“No One Can Tell Southern Baptists What to Do”

That’s the comment by Darrell Orman, chairman of the Resolutions Committee, speaking to Christianity Today after the passing of the resolution on regenerate church membership. Tom Ascol’s response:

“That’s a sad reality. Even Jesus can’t tell some Southern Baptists what to do.”

Am I the only who finds it odd that the chairman of a resolutions committee is on record asserting, ‘You can’t tell us what to do!”? Why, pray tell, does the SBC have such a thing as a Resolutions Committee?

[Observation 2]

Incoming President Johnny Hunt, when discussing about purging membership roles, said that “few church members are in worship every single Sunday.” But is that rationale not an indication of the very reason why we need to practice church discipline that we may uphold meaningful church membership? So we have few people attending church every Sunday; ergo, don’t purge the rolls. How would that work if we said, “Few church members believe in tithing, so we don’t need to receive tithes and offerings anymore.” Instead of being predisposed to the biblical standard, have we not placated to the current standard and sought justification for our negligence? I have stated elsewhere and will state again that I am hopeful that Hunt will lead the way and inspire pastors in pursuing integrity in church membership. Let’s pray for him and the churches of the SBC, that our reporting will be a reflection of honesty and our repenting will be a reflection of humility.

[Observation 3]

In their report on messengers at the Annual Meeting of the SBC in Indy, Baptist Press reveals that those under the age of 40 accounted for only 16.22% of those in attendance. That means that more than 4 out of 5 were over the age of 40; nearly 1 in 3 over the age of 60. The 7,277 messengers represented 3,142 churches in the SBC–a denomination with over 44,000 churches. Seven percent of SBC churches were represented in Indy at the annual meeting. Seven percent.

So going back to the first observation about no one telling Southern Baptists what to do. When the SBC bureaucracy wants to legislate a total abstinence position on alcohol regarding church planters, missionary appointments, or denominational servants, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do. When you hear denominational leaders policing Calvinism in search committees with arbitrary requirements, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do. And when the increasing number of empty chairs at the annual meeting lead to redoubling efforts for denominational loyalty, remember that no one can tell Southern Baptists what to do.

Explore posts in the same categories: Church Membership, Excerpts, SBC


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20 Comments on ““No One Can Tell Southern Baptists What to Do””

  1. kevin griggs Says:

    My thoughts exactly . . . great observations.

    I represented one of those 7% churches at the annual meeting. I remember asking myself, as I walked through the exibit hall and convention hall, “Why am I here?” I feel like I wasted $700 of our church’s money. Maybe the other 93% of churches that were not there knew something I didn’t.

  2. Matt Privett Says:

    You’re dead on, Timmy. I was in Indianapolis, too. I had many of the same thoughts regarding the representation. Don’t worry, Chairman… if things stay as they are in a few years there won’t be anyone there to tell you what to do.

  3. I was given a paper by a Greek Orthodox friend of mine by a former Baptist that had become Othodox. He claimed that the One Foundational Pillar of being a Baptist was individual autonomy. Huh?! I thought, but I guess there are some strains of Baptists that think that way – though as you point out that autonomous spirit is inconsistent.

    Keep up the good fight!

    I’ll go back to being a Canadian lurker now.

  4. G F McDowell Says:

    Orman’s comment is precisely the kind of pride-fueled hypocritical double mindedness that is fueling the demise of this denomination. Did you catch Hunt denying a baptist distinctive in that last passage? Congregational polity cannot work if there is no attempt to distinguish the sheep from the goats.

    Unpacking Hunt’s comment about “few church members” attending every sunday, he was stating that the majority of those on the rolls attend at least monthly, but not weekly. So, how do these members justify their patchy attendance? Are they being shepherded, or is church just something they do when the (insert team name here) aren’t playing? Is that the kind of commitment to the saints that Hunt wishes to condone?

  5. Guillaume! Where you been hidin’, man?

    And the appropriate teams are Georgia or Georgia Tech, the Braves, and the Falcons. I oughta know, I worked there for 2 summers. 😀

    I also happen to know that when I was there, the type of shepherding you’re asking about was done mainly by small groups – Sunday Schools, Bible study groups, support groups, etc., as well as a weekly visitation program geared towards the inactive or those who had not yet “plugged in” to a group. That freed up the staff to do do more pastoral-type duties and evangelism. Didn’t mean that “patchy” members would show, though. I and one ministry volunteer handled the entire Deaf ministry for those 2 summers. I can’t, of course, speak to how they do it now.

  6. Robert Dando Says:

    If as pastor of a UK church I might share my own situation.

    As church leaders at my own church, we are currently seeking to ensure our church membership roll more accurately reflects attendance – and the area of concern is around 5% of our total membership!

    95% of our church members are regularly involved in the church’s worship and witness (as physical ability and age allow), and only 5% of members slipping away deeply concerns us. This is not an unusual level in a UK baptist church when membership is almost always lower than attendance.

  7. John Says:

    I personally love going to the conventions–to use the words of Stezer, it always makes me feel young and skinny!

  8. jakeporter Says:

    Excellent post. On such matters, it seems we are kindred spirits. I enjoy your blog. Thanks for the time you put into it.

  9. Hey, maybe if members could only tithe a week at the time, and could only tithe in person, pastors (and finance committees) might be more interested in regular attendance. It is a tragedy that denominational leaders go through such spiritual and theological gymnastics to avoid clear biblical teaching regarding membership.
    I’m off to drink some beer while searching for a Calvinist pastor and NOT attend the convention (oh, already did that last one)!

  10. There have been state conventions and local associations who have made total abstinence public policy for involvement in both involvement in associations and leadership in state conventions. Methinks that if one can take a tertiary matter and make it a requirement, then surely state conventions and associations can place the same premium on the cardinal doctrine of baptist polity–regenerate church membership.


    Resolved, that no state convention allow anyone to serve at any level whose church does not practice regenerate church membership.

    Resolved, that no association accept any Southern Baptist church whose church does not practice regenerate church membership.

    Simple enough, no?

    But that would *never* happen. We would rather be fundamentalists (raising tertiary issues to essentials) than Baptists (recovering the fundamental belief of our Baptist identity).

    And it is that fundamentalism and tacit dismissal of biblical polity that are frustrating Southern Baptists today. A sad reality indeed.

  11. johnMark Says:


    Great thoughts!

    Along these lines is a short news story about Ergun Caner who is said to “Chastise Young Southern Baptists.” I have yet to find the reasoning behind this report or the context. It certainly does show a hierarchical division of sorts in the SBC though.

    Kevin G, it’s good to”see” you in the blog-o-sphere. We need to catch up.


  12. johnMark,

    Well, the same argumentation was trotted out after Greensboro by the (then) Joshua Convergent guys. Three years and still no validation. Furthermore, I am not sure how this article write up can be considered news. Whoever reported this did not cite a speech or event in which these comments were made; furthermore, it appears that it was written short-hand. But that aside, the merits of Caner’s claims are a perspective he finds on Liberty mountain; so if that it is what he finds, it is under his own nose and not the reality across the SBC. The entitlement mentality would exist if younger Southern Baptists found pulpits and ministries attractive. But they are finding that (and their heroes) elsewhere, and that is why you didn’t find them in Indy.

  13. Southern Baptists stuck in a catch-22? Unbelievable! There’s a part of me that finds all this very amusing. Then I feel ashamed, because I should be crying.


  14. Greg Alford Says:


    1. Those who worship at “The Alter of Numbers” will never embrace the resolution on regenerate church membership. It is against their religion to do so… 🙂

    2. Did the chairman of the Resolutions Committee actually say that the Churches “can’t tell us what to do!”?

    If so, then that sounds like something John Sullivan told me in an email a few year ago concerning the Baptist Churches of Florida… John told me that “the churches need to remember that the Florida Baptist Convention is Autonomous also.”

    Sounds like the Convention Powerbrokers want Autonomy for themselves (no accountability)… yet at the same time they wish to force their personal convictions upon just about everyone else in the Convention.

    Please keep ringing the bell Timmy: they are counting on everyone getting tired of talking about these issues and moving on… leaving their “arbitrary requirements” for participation in the Convention in place.

    Until these “arbitrary / extra-biblical requirements” for participation are removed we must be willing to continue to speak out against them.

    Grace Always,

  15. Andrew Says:


    What do you think will end this graying and factional fundamentalism we have been seeing in the past few years? Please read my latest posts on this subject and then give me your comments.

    By the way, I agree that the heart of the matter may lie in the bureaucracy and establishment we have created….

  16. G F McDowell Says:

    Stephen, I’ve been on the DL. I’ve managed to survive a round of layoffs at my employer, and am generally minding my own business.

  17. Letitia,

    Great to hear from you (long time!). Yeah, SBC is currently experiencing hyper-autonomy. We hide behind certain beliefs to justify the others we don’t practice, kind of like trading sinners for others that are easier to hide (lyrics from Derek Webb).


    According to the CT article, that is what Orman said. I agree that the “powers that be” need to be reminded that they are denominational *servants* who exist for the churches, not vice versa. We have provided so many political pulpits within the bureaucracy that it gives voice to people who, while making an argument for autonomy, are in that very assertion rejecting it in the process. The result is, as you said, no accountability to the churches or the convention which they represent.


    I have written a post that I have kept in draft mode about ways to stop the “graying of the SBC” that I might post sometime next week. It was Timothy George who said a couple of decades ago that replace on bureaucracy with another a reformation does nto make. The fundamental problem with the SBC is we have assumed, and quickly forgotten the gospel. The fact that we have severed cooperation on such trivial matters show how far we have strayed from the center, and the splintering we see today is a branch that has been detached from the vine.


    Indeed, it is good to hear from you again. I hope all is well there in Vermont. Do keep in touch my friend.

  18. Andy Says:

    For some reason, I dreamed I was hanging out with Tom post-church one day — that was totally out of nowhere.

  19. Concerned in the SBC Says:

    The SBC VP is “I’m not into that kind of stuff” when it comes to removing the 2,500-4,000 inactive members from his church’s role.

    Listen @ 24 minutes: http://www.portermemorial.net/Audio2008/092808am.mp3

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