From the Cruiseliner to the Battleship: What Will It Take?

Tim Brister —  October 2, 2007 — 18 Comments

It has been 28 years since the start of the Conservative Resurgence. Many valiant men found a hill on a which to die and fought for the inerrancy and authority of Scripture. For as long as I have been alive, I have been a beneficiary of the sacrifice and courage of such men.

During the past three decades, much has changed. The Bible is unapologetically held as God’s inspired, inerrant, authoritative Word. Seminaries which taught liberal theology are all soundly conservative. The liberals (“moderates”) have left to form their own Baptist organization (CBF). In 2007, one would be led to believe that all is well with the SBC. The second generation of Southern Baptists after the Conservative Resurgence (of which I am a part) is on the SBC cruiseliner and enjoying the victories that the first generation fought for.

Yet all is not okay.

In a day where we are not fighting liberals, we have become known for fighting ourselves. Wrangling about nonessential matters, we have arbitrarily created litmus tests for cooperation and without warrant made for ourselves definitions for what is a “true conservative.” We have gone from a wartime mentality to domestic infighting, like little kids in the back seat of the SBC shouting, “I know you are, but what am I?”

Necessary fights we aren’t fighting. Unnecessary fights are front page news. We not only don’t know who to fight, but we don’t know when to fight, why to fight, and how to fight. In this SBC cruiseliner, we are debating the style of the musician on stage while neglecting the hole that is sinking the ship. How did we come to this?

I don’t think I have the answer to that question. But somehow by God’s grace, we must turn this cruiseliner into a battleship. We must develop a wartime mentality and once again come together on a united front. You know, there are some things that just don’t matter in a time of war. And in this war, it is not over who is conservative and who is not (according to your own criteria), but the state of our churches, the recovery of the gospel, and mission which we have been entrusted by our Commander in Chief.

It was that faithful soldier Paul who said that no soldier of Christ entangles himself in the civilian affairs of this life because he wants to please his commanding officer (2 Tim. 2:4). So what will it take to move from the SBC cruiseliner to the SBC battleship?

It will require that we take a wartime budget and sacrifice for the mission. Churches who are spending 75% of their budget on their staffs and building projects could spend half that and invest in planting other churches and supporting missionaries around the world. It will require wartime perspective on everyday life with a conscious awareness that we have been given a mission to accomplish, and this mission is for everyone, not just those overseas. All personal agendas and investments are subservient to this larger mission. It will require that we be willing to personally pay the price. There will be some who will be on the front lines, likely to become casualties in the cause of advance.

These are just a few areas that I see change needing to take place if the SBC is going to keep from turning itself into the Titanic. Do we have men who are willing to sacrifice personal prestige, political friendships, and financial gain for the sake of the mission? Will there be churches who reevaluate their investments and spending to reflect a wartime, mission-driven focus? Will all believers in the Southern Baptist churches embrace the mission handed down to us by Jesus?

Let me tell you one easy place to begin. Take that 16.3 million that make up Southern Baptists today and ask them to count the cost. I can tell you that at least eight million won’t because they don’t even show up on Sunday. The SBC battleship will look greatly different than the SBC cruiseliner because we are not counting heads at a party but recruiting soldiers for war. The weight of incredulity in church membership today is a noose around our necks, not an anchor for the cruiseliner. If we don’t figure out who we are and make it clear what is means to be a member of a local church, then we are fooling ourselves to think when the enemy comes on our turf that we will find soldiers ready to fight.

God help us find soldiers who will endure hardship for the sake of Christ.
God help us find Southern Baptists who will endure hardship for the sake of the gospel and the church.

Share Button
Print Friendly
  • So, are you posting this series because of the upcoming trustee week at Southern?

  • Guillaume,

    Is there a trustee meeting next week?

    Nah, I am not writing this for anybody or with any person or people in mind. IOW, application is open-ended. I just have a little extra time this week with Fall Break and figured this would afford me a little time to blog on the SBC for one week. Once the week is over, back to originally scheduled programming. 😉

  • Adam Brown

    I get frustrated by the inconsistencies by the convention as it pertains to rules of involvement. An IMB missionary cannot have a private prayer language, Jerry Rankin has a private prayer language. The 2000 BF&M states that the role of senior pastor is reserved for men. There are many SBC churches who have females as the senior pastor. The best answer I have gotten about female pastors is that the convention believes in the autonomy of the local church and the convention cannot tell churches what to do. That seems to be an incomplete answer. Of course the SBC cannot make churches do anything, they have every right to have a female senior pastor. But, that church does not have to be an SBC church! When a convention cannot even follow it’s own guideline for cooperation it has become paralyzed by political correctness. Why do we even have the BF&M if we do not require cooperating churches to follow it? I fear that the real reason for allowing the churches involvement is not to ‘ruffle feathers’ and accordingly decrease numbers.

  • KEM

    In Tennessee the SBC institutions of higher learning do not require professors to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible. Beth Moore is one of the conventions biggest preachers and I could name more. Leaves us with many questions of what do we believe????

  • Adam,

    You state that there are many SBC churches who have female senior pastors? Is this verifiable? Are these churches affiliated with the CBF?

    I have not followed Beth Moore’s ministry, so I have to ask for clarification. She doesn’t believe in inerrancy?

    The state conventions are different from denominational entities. When the Conservative Resurgence took place and liberal profs left the seminaries, many went into state schools such as Samford (AL), Belmont (TN), and Baylor (TX). There is considerably less accountability with state schools with the state convention, and many of these state conventions are not exactly conservative (TN would be an example). I am pretty sure that any professor at Union would be required to believe in inerrancy, though I highly doubt it for Belmont. So the reform on a seminary level with the convention at large is not the same as the reform (or lack thereof) on a college level with the individual states.

  • Adam Brown

    Fern Creek Baptist on Bardstown Road, pastor Linda Barnes Popham Also there are a couple in Memphis TN, one is FBC Memphis I believe, need to check that. These churches may have dual affiliation though. But I doubt a church would have a dual affiliation with the SBC and CBF. Dr. Dave Adams also said he knows of SBC churches w/ female senior pastors.

  • KEM

    Beth teaches/preaches to men. I thought as a convention we did not support women leading men.

    Union doesn’t require professors or staffers to agree with inerrancy.

  • KEM,

    UU’s doctrinal statement on Scripture is as follows:

    “The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament were given by inspiration of God, and are the only sufficient, certain and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.”


    I would find it hard to believe that professors and faculty aren’t required to believe that about Scripture.

    Regarding Beth Moore, the issue is not so much on inerrancy but on gender (egalitarianism/complementarianism). The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is complementarian, stating that only men are qualified for the office of pastor/elder. Where is Beth Moore teaching men and women? At her conferences? In SBC churches?

  • Pingback: Style » From the Cruiseliner to the Battleship: What Will It Take?()

  • Adam Brown

    Beth Moore studies are targeted toward women. They could be used by anybody who had one or if any church took the liberty of using it for everybody. If men are using them it’s not Beth Moore’s fault.

    I just moved here from Memphis and Union is a very good and conservative school that does hold to the inerrancy of Scripture.

  • Concerning Beth Moore… Just where in the Scriptures can we find any defense for having a “Prophetess” come into an area and hold a “Teaching Conference” where the authority of the local churches and their local Pastor are both trodden under foot?

    Has not God entrust the discipleship of those women who attend these so called “Teaching Conferences” to the local church and the local Pastor? I can find no biblical justification for Beth Moore’s so called “Teaching Ministry” outside of her own local church under the direct authority of her local Pastor… Period!

    Grace to all,
    Greg Alford

  • Timmy:

    It is very interesting to me that you are writing on this topic throughout the week at the very same time that I am transitioning into a new ministry position — I am leaving the SBC. There are many reasons for my move, of which I will be writing on my blog in the next week or so, but up front I will say that I am sick of the nonsense and am always curiously asking young pastors like myself why they choose to stay in the convention. I’d love for you to write on this — do the pros outweigh the cons for you? Is it worth the fight, or could that time and effort be better spent elsewhere? There are a few things about the SBC that I appreciate, but don’t see them to be unique. I’m not a “cut bait and run” kind of guy, but this has been a long time coming. The ship has been taking on water for many years and I’m not sticking around to go down with it.

    If you’re wondering, I’m going to an ARBCA church in the area. Several ARBCA churches have SBC affiliation — ours does not.

    What do you think? Will you write on those things?

  • Pingback: Battleship SBC | Said At Southern Seminary()

  • Greg,

    Now that’s conviction! I like that. But I also don’t want to see this thread turn into a debate over Beth Moore as it would be quite tangential to the original post. It is something that should be talked about though.


    It is also very interesting that before you wrote your comment, I completed my next post which speaks directly to your situation and what you ask. It is scheduled to appear around 10:00 this morning (Wednesday). Every time I write on the SBC, I get emails from folks asking me what in the world I am doing hanging around the SBC. Part of my writing offline has been in part defending the SBC and sharing my hopes for ecclesiological reform. I am not like most SBC bloggers who can handle blogging on SBC issues on a daily basis, but I’ve got a week’s worth every six months or so. It isn’t much, but it appears that a lot of people are interested (at least that’s what the stats say).

    My upcoming post will probably not answer all your questions, but I speak to your frustration and the difficult situation for young, Reformed ministers in the SBC. If you don’t mind, let me know what you think. Grace and peace brother.

  • KEM

    Not at all wanting to start problems with regards to either UU or Beth Moore.

    Beth teaches/preaches to men at most of her conferences and yes these men choose to sit under her. She also is on TV every Wednesday (I believe Wednesday) on the James Roberson? show and there are men also sitting under her there. When I saw her she was on the day before Creflow? Dollar.

    As for UU, I have numerous friends that work in various positions there and I happen to live in Jackson. I love UU they are the best we have in undergrad out there but I know for a fact (unless this friend that works there lied to me) that they do hold to the conservative statement that you have stated but they are not require to sign anything or uphold that statement in any fashion. Professors can but are not required to sign the statement and the others staffers are not even talked to about the matter. Of course this is according to the ones I know. I addressed this issue with one friend do to my shock that it is not an requirement to work their. I do not intend on causing any problem here it is just what I have been told by the few I know that are part of UU. As I said I love UU but I do hope that this becomes a requirement for all that have a part of working there.

  • Jim Champion


    Many of the above comments reflect exactly what the problem with what the CR has become. It went from being all about Inerrancy (where exactly is that in the BFM 2000?) to putting the “right” people in the “right” jobs, to now quibbling over matters of interpretation ie is Beth Moore anyone’s senior pastor?? Alcohol, tounges, female seminary professors etc. Its not at all about innerancy any longer (if it ever was), it is now about narrowing of parameters.

    It was interesting listening to the convergent conference at SWBTS, those guys seem to get it – and I would include Danny Akin and Ed Stetzer in that group. There were some pretty funny moments in the Q&A session – some uncomfortable ones as well

  • Pingback: The Fleecing of the SBC « Provocations & Pantings()

  • Linda Waller

    Quite fascinating to me. Linda Barnes Popham writes an article about what churches are not doing regarding mission and ministry, and the responses are all about the fact that she is a woman. Maybe all of you should read her article again. And again.