable going to a church where the pastor always wears a suit and tie and where there is an organ played, and the choir and orchestra do special music every Sunday. I have nothing against those things but they no longer reach out to those we as a church are trying to reach. Hopefully for the sake of the Southern Baptist denomination you’re breed does become extinct or atleast no more prominent.

  • Brad,

    Thank you for your insights and conviction. There is no doubt your commitment to partnership with likeminded churches for the sake of God’s kingdom is effective and influential. Reading your article, based on what you described, I would say you might have disagreements with me on a few levels. I wear jeans on Sunday morning. While I’m not the lead pastor, our lead pastor usually preaches with only a stand and no podium. We are modern in our worship preference and it fits our local context in a progressive university town. We are in large part young. I’m not sure what you mean by “restless” but we certainly have an urgency and discontent with the current dismissal and disdain for the gospel and life found in submission to the Scripture. That disregard is seen in the culture, taught from many pulpits, and communicated through many forms of media. That’s not to say culture, pulpits, or media are bad, just being skewed in many cases. What that is breeding is a generation of people who are tired of vague generalities, promises from preachers that Jesus never promised in Scripture, and a society with post-modern boundaries that are really crumbling houses of straw. They want something genuine. They just want the truth. Unfortunately, many don’t see the church as the place to go to for that truth.

    It seems for decades the church has been so intent on building its bookstores, media houses, dialect and community structures that we’ve forgotten to consider whether or not this is accomplishing the work we are trying to do – accomplish the great commission through the great commandment and vice versa. Is there reformation going on? Certainly. Is it theological? In some respects, though these are well within bounds of “Southern Baptist theology” if you want to use those words. If you could tell us what parts of reformed theology (excluding extremists) are contrary to both the Baptist Faith & Message and Scripture, that may prove helpful.

    In large part, I see it as a turn from building the structure of a Christian community (i.e. club) and instead building doctrines from and submitted to the Scripture. We are setting the table with meat for an entire generation starving for solid food. And it’s working. Many of the things we do in our context to communicate the gospel may not work in your context. If podium and tie is the way to go, then man do it with all you’ve got for the glory of God. But lets make sure we are glorifying God and His kingdom and not building the name of Southern Baptists and the Cooperative Program. Lets cooperate funds for missions and seek to make it the most effective organization it can be. Jesus didn’t come and establish the SBC. The SBC organized to collectively serve the kingdom. Lets keep those two in perspective. Let us also be organized and submitted to the scripture, but let us understand, “Southern Baptist” and “Cooperative Program” are both manmade names and organizations. May we never worship the vehicle. For clarification, and for my own educational purposes – that I may be sharpened as well – could you address some of these comments from your article?

    “Their theology is different from that which I read in the Bible, and their methodology about how best to reach the world for Jesus is foreign to me as well.”
    Is foreign methodology bad? If our contexts are different, and yours is foreign, should I come change it? Should we both hop on a plane to the Middle East or NW America and use only comfortable methodology? Where is the methodology in Scripture you are referring to? Also what theology is contrary to Scripture? Where are the Biblical passages supporting your thoughts above on love for Southern Baptists and its organizational structures?

    “It’s just that they don’t have anything in common with the context in which I minister.” That’s completely fine. Who is trying to change your context? What research have you done on your context through which you organize and structure your church and its work as a missionary in your community?

    “But what would happen to the mission and ministry efforts of our convention if pastors like me supported the work of the convention in the same fashion of the ‘young, restless and reformed,’ or their fathers in the ministry?”
    What would happen? What is the research showing? What is the Spirit saying? What does the Word say? What would be the immense damage to the kingdom? These aren’t sarcastic questions – I’m legitimately asking? Would it be more effective or less effective in making disciples and how?

    “They have gained possession of the microphone, and they have determined that we’ve got to do things ‘radically’ different—whatever the facts might be.”
    What are the facts? To be honest, the facts and statistics I’ve seen aren’t entirely optimistic for the status quo. What facts would you offer us to show what we’ve been doing is currently the best and most effective strategy and will be in the future?

    The difficulty with this forum is anonymity. I’m not attacking you, I simply have a varying point of view on some issues and am in complete agreement on other issues. May we all cooperate and evaluate to fulfill our purpose for Christ and His kingdom empowered by the Spirit in making disciples.

  • Randy Adams

    If Brad Whitt is really as Southern Baptist as he says he is, why is “Baptist” not in the title of the church he pastors? “Temple Church” sounds like one of those “young, restless and reformed” churches if you ask me!

  • Jay Sampson

    Good points, Ryan. Thanks for the reply.

    It’s disappointing that The Messenger staff would even choose to re-run this editorial. The fact that it is from out of state is certainly not without precedent. However, with so many news-worthy things going on in the world right now that would BENEFIT the body to hear about, it was recommended and approved to run an article that seems to only have division at it’s heart and no support for its claims.

    To post an editorial with such wide sweeping generalizations and baseless accusations is a truly puzzling decision. The crux of Whitt’s argument appears to come down to methodology and affiliation. The Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is effective in a tie or blue jeans; from a pulpit or a barstool; from Temple Church or Temple Baptist Church.

    How does re-posting an article like this help us strive for unity in the Gospel?

    • Bryan Pain

      I am just as confused as you as to why the Messenger staff would choose to re-run this article.

  • I am a young restless Pastor that does identify myself as both reformed & Southern Baptist. I do not think you have to choose one or the other.

    That being said, I take issue with this article on two primary points. The writer of this article seems to assert that it is not prudent for SBC Pastors to look to sources outside of SBC life for inspiration and knowledge. That is a scary scary precedent. Do we ignore almost 1700 years of Biblical insight and commentating and only focus on what is uniquely SBC? Do we so seclude ourselves as the the SBC that we ignore all else in Evangelicalism? To do that would be to sign the death sentence to our denomination.

    We cannot retreat further into our fortresses and caves. Now is now the time for putting ourselves completely inside our SBC bubble. Rather it is the time to embrace what God is doing around us and join those works. Didn’t Blackaby drill this concept into us in “Experiencing God”? We as the SBC do not have the hold on God’s work throughout our towns, states, the country, and the nation.

    God is spreading the seeds of revival throughout our nation. Is it exclusively SBC? No. It is happening in arenas that share our love of the Bible and a commitment to the truth. It is happening in places we can embrace and come alongside of. Do we agree with everything these places believe? No we don’t. Driscoll still drinks. Mahaney is a little too charismatic. That does not mean we completely distance ourselves from men and brothers in Christ that stand for the truth.

    We are above that. To reject their influence and to refuse to participate with the movements they and others like them are leading is to turn our backs on something Southern Baptists have held dear since our inception. That is the belief in autonomy. We probably have local Pastors of SBC churches that drink as much as Driscoll. We probably have ones that are as charismatic as Mahaney. We have pastors that have as strong a bent toward helping the poor and needy as does Keller, and we have pastors that share Piper’s views on poverty. To want to reject the influence of these men outside the convention means we also move to squeeze out the men like them inside the convention. Doing so will just further move along that death sentence of the convention as we move away from autonomy.

    Is that what we want or need as a convention? No! We need the opposite. I am not calling for total tolerance of all. We do need to continue to be a strong advocate for inerrancy of Scripture and continue to strive for the truth of the Gospel. But we do not need to block out other influences and partners in ministry simply because they are non-SBC.

    The author of this article says Baptists can do much together when we care not who receives the credit. This is so true, he just seems to have forgotten that that also applies to non-SBC pastors.

    I call on all my fellow pastors to look beyond denominational labels as we work together to move the SBC forward.

  • Andy Harrison

    I probably shouldn’t enter this fray, but why not, it’s Spring Break and I have a few minutes.

    First, let me say that I would like to take Ryan, Jay and Todd out to a nice upscale steak dinner somewhere but that would require a coat and tie, so sorry guys…ain’t gonna happen.

    I think Mr. Whitt is simply stating his frustration with feeling irrelevant because he happens to adhere to a somewhat “traditional” mold, in service format, style, and evangelistic approach. I don’t think his stance is irrelevant, but I can understand his feeling that way. It was the way the “young guns” felt for the longest time.

    It matters not to me who has the microphone or pulpit or podium. It does matter to me that we acknowledge our strengths as Southern Baptists. Doing this does not denegrate any other denomination or ignore the Kingdom (capital K) for the sake of the kingdom (little k). It matters that we are Southern Baptists because we have partnered together to spread the Gospel. Our determination to work together (despite our variances of practice within our local church autonomy) is evidence of God’s divine intervention. As a result of His grace and a commitment to the priority of spreading the Gospel, we have intertwined our ministries through the Cooperative Program, and enabled an incredible missionary force, an excellent educational system of ministry development, a disaster relief organization beyond compare, and a multiplicity of ministry efforts both local and international that are too numerous to mention.

    Does that mean that Southern Baptists are the end all? Of course not. I’m just glad that whether you are Brad Whitt or Jay Sampson, or Todd Gragg, you are free to develop the ministry God desires, and is relevant to those He has entrusted to you. And all the while, you care enough about the bigger picture to keep supplying the world with the Gospel through the CP.

    By all means, join hands with all who may build the Kingdom, but don’t sacrifice an effective brotherhood for a coat and tie OR for jeans and a frappuccino.

  • Dear Messenger,

    I have not commented before and I am not sure what might prompt me to again. But, this article and the online responses to it left me thinking. Last Friday I penned a response of my own. We don’t have a First Person feature – and I am not gunning for offering one. But, here is a link to my thoughts on the matter. For me, it is another battle for the empire rather than considering the implications of the Kingdom of God.

    If anyone is interested, here is a link –

  • Steven

    Unity-a totality of related parts : an entity that is a complex or systematic whole. There is nothing that I can say that has not already been addressed in detail. And I’m certainly not going to attempt to sound like some sort of answer man, but as I read the article, I was searching for a call to unity. Are we complex? No doubt. But we are related parts. I love what Ryan said so well. Where is te flexibility to trust God the Spirit in moving and shaping a churches ministry in the context He plats them? The Gospel defines our mission, but our mission field determines our methods. I will admit that I have become dis-enchanted with “traditional” church. So this is a vital discussion for me as well. The great beauty of the Church is found in the complexity of all it’s related and unique parts. And that Church doesn’t have an sbc logo attached to it. I am proud of the sbc heritage my mom and dad have passed on to me. And I really enjoy serving in the sbc church and local association that I’m in. But it’s not the end all. What a blessing to function in a body that, while it has many parts, has only one as its head.

  • These are all very good points that have contributed to a good discussion. Let me also say we should not be too quick to come down on the Messenger for posting the article. They neither endorsed the point of view nor have spoken for its voice in the SBC. I commend them for simply putting the article out there and letting the discussion shape the framework for a relatively unified conclusion. My hope is this conclusion will lead us all to appreciate the work of our cooperating churches and leaders, but always remember we unite for a higher name and cause. I’m thankful the Messenger is putting out thought and discussion-provoking articles. It obviously worked!


  • Wow. Left wondering what the value of this article is and why the Messenger would run it? And in all due respect I have went to Southern Baptist colleges and seminaries but never was taught that the thing that defines us as Southern Baptists is clothing choices (seems like most of our IMB missionaries might not qualify) or if you have a choir special before you preach from behind a pulpit. Come on – we are about bigger stuff than this. If Mr. Whitt dosnt know this than surely some people on the Messenger staff should.

  • Chris

    I would like to give Mr. Whitt an opportunity to explain the basis of his opinions and assertions.

    1. Who are the “leaders in our convention and their proteges” that want to be Presbyterian?

    2. Who is teaching and how are we being “taught to give rock-star status to John Piper and R.C. Sproul”? (For the record, are you expecting us to believe that men like Rigers, Vines, Criswell, all men whom I respect, were not given “rock-star” status in SBC circles?) Can we not learn from faithful non-SBC pastors, regardless of coat & tie, slacks or jeans, tucked or untucked?

    3. What are the things being proposed now that are “presented in such a way as to sweep in this new breed”? And what are the “‘soft’ Southern Baptist convictions and commitments” you refer to?

    4. “There doesn’t seem to be much of a desire to include the majority view and membership in the future of the SBC”? Please explain. This statement seems wreckless at best, vilifying at worst.

    5. “What would happen to the mission and ministry efforts of our convention if pastors like me supported the work of the convention in the same fashion of the “young, restless and reformed,” or their fathers in the ministry? What if we treated the convention with the same disregard or disdain some entity leaders seem to treat us?” Mr. Whitt, THAT entire paragraph is unhelpful and unfair!

    6. Who are these “outsiders from within” and how do they “resent who we are, what we do and how we do it”?

  • Andy, when are we going for that steak dinner? 🙂

    • Andy Harrison

      Todd, I’ll get back to you. 😉

  • I do want to add something to my earlier comment. Even though I may read non-SBC guys and attend non-SBC events, what keeps me Southern Baptist is the CP. More than my heritage in the convention (my father was a bivocational pastor for a time, and my grandfather was a long time SBC pastor). More than my education coming from a Baptist school. More than anything else it is the Cooperative Program and what we are able to do together as a convention that keeps me solidly tied to the SBC.

  • Jay Sampson

    I am DOWN with a steak dinner, Andy. I know a place that doesn’t require ties… in fact, they’ll cut one off if you wear it! 🙂

    Good comments. It’s helpful to remember that there may be guys like Mr. Whitt out there that need to be encouraged (as his counselors have tried) to continue to contend for the Gospel in his context. His article is frustrating because of its tenor and belittling statements. That said, as I reflect on the article and the discussions here, apparently there was validity in re-posting it – if the conversations away from this forum are also seeking to move towards unity in the Gospel regardless of context. That doesn’t seem the intent of the author, but seems to be the response.

  • Bela

    My brother, Brad,

    I am “young, restless, & reformed”. Please bear with me in telling you why: I am tired of old traditions overshadowing the ancient “faith once and for all delivered to the saints”. I am tired of complacent, lukewarm spirituality born out of resting too much on going through religious motions. I am tired of theology and missiology that make too much of man and not enough of God. Unlike you, I was not raised “Southern Baptist”. I was saved into it, and in my 15 years of growing up in the convention, I have increasingly seen those poisons infecting it from the bottom up. Have they overrun it. No, and right now, that is why I am still here. I will tell you what has kept me a Southern Baptist: doctrinal solidity, cooperative health, and missional drive.

    Brad, I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you as my brother in Christ, as well as in the ministry, but I look over at you and take issue with you on your article.

    It seems to me, based on your raising and your credentials, that all you have ever lived in is the Southern Baptist bubble. You have to admit at least the possibility of that handicapping you in objectively critiquing what is wrong in our convention from the umbrella organization, to the state conventions, churches, and members. This also must lead you to take a long, hard look at what you are striving to do in ministry and missions: advance the Kingdom of Christ or expand the SBC bubble. I do not agree with everything in Southern Baptist history, but I know this: The SBC enjoys the heritage it does precisely because of not being self-promoting but Kingdom-advancing. I believe its Kingdom work is in danger now partly because of Southern Baptists who want to make Southern Baptists of all the nations, instead of disciples of Christ. They are not satisfied with making a disciple of Christ until they have made a Southern Baptist disciple. I am convinced that Christ will let our Gospel mantle slip off if that mentality takes over our convention.

    Additionally, are you actually suggesting that whether or not you are a good Southern Baptist is wrapped up in what you are wearing, the lighting you are using, or the posture you are taking in preaching? If you are, then you are part of the problem of external formalism poisoning so many of our churches. If you are not suggesting that, then you really need to clarify yourself to be taken seriously in this debate over the future of our convention.

    You also need to repent from your sweeping generalities–particularly the one about “soft” Southern Baptists. I already told you why I am still Southern Baptist. It has always been my understanding that those reasons are essential “Southern Baptism”. Are you suggesting that, in order to be a “solid” Southern Baptist, those issues are not enough? –That we must be hard-line devotees to non-Biblical (though not necessarily sinful) labels, forms, and methods?

    Brad, I say to you as your brother in Christ, that I myself am striving in prayer and study to sort through our serious challenges, but I am doing that as a disciple of Christ and minister of His Gospel first, and as a Southern Baptist much second. I implore you to take a long, hard look at where you are coming from and make sure that you are not looking at all of this through the fog of Southern Baptist pharisee-ism. Until you can answer that question with a crystal-clear conscience, don’t rush to the microphone.

    I ask for your prayers as I assure you of mine.

  • John Robinson

    It may be futile to offer my comments in support of Brad Whitt’s Guest Editorial, but here goes anyway. My wife and I have been members and served in numerous Southern Baptist Churches in several states during my US Air Force career and since. We have reached that time in our lives that we chose to move to a small town to be near our daughters. Our choices for Southern Baptist Churches in Owasso are extremely limited and to find one that offers traditional hymns and what we knew as traditional Southern Baptist worship services has become impossible. We always considered ourselves to be Old Fashioned Traditional Southern Baptists and obviously that is no longer a valid description for Southern Baptist Churches, at least in this town. Yes, we are now considered “Senior Citizens” and find church somewhat frustrating when we attend a service. We have recently opted for worshipping by means of, at least two, traditional services currently televised from Edmond, OK and Atlanta, GA. Unfortunately, the Edmond pastor recently lost his life in an accident, but the interim pastor is known to be outstanding, as well. We salute Pastor Whitt for his willingness to state his convictions. He may find himself on the opposite side of most of his fellow pastors. We also believe that the absence of strong Biblical sermons and lack of a bonafide invitation to non-believers and Baptists wishing to unite with our body of believers is a primary cause for poor attendance and even poorer giving of members’ monetary resources. Also, as Pastor Whitt stated, we too have never given a second’s thought to becoming a Presbyterian or member of a church of any other denomination. We continue to pray that God will show us where we need to be serving Him.

  • Ron Forrest

    Just a quick comment. I don’t think the issue is traditional or contemporary, t-shirt/jeans or suit or tie! I think the issue should be a God inspired man preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

  • Nolan

    Gee, what a fire storm this ignited. I am a Christian first and Southern Baptist second. I am also concerned with the general direction many of the churches are going. I know of a lot of churches that just tickle the ears of the listeners, they don’t even offer an invitation at most services. I still believe that the Holy Spirit can move in any situation.
    “Reformed” is the term that sticks in my throat, big time! Reformed in my mind, and much of what I read, translates to Calvanism. And if you adhere to that thought process, then I see no need for evangelism it is already predetermined and can’t be changed.
    Ryan – I think you do not realise it but your comments to me just strengthen what Dr. Whitt says.
    I may be in the manority, but our church is evenly split through the ages, and very fundamentalist. We are searching for a traditional, well grounded, Southern Baptist Pastor. I am a deacon and member of our pastor search committee, and do some lay preaching

    • Nolan,

      Thank you for your comments. I would love for you to elaborate more on how you believe my comments strengthened Dr. Whitt’s argument. It may also help to think with less of a sweeping brush in response to the label “Reformed.” While you may have issues with Calvinism, to say all “reformed” church leaders are 5-point Calvinists would likely be incorrect. I’m not here to stoke that fire, but I would enjoy hearing your critique of my note and how I may have proved injurious.

      Like you, I think it’s unfortunate many churches are simply “tickling the ears” of their hearers. We should be faithful stewards of the Word and the gospel as a whole. In some larger churches, leaders are using different means of response than have characterized our times for the past few hundred years. In same cases this is a bad thing. In other cases, it is being replaced with more intimate, personal means of response where the leader and responder are given more than just a few minutes before the song runs out. I’m sure we would agree this can be used effectively or ineffectively – it all depends on the way people respond and are led in discipleship.

      The good news is we are all on the same team. We are striving to make disciples for the glory of God and the purposes of HIs kingdom for which we are called. The ways we do that may look different across continents, nations, or even cities. Either way, lets remember we are the body of Christ and must work together for the greater good. Again, I would invite your critique of my response and how I am proving Dr. Whitt’s point. Thank you.


  • Ray Earley

    I pastor a Southern Baptist Church that is traditional in worship, practice, and is a Southern Baptist as you can get. Mr. Whitt and I are the same religion, denomination, age, and pastor similar congregations. I too like hymnals, choir specials, organs, and pulpits. I wear a coat and tie every Sunday as well. I am young and restless and reformed. I do not feel irrelevant. Why? I’m where God has told me to be. I’m relevant as long as I’m doing God’s work. I am not trying to gain “acceptance” in the SBC or the world, therefore I should not “feel” irrelevant. I am only trying to glorify God one verse at a time. I may disagree w/a method or style, of another church, but to say that someone reads a different Bible is not me trying to vent irrelevant frustrations. That article was LOADED for bear! It was more than frustration of irrelevance. It’s sarcastic and egotistical! I would like to say that I agree w/just about everyone posted on this forum. Do I agree w/all of their doctrines, practices, etc? Probably not, but I will in no way make public diggs at another brother in Christ because he doesn’t wear a coat and tie or because he may or may not like Piper, Sproul, or Mahaney. Mr. Whitt will not convince me that the SBC itself never gave “Rock-star status” to Criswell, Rogers, Vines, and others. His rock-star statement was very unfair and should be publicly apologized for. I would like to ask him to publicly identify some of his statements. You can find them posted in Chris’ status from March 17th. He has some great questions.
    Andy, I respectfully disagree w/your assessment of Mr. Whitt. You said, “I think Mr. Whitt is simply stating his frustration with feeling irrelevant because he happens to adhere to a somewhat “traditional” mold, in service format, style, and evangelistic approach.” If he was “simply stating his frustration”, he lost me in all of the me’s, my, and I’s that he used. This article should have NOT been printed. Unfortunately it was and that is that. I am very saddened by the sarcasm that is laced within that article. How is that cooperative?
    I would be MORE than willing to work w/that brother in a cooperative program matter, but it sounds like he doesn’t want to cooperate with others.

    • Andy Harrison

      Ray, all I was doing was giving him the benefit of the doubt. Who can say what frustrations led to his penning of the article? I like article’s like this being printed because I like discussion. I don’t like fighting, but I’m always up for a dialogue on issues.

  • John Elam

    Well said Ray. Well said.

  • Chris Bell

    Yes, Ray, well said.

    By the way, I also sent Mr. Whitt an e-mail personally asking him to respond to the questions. I haven’t heard back… yet. Stating one’s opinion is fine and we should be willing to discuss our differences, but thinly veiled shots and “public diggs” at faithful pastors is not fair and is in poor taste.

  • Jeff Self

    1 Corinthians 1:1
    Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours: …

    … 10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 1 Corinthians 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 FOR CHRIST DID NOT SEND ME TO BAPTIZE BUT TO PREACH THE GOSPEL – NOT WITH WORDS OF HUMAN WISDOM, LEST THE CROSS BE EMPTIED OF IT’S POWER

  • I don’t know that it is the Messenger’s responsibility to only print articles that promote unity. Sometimes we have to hear opinions different than our own so that we re-examine what we think and realize that there are views differing from our own. I think Mr. Whitt loves what he does and how he does it and feels left out of the discussion because of the current convention climate. He is 37, let him wait for a decade or two for the next paradigm shift, because there will be one. There will still be traditional SBC churches at that time as well as a new group of “Rockstar” preachers.

  • Alice Robinson

    Amen and Amen to everything and every word in Brad Whitt’s article. It’s great to have someone from the younger generation think and believe like this “Old Fashioned Traditional Southern Baptist” who was born and grew up loving and being proud of being Southern Baptist. I was baptiized at age 9 after receiving Christ as my Saviour in Vacation Bible School. I come from a strong Southern Baptist background. My grandfather on my mother’s side was an Old Fashioned Country Baptist Preacher and Pastor. He was a carpenter and built many of the churches he pastored. The first place I ever went was to church. I was taken in my bassinet and placed on the front pew while my mother taught Sunday School. On Thursday, I was there while WMU programs were being held-my mother was WMU President. I was involved in everything church while growing up and continued into my adult years. As an adult, I was a nursery worker after becoming a mother and I continued for many year. I started working in VBS in my Junior year in High School and continued that for many years. I became a Girl’s Auxiliary leader when my daughters reached the age for GA’s. I have looked back to that time and realized that that was when the Southern Baptist Convention began to change, in 1970. GA’s changed to 6 to 12 year olds and things were changed in lots of ways. To have something for Junior High and High School girls, they “invented” Acteens. I went from being a GA leader to being an Acteens director. That was different-just being a director, but Acteens was itself different. I’m glad my daughters had gone as far as they could, being Queens, in GA’s. In the Summer of 1971, we moved from Texas back to our hometown when my husband retired from the Air Force. There wasn’t any Acteens there so that was the end of that service for me as well as for my daughters. We lived in several different towns in the past thirty years and didn’t realize for awhile how things were changing in so many other ways in the Southern Baptist Convention. We moved from our hometown and our daughters were grown, and I wasn’t as active from then on. Church music has drastically changed from hymns in the Baptist Hymnal to what many people refer to as “7/11” songs. Seven words sung 11 times. I sang in choirs in many different churches, but I could not be in a choir now. It is even difficult to just be in the congregation. I like hymns and hymns that are sung as they were written. I also like to use a hymnal when I sing rather than seeing just words projected on a screen. When the hymnals disappeared from the seats, I carried my own personal hymnal. I just like having the music and words to follow when I sing. I do not care for music in church where the musicians “dance” while they perform.

    That just about covers my Old Fashioned Traditional Southern Baptist background and feelings. I could mention more about my background but I don’t need to be boring. By the way, I wear a skirt and blouse when I attend church and my husband wears a coat and tie, so that tells you how Old Fashioned and Traditional we are, if nothing else does. We grew up wearing our best to church and not like we were going to some sports event or other such activity.

  • Ray Earley

    Chris Bell,
    If you get a response please post it on here. I would like to see him clear up some of this mess.

    Baptist Messenger,
    Also I would like to say that I believe the Baptist Messenger should NOT have printed this article. Printing such an article would obviously support such statements.
    Very sad! We have some fine bloggers who are fine pastors as well as DOMS in this state. Their blogs are encouraging and motivating as well as thought provoking. I may not agree w/them all of the time, but at least they are fair in their assessments. Let’s see some guest editorials on them for a change. I can produce a list if necessary.

  • Ryan Abernathy

    Based on Mr. Whitt’s article, the comments on his blog site, and the other responses this has spawned, I would say that the statement “Right now, too many “outsiders from within” have influence, and they resent who we are, what we do and how we do it.”- (taken from his article) might be best laid at Mr. Whitt’s own doorstep.

    Resentment is an ugly thing in the Body of Christ. It breeds bitterness, contentiousness, and discord. It also breeds fear. Fear of losing one’s “position” or “power” or “microphone.” Based on the last sentence in Mr. Whitt’s article I believe that is the driving force here. Not fear of being irrelevant, but fear of not having control.

    Mr. Whitt has held several positions of leadership in his home state. He is not irrelevant. What he is now facing is a shift in power and influence that he, and others like him, cannot control. That can be scary, but it is no reason to lash out, especially considering those who this influence is shifting to are committed to the spread of the Gospel and the inerrancy of God’s Word.

    I would encourage all of us to pray for Brad Whitt and others like him. It is tough to feel that you are losing power and influence. My prayer is that they will be willing to cooperate with those of us who preach from stools, prefer jeans to suits, and love Jesus and His church just as much as they do. I would also pray that the jeans wearing, stool preaching brothers would love and include the guys like Brad Whitt, even when they lash out at us. We would do well to preserve the unity of the saints. (Ephesians 4:3)

    Further, I would humbly suggest to Mr. Whitt that instead of reading blogs and books about the people he describes and caricaturing them to his own detriment, that he befriend them instead. There is much we could learn from one another.

  • Brent

    Ray – Don’t misunderstand what I am about to say, I have enjoyed and agreed with most of your comments. But I would point out it seems you and Dr. Whitt both share a common and obvious distinctive – you both type what’s on your mind. I hope to meet you at some point and I hope you are well.

  • Scott Farrington

    As a member and layperson serving in a Baptist church, I would to throw out there that Biblically-centered relevance should be driving our churches to deliver an accurate Gospel message. I believe that SBC churches are given autonomous freedom to deliver the Good News in the fashion that proves most effective and impactful for its community, as long as it adheres to the Baptist Faith and Message tenets. We should never be so attached to a program or method such that it defines us as a denomination or that we make the program or the church a point of worship. Whole Gospel Truth delivered from the pulpit/podium, from the leaders and from the worship should be our defining purpose and legacy. That said, I appreciate the dialogue and responses to this article, which has certainly been catalyst for lively debate.

  • jeff self

    You summed it up when you said that you and pastor Whitt have alot in common. However the one common theme running through both of your articles is, the letter, “I”

    I mean this very respectfully but we should not worship or follow the traditions of the SBC or anything else. There is nothing wrong with worshiping in the traditional format or the contemporary as long as both are biblically centered. Bringing our best as a sacrifice of worship before the Lord doesn’t refer to our dress but the entire body of work known as our “life” of worship. We should not be legalistic in our idea of worship nor should we condemn what God is obviously using in many local communities to bring the harvest…which is His Word… not “style” of service ever one anyone to the Lord. God uses His people preaching His Word. Doesn’t require a hymnal or a screen…requires a heart of service and love.

  • jeff self

    please excuse the misspelling of the word, “won” in my response above…also the word “not” should read, “no style of service” — sorry but the fingers sometimes run off and leave the brain!

  • Ray Earley

    Your second paragraph was right on!
    Would love to meet you as well. You like to bass fish? If so let’s get together.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    It never ceases to amaze me how people can be more passionate about style than they are Christ! ALL that matters is that the Gospel and the Word of God be faithfully proclaimed. Unless it’s heresy, any time someone says, “I don’t like that in worship,” they’ve just made worship about themselves. God forgive us for such petty preferential passion!!! Like Paul, I say, “Let’s preach Christ and Him crucified!”

  • As a “young, restless, NON-reformed” pastor who’s new to Oklahoma, I’m so glad to hear from many in these comments who share my heart. I’ve served in the most urban contexts and the most rural and I refuse to believe that we can’t be unified via the gospel, instead of separated over petty differences.

    Just last night I challenged our people with the question, “Is it critical or am I being critical?” I encouraged them to adopt Paul’s philosophy in Phillipians 1:18: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice.”

  • Chris R

    Coming in late.. but from what I can tell no one said anything about the first line “a Southern Baptist boy by birth and conviction”. I get the conviction part but man you weren’t born Southern Baptist. A Southern Baptist is a Christian and unlike the Presby guys you mentioned, there’s no christening here to bring one into the Christian community early on. Speaking as one who’s been an SBC outsider for most of my life, this is the problem with the SBC, there are many who cannot tell the difference between SBC culture and Christian doctrine (not to mention Baptist doctrine). They stress the importance of remaining “Southern Baptist” sometimes at the expense of biblical Christian living/doctrine. BTW, I happen to personally know that some of the leaders you mentioned have rebuked young SBC leaders for not being fully committed and owning their “SBC identity” which has spurred them on to full-commitment to the SBC. Those guys love their Baptist brothers.

  • Ben

    The very hostility the man is referring to is present in many of these posts. I believe it would do well if traditions and methodologies- both new and old – were left to the autonomy of individual bodies as the convention’s constitution requires. However, I was present at the convention, and – not being for or against the GCR – was appalled to hear the implication that pastors who were not in favor of the GCR where “conservative but possibly not saved (Mohler)”, “faithless as the faithless spies who would not invade Canaan (Hunt),” or “committed to ensuring the destruction of the support to missionaries worldwide (Floyd).” It was this kind of rhetoric that broke my heart to their cause and deafened my ears to their words. This is a disagreement over methodologies not theology, and so long as people are so childish to present it as such, little good will come of this.

    I have great respect for the elders of the convention, as well as the traditions and methodologies they employed. Whether I agree with them or not is one thing, but the manner in which they have been presented is not in the best interest of the convention at all.

    I hope this message finds you all well.

    Much love,

    – Ben (Phil.1:20)

    • Mary

      Ben, thank you for your post taking note of the animosity in many of these responses.

      The message I saw throughout Brad Whitt’s editorial was that pastors – young or older – should not be marginalized because they are not “hip.” It seems the suit and tie “uniform” has been replaced with the spikey hair and untucked shirt “uniform.”

      No matter the music style, no matter the dress – when God’s Word is proclaimed, people will respond.
      Jeff Self, you were rude to Alice – no way around it. How else are people supposed to express their personal journey or preferences if they do not use the pronoun “I”?

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