It was ten years ago in the Fall of 1998 as a sophomore in college that I first heard Voddie Baucham speak. As a college minister, I traveled up to The Church at Brookhills with some friends to a conference called Refuge put on by StudentLife. All I can remember about Voddie ten years ago was thinking, “Dude, that brother can bring it!” Little did I know that Voddie was quickly becoming the rising star in the SBC. A young, articulate, and intelligent African American with a passion for God unlike any I had seen, Voddie was quickly noticed by conference developers looking for a fresh face and a powerful message.
Ten years later, Voddie is all but hanging on as a Southern Baptist. No, he did not commit any immoral acts or disqualify himself from ministry. What happened is that he chose not to play the game of political correctness or prefer his career over biblical truth. Voddie is not one to have ever shied away from controversy, and it was evident that he was not going to allow political favors, denominational power, or the cult of personality to shape and direct his ministerial calling. Having said that, I would like to turn your attention to Voddie’s recent blog post entitled “SBC and Calvinism: A Personal Perspective.”
Voddie shares that there three areas that resulted in his falling out with the SBC mainstream, namely his position on education, the family/youth ministry, and Calvinism. Prior to these developments, Voddie revealed to what extent he was catered from everyone in the SBC including LifeWay (with three book offers), state conventions, and Pastor’s Conferences of the Annual Meetings of the SBC. While his leadership in the areas of education and the family caused several disagreements, it was being identified as a “Calvinist” that changed the gesture of the mainstream Southern Baptists from a heartfelt handshake to an unapologetic boot. Voddie, writing about his “coming out of the closet,” confessed,
No… I’m not gay. It’s far worse than that. I’m a Calvinist! That’s right, I’m a fire-breathing, TULIP believing, five-point Calvinist. That, my friends, is the unpardonable sin in contemporary Southern Baptist life (unless your name is Al Mohler and you’ve been President of the flagship Southern Baptist Theological Seminary since you were in your early thirties and happen to be the most intelligent, articulate, winsome public face the Convention has).
Ironically, it was at the second conference that I had attended with Voddie speaking, the 2006 Desiring God National Conference, that Southern Baptists were made aware that Voddie had all along been wearing the scarlet “C” on his chest. Then it was speaking at the 2007 Founders Breakfast at San Antonio with a message entitled “Southern Baptists at Sardis.” While some have deemed “vitriol” to be the reason for the change-of-heart among Southern Baptists (at which point he references the vitriol of Ergun Caner, Jerry Falwell, and Jerry Vines), the real reason was “being a part of a movement the SBC sees as a threat to evangelism, and our already declining baptismal numbers.”
Here is yet another leading voice of the past decade of the younger generation of Southern Baptists that has been marginalized by the anti-Calvinist agenda of the SBC. Perhaps someone should warn Matt Chandler who is scheduled next year to speak both at the 2009 FBC JAX Conference (Feb. 6-10) as well as the 2009 Desiring God Pastor’s Conference (Feb. 2-4). In any case, one should take note that the anti-Calvinist leadership of the SBC–from the Executive Committee to the John 3:16 Conference–is unplugging the microphones of the voices attracting younger Southern Baptists today.
I don’t aree with Voddie on everything as I am quite certain that I do not agree with most of my Calvinist friends on everything. But what I do appreciate about him is his willingness to continue to bring it over the past decade whether he has the backing of a denomination or the fronting of a denomination. While Voddie is “no longer considering a future of any significance in the Convention,” I believe there is a far greater significance to be had that cannot be counted be nickles and noses or conferences and celebrity; nah, it is a significance that will bear the marks of donkey-riding Savior, not a denominational-rising superstar.