In the Southern Baptist Convention, R. Albert Mohler isn’t just a theologian, he is the theologian. His tenure as President of denomination’s flagship seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has lasted over 25 years. He is the author of multiple influential books. He is the host of The Briefing, one of the most popular, informative, and respected Christian podcasts currently being produced.
In the Southern Baptist Convention, R. Albert Mohler isn’t just a theologian, he is the theologian. His tenure as President of denomination’s flagship seminary, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has lasted over 25 years. He is the author of multiple influential books. He is the host of The Briefing, one of the country’s most popular Christian podcasts. Mohler is erudite, brilliant, and well-respected. It was no surprise to Southern Baptists when he was tapped to help draft the Southern Baptist Convention’s official confession of faith, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000. This biblically-supported confession of faith is one under which millions of Southern Baptists have faithfully united. Unfortunately, Mohler is not one of them. His demonstrated disregard for Article VI of The Baptist Faith and Message is tragic evidence that, even in Christian circles, expediency can sometimes win out over fidelity.
Article VI is entitled “The Church” of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states (emphasis mine):
A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation of baptized believers, associated by covenant in the faith and fellowship of the gospel; observing the two ordinances of Christ, governed by His laws, exercising the gifts, rights, and privileges invested in them by His Word, and seeking to extend the gospel to the ends of the earth. Each congregation operates under the Lordship of Christ through democratic processes. In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord. Its scriptural officers are pastors and deacons. While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The New Testament speaks also of the church as the Body of Christ which includes all of the redeemed of all the ages, believers from every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation.
Mohler nominated current SBC President, Ronnie Floyd, to the first of his two terms in that office. Floyd is the pastor of CrossChurch (formerly the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas), a multi-site megachurch with five campuses spread between Arkansas and Missouri. Churches with satellite campuses violate Article VI of the Baptist Faith the message. A satellite campus is, by its very nature, not local to a local church. Furthermore church members at a satellite campus, like parishioners at an Anglican Church, are not part of an autonomous local body given that they answer to a “pastor” who is located miles away. Some might argue that a church with satellite campuses in the same city stay true to Article VI. Even if this argument is granted, it wouldn’t apply Ronnie Floyd’s church. It’s Neosho campus is 58 miles away in another state. Despite this, Mohler nominated Floyd to lead the Southern Baptist Convention. On top of that, Mohler has endorsed the CrossChurch “School of Ministry.” The cost to attend this ministry “school” is roughly $12,000 per year. Mohler’s endorsement, displayed proudly on the CrossChurch Svchool website, reads:
The most important context for the training of ministers is in the local church, and I am so glad that Cross Church and Dr. Ronnie Floyd are establishing this new program for the training of ministers within the life and ministry of one of the world’s most dynamic and faithful churches.
Whatever Floyd’s church is faithful to, it’s not Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message. Floyd’s church is not alone in flouting Article VI of the Baptist Faith and Message. Floyd was nominated to his 2nd term as SBC President by fellow megachurch pastor, JD Greear. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church, which boasts nine North Carolina locations! Greear himself is soon to be nominated as a candidate for President of the Southern Baptist convention by Florida Pastor Jimmy Scroggins. Scroggins’ church has six locations. Greear’s competition for the 2017 SBC presidency is Steve Gaines. Gaines, who was also a part of the committee that drafted The Baptist Faith and Message 2000, is to be nominated by former SBC President Johnny Hunt. Gaines’ church has four locations in Tennessee; Hunt’s has three in North Georgia and one in Florida. There is an apparently incestuous network of multi-site megachurch pastors who nominate one another for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention. They, and those who elect them, apparently ignore the denominations own statement of faith.
And what of Mohler’s church?
Mohler is a respected, academic theologian. Many of the men noted above are folksy fire and brimstone CEO pastors who preach about giving more, “Moses Model” leadership, and not being “crispy critters.” Mohler is different. He preaches deep exegetical sermons and trains men at his school to do the same. Would Mohler go to a mulit-site mega church that violates an article of the very statement of faith that he helped to draft? The answer is yes. Mohler attended Highview Baptist Church for nearly 20 years. It is a multi-site church with three Kentucky locations. Mohler attended such a church even though he has admitted on his podcast, in response to a listener question, that such churches are “not the best idea.” The New Testament ideal, according to Mohler is “gathering face-to-face.” According to Mohler, churches that “just want to be big” or “expand a brand” are on the wrong path. Mohler, it is clear, knows the truth about mega churches (He has since left Highview to join Third Avenue Baptist Church, which is a local, autonomous, single-site, New Testament church). Yet, he plays the political game with those who do. From Floyd to Hunt to Greear all of these men and branders, mega branders.
These are tragic times in the Southern Baptist Convention. Even our most respected theologian and educator can’t be trusted to speak out about the unfaithful, unbaptist scourge of Satellite Churches. Instead, he worked to put their leaders into a position of power and influence. Why even have Article VI in the Confession of its neither believed upon nor lived out by denominational leaders?
I believe it. I hope you’ll believe it and live it out with me.
[Contributed by: Seth Dunn, host of The Christian Commute and faithful listener of The Briefing]*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.