Southern Baptists Labeled (and Wordled)

Over the weekend, Dr. Thom Rainer, President and CEO of LifeWay, conducted an informal survey on Twitter regarding people’s thoughts about the name “Southern Baptist.”  Specifically, Rainer asked,

What do you think when you hear ‘Southern Baptist’?

The answers are quite telling. Below is a Wordle put together by Tony Kummer who added the following words:

Why does this matter? Bottom line, Twitter users are influencers. They are tech savvy, well education, and super connected. Social media has great power to reflect and move public opinion. . . . This is a chance to see ourselves through the eyes of others. At least in some measure, we are giving Jesus a bad name.  It’s time for some healthy humiliation and repentance.

southern-baptist-worldleIf you look past legalism, legalistic, don’t, and boycott, you will find Jesus and the gospel in 4 point font. Does it bother anyone else that we are more known for Disney and chicken than Jesus and the gospel?  Yeah, I know this is not “scientific,” but that is besides the point.  While I am grateful for the accomplishments of the Conservative Resurgence, I am not sure this is the kind of “accomplishment” we intended to have.

This is a snapshot of why the SBC vehicle does not need a paint job but to be stripped down and rebuilt, starting with the engine of the Cooperative Program. We cannot keep changing the tires with new evangelism initiatives; we need a new delivery system that delivers what we are for rather than what we are against.  The day when Jesus and the gospel are descriptive of Southern Baptists is the day when church doors are opening instead of closing, the day when cooperation wins out of controversy, the day when we blog about brokenness and repentance rather than boycotts and resolutions, and the day when a younger generation embraces the future as Baptists rather than walking away from it.

Let me ask a follow up question to Dr. Rainer’s here on P&P:

“What do want people to think when they hear ‘Southern Baptist?'”

I’d love to hear your responses.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: SBC, Twitter

Tags: , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

41 Comments on “Southern Baptists Labeled (and Wordled)”

  1. mike Says:

    this is a cool post. are the larger words in the picture the ones tweeted the most or something? i’m gussing the larger the word, the more it was used.

    i’m torn when it comes to outside perception of southern baptists. when you talk to outsiders, the reason they use words like “legalism” and such is that we are typically against issues like abortion, assisted suicide, etc. of course we’ve also earned our legalism tag from a long history of condemning everything from seeing movies to listening to jazz to condeming alcohol (all non-biblical). but the newer, younger 20 somethings label us legalistic on more serious issues that they don’t see as wrong.

    i think thom rainer of all people should no better than to try and prove anything from something like that. it’s just too vague to provide any real information.

    still, thanks for providing the information.


    • are the larger words in the picture the ones tweeted the most or something?

      That’s correct. Frequency of words determine the size.

      I don’t think Dr. Rainer was trying to make a scientific poll (after all, I am pretty sure he knows how to do research and sampling). I think the point was to get a solicited sampling of responses from a niche of well-connected, albeit probably somewhat homogeneous swath of people. As far as I know, he did not make any conclusions but simply let the comments stand as they are (the wordle was done by Tony Kummer).

  2. jnlclm99 Says:

    It took way too long to find Jesus.

    To answer your question: Jesus, gospel, grace, evangelism, resurrection, cross, love, mercy, Bible-believing, missions, Holy Spirit, discipleship, just to name a few.


  3. Perhaps the better question is, “Why stay in the SBC?” It seems there is lots of controversy, and I have rarely heard anything good about the convention, especially from the “reformed blogosphere.” I am sure it has something to do with “change from the inside,” but at what point does it become a worthless battle to fight?


    • Very reasonable and fair questions to ask–questions that I have heard repeatedly since getting involved in SBC life five years ago. One thing we should be clear on: the SBC is not the last best hope for mankind, and God could very easily accomplish His will without SBC existing. Having said that, Southern Baptists have done a lot of good in certain areas, most notably international missions and theological education (among others).

      Personally, I am not as optimistic about the bureaucracy changing as much as I am a generation working around and beyond the bureaucracy. The future of Southern Baptists will be in a corporate identity not shaped by Nashville or annual meetings or resolutions but by affinity based networks or associations that may or may not have a direct link to official denominational structures (such as state conventions or local associations).

      There are many who have already written off the SBC as a worthless battle to fight, and quite frankly, I think the SBC needs to make the case that we don’t exist to fight each other but work together for the advancement of the mission.

  4. Blake Says:

    I like jnlclm99’s list, but even more than those I’d like to see the words changed, transformed and different. I want us to become so transformed, changed and made different by pursuing the things on jnlclm99’s list that people notice the real work of God it took to get this behemoth turned around and back on the narrow path. I want people to cease to think about a group of nostalgic Puritans and to associate us with a supernatural love, grace and humility that is the direct effect of the transforming power of being in intimate relationship with the Trinity.

  5. Tony Kummer Says:

    Timmy: I corrected my Freudian typo, the quote should read “they are tech savvy”

  6. Truthseeker Says:

    I would like Southern Baptists to be known for maintaining the integrity of the gospel above all else. We will fail to be salt and light if we fail in our commitment to the Truth of the gospel.

  7. Marty Duren Says:

    “A denomination that dismantled most of itself for the good of the kingdom.”

    That’s what I want people to think in about 10 years.

  8. Rod Carroll Says:

    I would like for people to think of Christ and the salvation he gives by grace alone. I would like for people to think we have a high view of scripture, so high that we walk, love, and live according to its words, and that by doing so they see a people that look more like Christ everyday and less like the world around them. I would like for people to think we care more about people and seeing them changed by the gospel than we do about our programs, buildings and “numbers”. I would like for people to know more about what we stand for in this culture than what are against.


    • Good words, Rod. Having a high view of Scripture should lead to the things you mentioned, but unfortunately that has not been the case. I think part of that has been a culture warrior approach rather than has identified us by things tangentially related to our purpose and mission.

  9. Ivan Schoen Says:

    Tim said:

    “This is a snapshot of why the SBC vehicle does not need a paint job but to be stripped down and rebuilt, starting with the engine of the Cooperative Program.”

    What would the rebuilding look like? How, practical terms, would we go about doing that? BTW, I agree that it needs to be done, but I haven’t a clue as to how we go about it.


    • There are various approaches to this. One approach is to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic, and another approach would be to turn the cruise liner into a battleship. I am more inclined towards the latter, although I’m afraid that the bureaucracy that exists would never see that take place.

      I think the first place to look is the state conventions. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being absorbed in state conventions (in 2008, I think close to $300 million of CP money stayed in the states). The second place to look is NAMB. I am going to reserve my commentary on this for the time being. The third place to look is Nashville and the Executive Committee. If I could pinpoint practically the three biggest problems, that’s where I would start.

  10. Mike Leake Says:

    This is really interesting. It’s sad that we are more known for legalism and missions than Jesus. If you are interested you can read my analysis here.

  11. TJ Says:

    I think it is great to want to be known for the things that have been mentioned above. However, I think the SBC’s perception (and Christianity in general) will always be a bit skewed. Assuming that one day the SBC will be all that so many of us hope it to be, the lost world probably won’t understand that what they are seeing in us is Jesus, Scripture, Disciple-making, healthy, etc. I think perception isn’t always reality.

  12. Tony Kummer Says:

    I want Southern Baptist = People who love Jesus and love their neighbors.

  13. Steve McCoy Says:

    What do I want people to think when they hear Southern Baptist?

    1. NOT “Southern,” but the convention has kept voting that one away. Now that that’s off my chest…
    2. Jesus, Gospel, truth, etc
    3. Love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, etc
    4. Beauty, culture, art, creativity, etc
    5. Good dancers


  14. There is no doubt that when most people think of Southern Baptists, their thoughts are negative. As your collage above shows, words like “legalistic, controling, Pharisees” etc. are in the fore-front of people’s minds. We are firm on our doctrines. That is generally not our problem. So what are we missing? What we are missing most is….Love.

    Jesus told us in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” Over and over he made this clear. Remember the greatest commandments: (1) Love God (2) Love our Neighbors as ourselves? Yet, we are not known by our love. Far from it! What would happen if we, while keeping our faith firm in God’s Word, fell in love all over again and put this love into practice in our communities? What if people thought first about how much we love each other and our neighbors? I believe it would leave the kind of witness that Jesus meant for us to have. May God help us to rediscover our love for Him and our love for those whom He loves so much and gave his life to save! THAT is the kind of Southern Baptist I want to be!

  15. gavinbrown Says:

    I agree that this is an extremely important topic to discuss, but I must confess that I burst into laughter when I saw “Fried” and “chicken” displyed quite prominently in the Wordle.

  16. shane Says:

    I’d like a lot less Southern and a lot more Baptist and whole lot less Convention(al) nonsense

    —love that fried chicken made the list—blest be the tie that binds

  17. johnMark Says:

    My summary response: Those people are Jesus freaks whom I dislike. Yet, I can’t seem to stay mad at them.

    More later as I think out how to explain this.

    Ciaodios,

    Mark

  18. D.L. Kane Says:

    Timmy-two things:

    1) Perhaps Dr. Rainer can do an informal survey and ask Twitter users, “What do you think when you hear ‘Christian’?

    2) Did you ever tell us “Where you were going” on that post regarding “Must you Love Christ in order to be Saved”?

    Thought you were off the hook, eh? Forgive me if I somehow missed your wrap up on that one. 🙂


    • D.L.,

      1) I would be interested in that too.

      2) No, I am not off the hook! When I was working through that thought process, I was in the midst of travel, so I was not able to wrap it up. I need to do that. 🙂


  19. Hey Timmy,

    I like when you said, “We cannot keep changing the tires with new evangelism initiatives; we need a new delivery system that delivers what we are for rather than what we are against.”

    We need an overhaul of our approach to the culture and it can’t be from a political, organizational platform. We’ve got to stop saying what Southern Baptists are for and against and start teaching Southern Baptists how to personally interact with their neighbors and co-workers. The Southern Baptist organization needs to go dark so that the Southern Baptist people and churches can share the light.


    • The Southern Baptist organization needs to go dark so that the Southern Baptist people and churches can share the light.

      Bingo.

      The irony is that we have prided ourselves in a democratic religion and local church autonomy, but we seldom function like that.


  20. […] above.  Good or bad?  I don’t know, but Timmy Brister goes on to ask the better question at Southern Baptists Labeled (and Wordled) which is “What do [you] want people to think when they hear ‘Southern […]

  21. Ross Says:

    We don’t want Southern Baptists to be known as “legalists”, right? However, it sounds like the consensus here is that the SBC should be known for love of God and neighbor. Isn’t love of God and neighbor the definition of the law?

    Please help me understand…


    • Ross,

      You question strikes at the heart of law and gospel. Legalism is substituting the law in place of the gospel as an attempt of being righteous. In other words, if you attempt to love God and your neighbor in order that you may be saved, then you’ve built a works-righteousness view of salvation. On the other hand, if you love God and your neighbor because you have been made righteous. then you are obediently fulfilling the law which God has commanded born-again believers to do.

      To substitute the law for the gospel is legalism. To do away with the law after believing the gospel is antinomianism. Neither of them are biblical options. The law prior to conversion is used to expose our sin and lead us to salvation outside ourselves–namely Jesus Christ. The law after our conversion is God’s revealed will for the obedience of faith in conforming us into the image of Christ Jesus.

      Regarding Southern Baptists, I would argue that we have been good at making new laws based on cultural convictions and personal preferences that work contrary to the freedom believers have in Christ, which brings up a more pertinent issue–the law and Christian liberty.

      But I will save that discussion for another day. 😉

      • Ross Says:

        Timmy,

        Thanks for the response. I’m familiar with the reformed teaching on the 3 uses of the law. I think it is a mistake to restrict the primary use of the law (revealing sin and driving us to Christ) to unbelievers. At least I hope so for my own sake. I’ve been a believer for 30 years and the law still convicts me of sin and shows me my need for Christ’s righteousness and forgiveness.

        If the third use is the only use for the Christian, then I’m a miserable failure. In fact, I would wonder if anyone reading this blog would claim to love God with all their mind, soul, and strength or their neighbor as themselves. If so, I would question their salvation.

        I’m not an antinomian. I believe the law is binding on believers and unbelievers alike. But I also trust that Christ is my righteousness and kept the law for me in my place. I have not been “made righteous” but “declared righteous” though I’m still a sinner.

        Great discussion and I look forward to reading your post on the law and Christian liberty. Thanks again for responding to me.

  22. Ivan Schoen Says:

    Timmy Brister said:

    “I think the first place to look is the state conventions. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being absorbed in state conventions (in 2008, I think close to $300 million of CP money stayed in the states). The second place to look is NAMB. I am going to reserve my commentary on this for the time being. The third place to look is Nashville and the Executive Committee. If I could pinpoint practically the three biggest problems, that’s where I would start.”

    I’d like more information. If you could provide it or direct me to a place(s) to find it, I’d appreciate it. One thing I’m wondering about is the money staying in the State Conventions. How is that a problem? Interested in hearing your take on NAMB and the Executive Committee. If these are the problem areas, we need to talk about them so we can figure out a solution.


    • The information is not as easy to find. I did the research on state convention money for the year 2008, and I have the data on my computer. A summary was posted here:

      http://timmybrister.com/2007/11/30/2007-sbc-state-convention-analysis/

      As you will see, over $329 million of the total $537 million did not make it out of the states. This is a HUGE problem. As far as how the expenses are broken down, that depends on the various state conventions. Attempts have been made to bring the ratio of in-state money to convention causes to 50/50 (right now the average is 61/39). Many state conventions even now are steeped in debt (I think here in FL there is something like a $4 million debt, or so I heard).

      There comes a time when attempting to sustain the bureaucracy impedes or even replaces the mission of advancing the kingdom by evangelizing the lost, planting churches, and theological training for men on mission.

      Can you imagine what half a billion dollars could do without a bureaucracy to sustain???


  23. A few thoughts:

    1. I wasn’t even thinking about this in response to Timmy’s question, but I think Timmy himself nailed it when he said “By this the world will know that we are His disciples . . .” [alluding to Jn. 13:35]. That’s the plain teaching of Scripture.

    2. Like Rod, I would like for SB’s to be known for having a high view of Scripture. Higher than tradition. Higher than progression. Higher than creed. Higher than modernity. Higher than culture.

    3. For those of you who might care about 5-pointers having a place in the Southern Baptist sphere, I don’t think it would be a wise move to take “Southern” out of the picture. I think it is the “Southern” that allows Dagg, Boyce, and Mell to still have a voice.

    I’ve never heard anyone say “I’m not a Calvinist or an Arminian, I’m a ‘Southern’ Baptist.”

    I think it might be the voices of the past that would not allow folk to say something like this even if they wanted to.

    Grace

    Benji

  24. Kam Says:

    The convention is more concerned with the DONT’S then the Do’s. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cuss, don’t dance etc…. There is no room for grace when it is crammed full of legalism. I also think of typically the worst preaching – topical, scripture-twisting, and often heretical.

    Some great progress has been made; much thanks due to Al Mohler and the Calvinists.

    Rick Warren doesn’t help the public perception much though. Lying was a sin last time I checked my Bible

  25. Curious Says:

    I wonder what would happen if you did the same exercise for Islam.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: