In this series we have noted the “know when to hold them and know when to fold them” theme that is driving this series. In the first series I laid the ground work expressing my back ground and how I understood the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. I also noted the needed changes that were prevalent during the times I came into the ministry. In the second series I noted the training I received and how it was drilled into me that we took stands for the things that were needed. We were taught that we learned from everyone but we also knew there was a dividing line because of doctrine that we were not willing to cross. In this third series I want to focus on the leaders that I have watched over the years.
Third, the leaders I have watched in recent years. I began attending Carolina Conservative Baptist (CCB) meetings in 1989. I was not a pastor but a student serving in a volunteer position in a Raleigh, NC area church. I remember riding to this CCB meeting with a professor and administrative person at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). It was in that meeting that I was introduced to the late Dr. Mark Corts. I was active in the conservative student organization on SEBTS’s campus. We looked forward to Friday’s because we were able to invite like minded pastors from across the state to address our group as there were no chapel services on this day of the week. It was here I learned about networking with other pastors across the state and SBC. Many of the conservative student leaders used their connections to be recommended to larger churches and thus more exposure in the conservative movement in the state convention. There was no problem with that as that is the way the system works. However, this type of system breeds incompetence when those recommending do not take their responsibility to heart. Why? They end up recommending people for positions, not because they are qualified, but because they are their friends. It also breeds an integrity issue. Why? Those doing the recommending do not check on the resume they are recommending. Some being recommended would “doctor” the resume with some bogus degrees or some bogus schooling only to be found out later.
Not only did I see this networking on the state level, as I continued my education, I saw this play out on the national level. When I went back to SEBTS the people I met in leadership were very astute people and certainly followed the leadership of Dr. Patterson. Certainly those working for Dr. Patterson did not believe just like him. I remember hearing Dr. Patterson on many occasion jokingly say after a message on the pre-mellinial return of Christ, that some of our professors would be hearing “I told you so”. But, I saw something while at SEBTS that is still prevalent there today. It is the jockeying for position around the president, or some popular professor. I am certain that the same thing goes on at other seminaries so I am not identifying SEBTS exclusively. However, I was at SEBTS and I saw students surrounding the president and if you were friends with one of those students then you would eventually get into that circle also. However, it did not stop with the students, it carried forth within the faculty also. Why? There were choice appointments to be made across the SBC and in NC and a recommendation from Dr. Patterson went a long way. Is this to say this is bad? No, that is just the way the system works and one certainly understands that. This system served us well because it seemed that Dr. Patterson could discern who was using him and who wasn’t. Once Dr. Patterson found out that someone was using him just to advance a career, he would usually drop them and make certain they never advanced any further.
I observed as professors left SEBTS and went to other positions of influence within the SBC. Also, I observed as various students received invitations of a call as staff in influential churches only to stay a couple of years and then move as Sr. Pastor into pulpits of influence. I saw Dr. Patterson get endowments for chairs that brought in large amounts of funds for SEBTS. I saw multiple SBC presidents, both current and past, come to chapel and speak for evangelism, a life of holiness, the Trinity, the local church and against alcohol, loose living, worship for entertainment and sinless perfection. These visiting SBC presidents along with other entity presidents were constantly saying that the “battle for the Bible” will never be over. I remember the response of one particular SBC president when asked about a message delivered by another SBC president. The sitting SBC president delivered a message which contained an illustration about a certain general during the American revolution. He said that after the revolution was completed the general resigned his commission and went back to his farm. He then related how the battle for the Bible in the SBC was complete and it was time for certain generals to lay down their arms and go back to their farms. I will never forget the former presidents response when asked by a member of our class about the statement. He said the battle for the Bible would never be over and we certainly needed to understand that anyone appointed or elected to leadership in the SBC should be asked, without compromise, their belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. What amazed me was the president that spoke so passionately concerning the inerrancy of Scripture appointed pastors from my state that were supporting the state Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). This was the first time that I saw a “say what they want to hear; do what I want to do” mentality in full bloom. Now, we see this played out all across the SBC.
In the Conclusion of this series I will give various examples of how the current leadership has used methodology to move the SBC from the Scriptural standards the Conservative Resurgence identified for us.