In 1978 Kenny Rogers, of no relation, sang a song that went straight to #1 on the Country Music charts and #16 on the Pop Music charts. What is amazing about this song was that it was released earlier in 1978 by American country music artist, Bobby Bare and went nowhere. Don Shiltz, the author of the song, recorded it before 1978 and charted it to only #65 on the Country Music charts. Rogers took the song and made it the premier song of his 1978 Gambler album and it was the popularity of this song and album that is credited for getting Rogers the 1980 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year award.
I have been a country music fan for many years. I am like Country Music great, Barbara Mandrell, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” One thing I appreciate about vintage country music is the life stories that are taught in the lyrics. Certainly, if one can get past, “getting drunk the day their moms get out of prison” lyrics one will see there are many life truths contained in the message of the songs. Kenny Rogers’ hit song, “The Gambler” is one of those songs. The chorus of his song brings me to the purpose of my post;
“You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”
The life lesson is one that we all must learn and evaluate. When is it time to “fold ’em”? As in any thing on which I need to make a decision, I certainly use something more stable and true than a popular song lyric. I do go to the Scripture. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 9:10-12 (HCSB)
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For by Wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for your own benefit; if you mock, you alone will bear [the consequences].”
Notice that we are encouraged that we gain wisdom from our Lord and our understanding comes from following him. It increases our days and adds years to our life but then we are given a warning. When we are wise it is to our benefit but when begin to “scorn” or “scoff” then we alone bear the consequences. What does it mean to “scorn” or “scoff”? That is the question that I have asked myself as I view my present situation within the climate of the SBC and Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Have I presented truth and followed the leading of God in these situations? I believe with all of my heart I have. Did I take strong stands concerning Baptist Identity that I see eroding under the feet of those leading and saying they are Baptist? I certainly have and believe with all of my heart that the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina along with the Southern Baptist Convention have sold our spiritual birth rite for a bowl of contemporary, cultural elitist stew.
In knowing when to hold them and when to fold them, I have come to a time where I am contemplating if it time to fold. What I mean by folding is not packing my bags and going home, but whether or not I should continue trying to hold back the tsunami of the contemporary young restless and reformed. I am certain that the things I have presented and the things for which I have stood are worthy and even God led issues. I will see these things to their conclusion (such as the alcohol motion and the BF&M motion) but other new projects will not be on my radar. I will continue to partner with and encourage groups of Baptist Identity pastors that desire to make a difference. But I will not be in the forefront. What has brought me to this point? I am glad you asked as there are three events that led me to this decision.
First, the reaction I received from the alcohol motion. I had many “atta boys” after the motion was made. I also had others in other state conventions to contact me asking about the motion and promising that they were going to see it implemented in their state convention. What an encouraging time it was to hear how many were of the same mind and wanted to take a very proactive stand on the issue. Then, came the nay sayers who disagreed and began a public writing campaign in my state paper against me. There were some that agreed with me in print, but there are many behind the scenes that tell me they agree with me but publicly they will not say a word. Why? Because they are waiting to see where the convention leaders are on the issue. Here is the company line; “I agree with your motion, but the problem is in setting up a way to enforce it.” Does one see how this is going to kill this motion? And this after I was told by the Parliamentarian that the way I had it originally worded, which gave guides as to enforcement, would be ruled out of order. The amazing thing was that I worded it the same way that Bill Sanderson worded his motion concerning homosexuality. The Sanderson motion resulted in an addition to our constitution. However, when the parliamentarian saw my motion he ruled it out of order and I asked how to present it where it would be accepted. I was given advice that basically watered down the original motion leaving everything to the Board of Directors to determine.
All of this to tell you that in North Carolina we exchanged those who were moderates that would not allow the churches to make motions and change things to conservatives now doing the same thing. This is not what I was told in those Carolina Conservative Baptist meetings was the purpose of our movement. I was told that the purpose of our movement was to place conservatives and stop the blatant shifting, from husband to wife; from pastor to associate pastor; from clique to clique, that keeps the moderates in control. We needed open leadership and we also needed to stop this shutting down of the process of allowing churches to voice their concerns from the floor of the convention. I believed in the cause of the Carolina Conservative Baptist as something desperately needed when I saw, one of our current BSCNC leaders admonished by a parliamentarian, when the moderates were leading the convention, his motion was out of order. His motion was worded to direct the then General Board to do something. This conservative leader then told the moderator that “the dog wags the tail and now we have the tail wagging the dog”.
We are seeing the same thing happen in the SBC. I remember back in 2006 when we debated the alcohol issue in Greensboro, NC and the absolute shock seen on some leaders faces when we met for an alumni luncheon. The argument on the floor of the convention that day was the Bible did not prohibit the use of beverage alcohol, it merely prohibited the sin of getting drunk. The president of my Alma mater was shocked and delivered an arousing message to the alums gathered at that meeting. I was so honored and excited hearing this from his lips that day and was moved to tears when he spoke about his wife’s childhood and how she overcame a childhood that was ravaged by an alcoholic father. Not once did my president speak about the bible allowing for moderation. His words still echo in my mind as he spoke of how appalled he was and never believed he would live to see the day that the moderate use of alcohol would be debated on the floor of the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, in 2010 this same president is allowing room that the Bible teaches the moderate use of alcohol. He takes a wisdom approach to the debate that causes him to come to the same conclusion as I and that is that moderate alcohol use is something a Christian should not engage. However, this same president will have speakers on campus that not only teach moderate use of alcohol but are known to engage in this practice. When asked about one such speaker, our president responded that he would never invite this speaker to come into his church if he were a pastor. However he is a president of a seminary and as such he is to expose the students to as many various speakers as is necessary in order to give the students a well rounded ministry. While that is an approach that sounds academic, it is an approach that has already been rejected by Southern Baptist? What do I mean? The last moderate president of my Alma mater was questioned about inviting liberal speakers that denied the scriptures to speak in chapel. When questioned concerning these liberal speakers exposing the student body to a more liberal doctrine than most Baptist in the pew, that president responded the same way as our current president–our students need to be exposed to various speakers and doctrines.
In the Part 2 I will examine the standards I was taught in seminary.