“Imagine for a moment that God might manifest His presence in your life in a powerful, unusual – even Supernatural – way. Suppose He were to stand at your side, waiting to infuse your spirit with a fullness beyond your most cherished dreams or imagination. It would be a moment when God seems more real to you than any time in your life.” – Ronnie Floyd
During the taping of the most recent Pulpit and Pen Contributor Hour, the other contributors and I discussed Ronnie Floyd’s recent statement about race reconciliation and the Southern Baptist Convention. As a companion piece to this forthcoming podcast, I’d like to discuss the tactic Floyd used when making his (controversial) statement. It is a tactic that I’ve seen employed elsewhere by evangelical leaders and one that causes me more concern and consternation than Floyd’s opinion on racial reconciliation itself. The tactic of which I speak is invoking a personal experience with the Holy Spirit as the foundation for one’s particular action, prediction, or position. By using this tactic, a person basically gives three options to his audience.
1. Disagree with God
2. Call the person a liar.
3. Agree with the person.
Examine the following comment made by Floyd in reference to a statement he published, along with several other pastors, regarding racial tension:
“Under deep conviction by the Holy Spirit that I must do something as a Christian, a pastor, and as the current President of the Southern Baptist Convention, this past Wednesday, I conducted a conference call with four of our SBC African American pastors and two Anglo pastors. We talked openly and honestly about the growing racial tension in our nation….”
Ronnie Floyd doesn’t just claim to have had a grand idea, he claims to have been convicted by the Holy Spirit to do something. Furthermore, Floyd was not just convicted by the Holy Spirit, he was deeply convicted. “Deeply” seems like a strange modifier to describe a conviction from the Holy Spirit. Can the Holy Spirit convict someone moderately or shallowly? As a thought experiment, the reader of this blog should try to imagine a young man who is only lightly convicted of his habit of viewing pornography and chooses not to give it up because he is not convicted deeply enough by the Holy Spirit to do so. The results of this thought experiment should show that something seems amiss, deeply amiss, with Floyd’s description of his conviction from the Holy Spirit. It is described as deep as if a conviction from the Spirit could rightfully be described otherwise. This much is troubling, however, it is Floyd’s claim itself that should draw the most scrutiny. Since Floyd claims that the Holy Spirit led him to take a certain action, no one can claim that Floyd’s action is ill-advised or in error without disagreeing with Ronnie Floyd and God or accusing Floyd of being disingenuous. No Christian would conclude that God is wrong. A scant few more would accuse a pastor, (especially one, Floyd, which Adrian Rogers referred to as “anointed leader”) of being disingenuous. Church leaders know this and, I believe, many of them use this knowledge to push though and fund their own self-conceived initiatives and agendas
The reader of this blog should ask himself how many capital campaigns, building-fund initiatives, and staff calls have been presented to his church by the leadership as prayerfully “Spirit-led.” The reader should then ask himself how many of these “Spirit-led” initiatives have failed (with the swings of the economy and the opinions of men). Claiming spiritual conviction for a given initiative provides instant insulation from criticism. To make this observation is not to deny that initiatives can be Spirit-led. To the contrary, they can be. However, claims of the Spirit’s leading must not be automatically excepted even if they are made by figures of high authority…even if they are made by Ronnie Floyd, who literally wrote the book on Prayer and Fasting.
In his book, which was published in 1997 and purports to present “10 Secrets of Spiritual Strength”, Floyd makes the following claim:
“God is on the brink of ushering in a great spiritual awakening across this land through the mighty gateway to His supernatural power”
One is left to wonder why God has chosen to exclude places outside America from this spiritual awakening on the brink (in 1997) that has yet to come to pass. Floyd also makes the following claim in the same book:
“In my first forty-day fast, the Lord confirmed in my heart that He was going to bring a mighty spiritual revival in America that promises to transcend all denominational, cultural, racial, and ethnic lines.”
Terry Turner, a co-signer of Floyd’s statement on racial tension, doubled-down on Floyd’s prophecy telling Baptist Press, “We’ve come to a point where, if we’re going to have revival in our country, then our convention will have to address the issue of racism that has been prevalent in our country since the 1600s and has kept us as a people divided.” Turner (and Floyd) has invoked the watchword of the postmodern church-decline era: “revival.” As many Christians as are against the Holy Spirit are against revival: zero. Unfortunately “revival” remains ill-defined. Floyd writes in his book:
“True spiritual revival will transcend anything we have ever experienced. It will change the way we think about ourselves, our God, our present, and our future. It will alter the behavior of our neighbors and friends. True revival will come when God is taken serious by those of us who call ourselves followers of the way – who finally believe what we say believe. True revival will be akin to spiritual seismic activity, shaking us to our core, allowing us to see the profound overtake the profane, with the promise that our lives will never be the same.”
Never does Floyd, in the impassioned discourse above, actually define what a revival is. Rather, he states what a revival will do. The effects of “revival” which Floyd mentions sound conspicuously like the effects of getting saved. Floyd seems to be speaking of individual Christian sanctification in some corporate sense. Is this what he means by “revival”? It’s just not clear. Floyd seems to be speaking in an esoteric manner. The average pew-sitter or small church pastor may not feel equipped to challenge Floyd. After all, Floyd receives deep conviction and confirmation from the Holy Spirit for his initiatives whereas the average pew-sitter may not. Who is in a position to deny Floyd Spirit-led claims? Again, Floyd wrote the book on prayer and fasting. However, Floyd, despite his claims of leading, apparently has failed to read the history books. In his recent statement on racial injustice Floyd states:
Southern Baptists have always been a prophetic voice crying out against matters such as the evil of abortion, the persecution of Christians around the world, the tragedy of human trafficking, or the sexual sins from adultery to homosexuality…”
This is demonstrably false. Upon the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, what differentiated Southern Baptists from Northern Baptists was the former’s stance on slavery (human trafficking). They supported the American Institution of slavery. Furthermore, Southern Baptists have not “always” spoken out against abortion. A resolution was adopted by the 1971 Southern Baptist Convention that called upon Southern Baptists “to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.” Floyd, despite what he claims as a leading from the Holy Spirit, issued a patently false statement. Given Floyd’s misrepresentations of the SBC’s “prophetic” history, his own prophetic claims about race and revival can reasonably be questioned.
Even though the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution repudiating of its former support racism (and abortion ) a decade ago, Floyd and his contingent of co-singing mega-church pastors felt compelled to issue their own statement on race. The Ethics and Religious Leadership Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC), perhaps taking Floyd’s lead (or capitalizing on recent newsworthy social unrest of perceived racism) “announced Dec. 12 it has changed the subject of its March leadership summit to race relations in light of recent events. The ERLC’s March 26-27 meeting in Nashville will be on “The Gospel and Racial Reconciliation” instead of the previously announced theme of “developing a pro-life ethic.” This change in topic may be unfortunate for the thousands of minority babies that are killed in womb every year. However, it is very timely for those in ERLC leadership who wish to make headlines.
The time has come, in the midst of opportunistic leadership summits put on by the evangelical intelligentsia and superfluous statements from prominent mega-church pastors to ask the question, “Is the emperor wearing any clothes?” Ronnie Floyd is issuing Spirit-led statements in his capacity as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. In these times of ecclesiological gun-slinging – where mega-church pastors set themselves up as CEOs of massive multi-site churches and small-time pastors wonder “how can I do that?”- it can easily be forgotten that the President of the Southern Baptist Convention is not a biblical position. It’s a worldly one that is supposed to be grounded in biblical concern. The time has come to ask if the evangelical intelligentsia has packaged worldly principles in spiritual packaging and unleashed it upon their constituency. The reader of this blog is left to ponder the following statements from Ronnie Floyd and Bob Dylan:
“While 70 percent of the advertising budget of many secular companies targets teenagers, selling them anything from makeup to porn, the average church allocates less than 2 percent of its budget to reach the next generation for Jesus Christ.” – Ronnie Floyd.
Sometimes I feel so low-down and disgusted, can’t help but wonder what’s happenin’ to my companions. Are they lost or are they found? Have they counted the cost it’ll take to bring down all their earthly principles they’re gonna have to abandon? There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend.” – Bob Dylan
…and here is a statement from the author of this blog (a paraphrase of Bob Dylan):
“I can’t think for you, so you’ll have to decide. If Dr. Ronnie Floyd has God on his side.”
Hopefully the reader of this blog will not read it and simply be discouraged about the state of the Southern Baptist Convention, Greater Evangelicalism, or race relations. Rather the reader should be emboldened to pray and even fast for himself. There are no super-Apostles among the church who are especially anointed like the prophetsof old. The Holy Spirit is living and active in the lives of all New Testament Christians. Christians should remember this. Christians should rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for them.
[Contributed by Seth Dunn]
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.