Church of the Glades, Amelia Island, and the Southern Baptist Convention

For years my parents have taken an annual Spring or Summer vacation to Amelia Island, just outside of Jacksonville, Florida. It is, in my opinion, one of the nicer beach destinations in Florida. It doesn’t have the six pack and go-kart feel of tourist towns such as Panama City Beach. It’s a different kind of Florida vacation for a different set of vacationers. Every few years, my family will join my parents at the Surf & Racket Club or a beachfront Airbnb. Our trip typically includes the weekend and thus I have been tasked with finding a local church to visit during our stays on the island. Amelia Baptist is that church.

I found Amelia Baptist (over 5 years ago) by pulling up a Google map and searching “Baptist Church.” By pure luck (or “Providence” if you reformed readers prefer that term), Amelia Baptist came up geographically closest on my search. I visited its website and it seemed like a safe bet. Despite my problems with the operations of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am doctrinally aligned with the SBC. I typically feel safe (a lot safer 5 years ago) letting my family visit SBC churches, especially the Calvinistic ones, but I keep my expectations very low. Frankly, on vacation, I’m just looking for a church with “Baptist” in the name that doesn’t have a female “pastor”. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I showed up at Amelia Baptist. The service was family integrated (and I had small children) and the church was elder led. The choir didn’t sing Hillsong. The message was biblical. The people were friendly. There was coffee (and apple juice) but not a coffee bar. I found myself wishing that there was a church like it where I lived in North Georgia and I look forward to the opportunity to worship there whenever I find myself on Amelia Island on the Lord’s Day.

Amelia Baptist can be easily contrasted with the citrus-state-circus that is Church by the Glades in Coral Springs. The worldly shenanigans that pass for worship at Church by the Glades have been documented ad nauseum by the DISNTR so I won’t go into details here. Today, I was reminded off all the folly at Church By the Glades through a tweet by Adam Page.

Page is a one of the elders at Amelia Baptist as well a great brother in Christ to follow on Twitter. I agree with him that Church by the Glades makes a mockery of corporate worship. However, I can’t say that it’s an “embarrassment” that Church by the Glades is still a part of the SBC. While that particular church is an extreme example, perhaps it is more representative of the SBC than a church like Amelia Baptist. When I visit an SBC church, I expect to hear music from such synagogues of Satan as Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and Bethel Music (in other words, I expect a mockery of corporate worship). I also expect children to separated into some Nickelodeonesque or Disneyfied activity room called “children’s church” to watch movies and wear pajamas. I expect women’s ministries to push Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer. When I think of a typical SBC church, I think about corrupt councils of ruling deacons full of Freemasons. I think of money-and-numbers-driven pastors who only care about numerical growth and their next step up the ladder. When I think of flagship SBC churches (led by the men who sway the direction of the SBC itself), I think of Santa flying across the auditorium at Prestonwood, the fire-truck Baptistry at Crosspoint, and Pentecostals in the pulpit at Belmont. When I think of the direction of the SBC itself, I think of social justice being pushed at seminaries and millions of dollars being squandered by the North American Mission Board and other SBC causes.

When I see the SBC, I don’t see Adam Page, I see Steven Furtick.

Maybe the embarrassment, then, is for faithful small-to-midsize churches across the country like Amelia Baptist to remain in the Southern Baptist Convention. Amelia Baptist is, perhaps, blessed to be on an Island. It is not the kind of church that will attract seeker-driven vision casters. The cost of real estate is just too much and only so many people can live on a plot of land surrounded by ocean. They are safe from the dog-and-pony show megamen of the SBC just like their island is safe from real-estate developers who want to fill beach towns with mini-golf courses, go-kart tracks, and arcades. Apparently, Adam Page and Ameillia Baptist need only to concern themselves with faithfulness to the mission and fellowship with the brethren. Good for them. When I think of what the SBC should be (by way of analogy), I think of Amelia Island. When I think what the SBC is, I think of Panama City Beach and Pigeon Forge…lights and attractions to attract masses and money.

I hope you get my point. Pastors like Adam Page should think it over carefully.

*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.  

Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Member of the Evangelical Theological Society Certified Public Accountant