Being a Southern Baptist, I found myself wanting to yell both “Amen!” and “You’re and idiot” during several points of his rant on SBC life. But regardless of my opinion, his analysis is worthy of thought and careful consideration.
He divides the current leadership of the convention into two basic camps: the Texas evangelists (TE) and the Culture Warriors (CW). The TE came to power in the late 80’s after a backlash against the liberal leanings that the convention was beginning to show. Here is how Spencer describes the them:
They are, by turns, tearfully sensitive and brutishly cruel. They have been the epitome of ever negative stereotype about Southern Baptists, and they have started more ethnic churches than any generation of Southern Baptists before them. They have been dumb enough to go after the Masons and savvy enough to revolutionize their international missions approach.
He views with disdain (or perhaps sadness being a Southern Baptist as well) their emphasis on numbers above anything else. He calls their theology “whatever works” to get more baptisms, bigger churches, etc.
The second group that is rising to power in the SBC are the Culture Warriors, whom Spencer gives this introduction:
Unlike the SBC’s previous somewhat limited interests in cultural issues, this group is highly politicized and at the beck and call of the National Republican agenda. … Culture Warriors are highly visible in conservative media and confidently pronounce the “Biblical” view on every cultural issue imaginable.
Then he views break-off type groups that are emerging – those lead by Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life, Church, calendar, t-shirts, cola, etc.) and the somewhat connected, Young Leaders (YL). According to Spencer there is a growing tension between the alliance of TE and CW against the Warren and YL group.
Spencer foresees dark days ahead for the SBC. The TE will maintain control for awhile. However after number continue to slide, the CW will assume power and essentially mandate Republican politics on churches. Warren will take his Purpose Driven self elsewhere and be the “leader” of a new non-denominational denomination. The YL will either split off with Warren or will remain and be a “significant voice of criticism in a declining SBC.”
I’m not sure if I agree with all of Spencer’s assertions and his predictions. I’m not even sure if I fall into any of the categories (I despise the numbers game. I grow weary of political speeches instead of theological sermons. I am wary of the Purpose Driven Life and all the marketing with it. Perhaps I am a “Young Leader” but I find much of his description of them does not fit me, either.)
I do know, however, that serious problems are on the horizon for Southern Baptists unless we are able to unite our factions and present the Gospel devoid of any other attachments and free from a numbers mentality.
I find myself fitting in less and less with all the factions that present themselves as the “saving grace” of Baptists. Is there no one out there that desires a theologically consistent, growing, vibrant, multi-culturally church (and Church) that can sing both How Great Thou Art and Meant to Live, focused on piety in individuals and society, seeking to change sin within and without the church, desiring to see lost come to Christ, but not obessed with numbers as long as God’s will is accomplished and first in the life of the church?