SBC Presidential Politics: Let Them Run

I’ve had this article rolling around in my head for several months now.  I wanted to write it months ago, but I didn’t want to sound as if I was suggesting that someone should run against Steve Gaines for SBC President this year.  My goal was to get it up in the small window of time between this year’s election and the time that people begin to talk about next year’s election.  But it seems that SBC presidential politics are a bit like national presidential politics.  The talk of “who’s next?” begins immediately after the current year’s election is over.

Of course, the unusual circumstances of the 2016 election caused talk even then of what would happen in 2018.  At least one seminary president declared then that J.D. Greear should be elected in 2018.  But that talk seemed to have died down until immediately following this year’s election.  Now here we are just a week removed from the 2017 convention, and I’ve already heard J.D. Greear’s name mentioned for 2018 SBC President.  At least two prominent people, including one entity head, have tweeted that J.D. Greear should be elected President of the SBC without opposition at our meeting next year in Dallas.

Let me first say that I do not have a problem with J.D. Greear running again for SBC President.  I believe he would make a great President of the SBC.  He handled last year’s election with class.  He is a very capable leader.  And I believe he would serve us well if elected.  So please do not take anything I am writing here as a slight against J.D. Greear.  If J.D. Greear wants to be SBC President, he should run in 2018 and I would be happy to vote for him.  My issue here has nothing to do with J.D. Greear.

My concern is with people suggesting that no one should run against him.  It’s fine with me if he runs unopposed.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with elections where someone runs unopposed.  In fact, we seem to have at least one such election every other year when the incumbent is unanimously elected for a second term.  And when the presidency isn’t up for grabs, there’s always the Registration Secretary election to keep us on the edge of our seats.

It seems that there is a mindset among a great number of people within our convention that the humility Greear demonstrated last year should make him an automatic choice in 2018.  I disagree.  Every year is a new year.  There are millions of Southern Baptists.  From my perspective, no one is owed the presidency, not even the incumbent.  If someone wants to run against them, they should feel free to do so, and messengers should feel free to choose the candidate they prefer.  No one should look down their nose at any Southern Baptist who is willing to have his name placed in nomination for service to our convention.

I realize this article will probably receive some pushback.  But I also know that there are others who share this view.  Perhaps some of them have ulterior motives, but I assure you that my motives here are pure.  I believe we are stronger as a convention when any Southern Baptist feels the freedom to be considered by the messengers to serve as an officer.  I also believe it means more to be elected President, even if unopposed, when every Southern Baptist feels the freedom to run if he so desires.

What say you?

#SBCPC17 Sermons: David Choi – Philippians 1:1-11

All of the sermons from the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference are available here.  Over the next few weeks we will be posting the video from each sermon here at SBC Voices along with the text for that sermon from the CSB and some notable quotes from the sermon.  Let us know in the comments what you most enjoyed and appreciated from each sermon.

Philippians 1:1-11

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Indeed, it is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are superior and may be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.

Our Gospel Identity

“Some of us need to pause and realize that there is nothing we have to do to earn God’s grace.”

“The gospel frees us to be honest about our sin because our past doesn’t define us, Jesus defines us.”

“Pastor, you’re not defined by your performance.”

Our Gospel Partnership

“There is a supernatural affection for one another that comes because we partner around the gospel.”

“Prayer is a reminder through the gospel that we can’t, but he can.”

“When you’re pleading with difficult sinners in difficult situations your confidence had better be in the gospel and not in people.”

“I have no bread. But the beauty of the gospel is this, that because of the finished work of Jesus Christ I know exactly where to go for bread.”

Another Reminder of the Necessity of the Conservative Resurgence

Several years ago I sat in an associational meeting where a trio of pastors sang “In Christ Alone.”  It’s a wonderful hymn, and I was excited to hear it sung in our meeting.  That is until they got to the end of the second verse where the song—as written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty—says, “‘Till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.”  I knew the song and was familiar with the lyrics.  So you can imagine my shock when instead these three pastors sang, “Till on that cross as Jesus died, the love of God was magnified.”  Of course there is nothing wrong with saying that the love of God was magnified on the cross.  But I knew what was happening.  The song had been adapted so as not to affirm penal substitution.

That was my first personal experience with Baptist pastors denying the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.  Sadly, it was not the last.

For this reason and others, I am thankful that we passed a resolution “On the Necessity of Penal Substitutionary Atonement” last week at the Southern Baptist Convention.  This resolution begins by acknowledging, “In recent days numerous voices from the Protestant world have boldly attacked the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement.”

The resolution goes on to state the effects of denying penal substitutionary atonement.

WHEREAS, The denial of penal substitutionary atonement in effect denies the holy and loving God the exercise of His justice, the overflow of which in a sinful world is the outpouring of His just retributive wrath; and

WHEREAS, The denial of penal substitutionary atonement thus displays in effect the denial of the perfect character of the one true God; and

WHEREAS, The denial of penal substitutionary atonement constitutes false teaching that leads the flock astray (Acts 20:28) and leaves the world without a message of a sin-cleansing Savior (Romans 5:6–11); and

WHEREAS, The denial of penal substitutionary atonement necessarily compromises the biblical and historical doctrines of propitiation, expiation, ransom, satisfaction, Christus Victor, Christus Exemplar, and more;

Finally, the resolution states, “RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 13–14, 2017, reaffirm the truthfulness, efficacy, and beauty of the biblical doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement as the burning core of the Gospel message and the only hope of a fallen race.”

The resolution passed unanimously.  That would not have been possible without the Conservative Resurgence.  Every once in a while someone comes around here to state that the Conservative Resurgence was unnecessary.  There were no theological liberals in the SBC.  It was always only ever about politics, they say.

If you believe that, you need to read some of the things being written by Baptist pastors today who no longer identify themselves as Southern Baptists.  One such article was written by Jim Somerville who pastors First Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.  FBC Richmond is a little over an hour from where I currently pastor.  It is a historic church both in the Southern Baptist Convention and within the Baptist General Association of Virginia.  In the article entitled “Enough ‘Virgin in the Volcano’ theology,” Somerville sets his aim at the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus.  He wrongly claims this view of the atonement is incompatible with the doctrine of the Trinity, and argues that it’s time to finally set it aside.

I read another article today over at BNG called “Losing Jesus: My lament and call today as a progressive pastor.”  The article is shockingly candid.  He acknowledges that often his “sermons have more references to an article from the New York Times, to the amazing black feminist leader bell hooks, and to the poetry of Rumi than to Jesus and his words in the Gospels.”  In his pursuit of progressive causes, he lost Jesus.  That’s of course what conservative evangelicals have been warning of for years.  Forsake the Bible and its teachings on controversial subjects and you will eventually lose Jesus.  Sadly, this so-called pastor has adopted the wrong solution.  He believes that he needs to add Jesus back to all of the other things he believes rather than recognizing that he has gone completely off the rails and needs to turn to Jesus in repentance and faith.

Thankfully, this kind of denial of the faith once for all delivered to the saints has no place in the Southern Baptist Convention.  Today we are a denomination that can unanimously pass a resolution on the substitutionary atonement of Jesus.  We are a denomination that stands firmly on the Bible.  We have our issues.  Our baptism numbers are declining.  Church membership and worship statistics are down.  But the conversation in Phoenix was about how we can better and more faithfully proclaim the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ rather than what other scriptural teachings we need to deny or what other accommodations we need to make to the culture.

I was not yet born when Adrian Rogers was first elected as president of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The Conservative Resurgence was over before I graduated High School.  But I learned of the work of those who rescued our denomination from shipwreck as a seminary student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  But I don’t have to take my professors word for it to know that the SBC was in need of a Conservative Resurgence.  I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes.

Social Media and our SBC Annual Meeting

A lot could be said about the effects of social media on the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention.  But my purpose here is to focus on one particular dynamic that I find interesting.  I’m interested to know your thoughts concerning how social media has affected our meetings in this way.

Our convention meetings over the last two years have both included contested votes.  In 2016 it was the presidential election.  We started with three candidates.  No candidate received a majority of the vote.  One candidate was thus eliminated and the top two vote getters went head to head.  With that vote, the unthinkable happened.  With only two candidates running, still neither candidate managed to receive a majority of the vote.  Thus the stage was set for a Wednesday morning showdown.  If one candidate had not withdrawn from the race, we would have had three votes for the office of President at the 2016 SBC.

This year the issue was the alt-right resolution.  As you’ve read here, the Resolutions Committee declined to bring forward a resolution condemning the alt-right.  A motion was made to reconsider.  The convention voted, and the motion failed to receive the necessary 2/3 majority to force the committee to report out the resolution.  Then shortly thereafter the convention broke for dinner.  After dinner, another messenger made a motion to ask the Committee on Order of Business to provide more time in the schedule for the Resolutions Committee to report out a resolution on this same subject.  That motion also needed a 2/3 majority.  It went to a ballot vote, and the motion failed.  Then later that night, the Committee on Order of Business asked the convention to reconsider allowing the Resolutions Committee time to report out a resolution on this subject.  That vote passed overwhelmingly.  Then the next morning the Resolutions Committee brought forward their resolution, the convention voted, and the resolution was passed almost unanimously.

The details concerning the alt-right resolution have been rehashed here and in other places many times.  Last year all the discussion was about the presidential election.  We’ve talked about these things until there’s not much left to say.  So why do I bring these two situations back up, and what is the connection between them?

I want you to think with me about the impact of social media on these two votes.  The Annual Meeting is a busy time.  I was present for all of the presidential votes last year, but I missed the first two votes concerning the alt-right resolution because I was tending to another responsibility.  I was only present for the third vote because I got word that I needed to get back to the convention hall for another vote.  How did I get that word?  Social media.  In both cases, tweets and messages were being sent out over social media urging messengers to get back to the convention hall.  Many did, but some likely never saw the tweets.

Is it possible that social media is impacting the vote totals at our annual meetings, especially when a vote on a particular issue goes to an unexpected second or third vote?  Surely some older Southern Baptists use social media as well, but who is most likely to be on social media?  The younger crowd.  So does the younger crowd have an advantage in situations where an unexpected vote arises and there are widespread calls to get back to the convention hall?

Of course the flip side is that the older crowd is probably more likely to be present in the convention hall for all of the business sessions to begin with.  So maybe it’s really all a wash in the end.  I don’t know the answer to my question here, and there’s probably no way to measure it.  But I do find it interesting.

One more related question to consider: Should the SBC do more to inform messengers of what is going on during the annual meeting?  A text message could be sent out to all messengers as soon as a projected time for a specific vote has been determined.  This still likely wouldn’t reach every messenger, but it would probably reach most.  Or does the responsibility belong with the messenger?  Keep your butt in the convention hall during every minute of the meeting or expect that you will miss an important vote from time to time.

I’m interested to know your thoughts.