The SBC, JD Greear, and Reformation: a Polite Polemic of Michelle Lesley
I really like Michelle Lesley and her work at michellelesley.com. I cite her often. Michelle is the type of (female) author the SBC needs but, unfortunately, as LifeWay sales indicate, not the type of author the SBC wants. As a minister’s wife and long-time Baptist, Michelle is well aware of the desperate need of reform in the SBC. Yesterday, she published an article entitled “It’s time for Reformation in the SBC – 3 Issues We Need to Set Right.” In it, Michelle assesses the mindset of those Southern Baptists who have chosen to walk away from the Convention:
“for some individual Southern Baptists and Southern Baptist churches, the biblical error and other problems pervading the SBC have become too much to bear, and they have deemed it time to walk away from what they see as a system damaged beyond repair, seeking refuge in ARBCA, Bible, Independent, or non-denominational churches and networks instead.”
Michelle herself is not ready to walk away. She holds out hope for reform in her denomination. The three issues that need to be set right, according to Michelle, are:
- The Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture
- False Doctrine and False Teachers (with emphasis on the problems of LifeWay, Beth Moore, Sarah Young, and Priscilla Shirer)
- Disfellowshipping Errant Churches
I agree with Michelle’s identification of the problems. For example, there are a number of errant churches that have abandoned Baptist church polity as defined in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000. Article VI of that document states:
“A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation.”
A number of the SBC’s largest churches have abandoned the concept of the local church and implemented a “multi-site” model where satellite campuses in other towns are controlled by a mother church. This number not only includes nominally affiliated SBC churches like NewSpring and Elevation but the churches of several recent SBC Presidents. Bellevue Baptist Church, Cross Church, and the First Baptist Church of Woodstock have all adopted the multi-site model. These megachurches, led by megapastors, effectively become their own denominations. All the while, their leadership, maintains control of the Southern Baptist Convention. To state the matter plainly, the top leadership of the SBC (Steve Gaines, Ronnie Floyd, Johnny Hunt et al) is composed of pastors whose churches are considered “errant” by a plain reading of the Baptist Faith and Message. Lesley condemns none of these pastors in her article. Rather she condemns Elevation and NewSpring, churches which are barely involved with denominational affairs. The SBC is not being corrupted by churches (NewSpring and Elevation) which have almost nothing to do with denominational leadership. While these churches are embarrassments to the denomination, their leaders are not among those steering the SBC ship.
The odds on favorite to be the captain of the sinking ship that is the Southern Baptist Convention is JD Greear, the pastor of The Summit Church. Greear is to be nominated for the Presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention this June. His opponent is long-time Southern Baptist statesman Ken Hemphill. A prominent SBC blogger recently told me that he thinks, “Hemphill will get beaten worse than Mondale in ‘84.” I agree with his assessment. The conservative resurgence is over and the SBC’s next “anointed” leader is Greear, an advocate of the liberal-minded racial reconciliation movement. The Summit Church is an errant church, having nine different locations, with an errant leader. Michelle Lesley views the activities of LifeWay (see reformation issue #2) as a major problem SBC life. Greear is a featured author at LifeWay’s website. He is not someone Southern Baptists can expect to rebuke Lifeway (along with Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer) and push for the expulsion of errant churches. He is a LifeWay pusher at an errant church and quite friendly with Beth Moore:
Thank you, Beth! Hoping that we are entering a new era where we in the complementarian world take all the Word of God seriously–not just the parts about distinction of roles but also re: the tearing down of all hierarchy & his gracious distribution of gifts to all his children!
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) May 5, 2018
One would expect Lesley to provide a withering critique of Greear in her call for Reformation. However, she provides quite the opposite. Lesley has used her media platform to back Greear:
I suspect that Lesley backs Greear because he is Calvinistic. His sociological beliefs are a positive. However, they are overshadowed by his status as one more LifeWay author from an SBC mult-site megachurch. If Lesley truly wants reformation, she needs to back the right horse. Frankly speaking, Elevation and NewSpring aren’t the problem. Churches like The Summit are. Megachurches thrive off of low discernment people who consume the products of the very authors (Moore, Shirer, Young et all) that Michelle Lesley condemns. Michelle Lesley has proclaimed herself to be a member of #TeamJD. She needs to decide if she wants reform or more of the same from the SBC power complex.
*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