Two of evangelical Christianity’s most recognizable preachers are warning the nation’s largest Protestant group to resist compromise amid a wave of internal strife and controversy.
Pastors Voddie Baucham and John MacArthur were on hand for an event hosted by the Conservative Baptist Network ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California.
In addition to messages from Baucham and MacArthur, Sunday’s event brought together approximately 2,000 attendees and featured a panel discussion with CBN-approved candidates showing up at SBC offices.
The CBN is described as a “partnership of Southern Baptists where all generations are encouraged, equipped, and empowered to provide positive biblical solutions that strengthen the SBC for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission and influencing the culture.” It was formed in 2020 amid growing concern that the denomination was drifting away from biblical orthodoxy towards more “social justice” and “revival” theology.
Baucham, who lost a bid on Tuesday to become the next president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference to a relatively unknown Pastor from North Carolina, addressed several topics that have shaken the ranks of the SBC, including Critical Race Theory (CRT) and new revelations about sexual abuse and the cover-up within the SBC.
He issued a stark reminder of God’s sovereignty in building his kingdom, adding that “we recognize that God does not need the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“I love the SBC. I was trained, educated and nurtured in the Southern Baptist Convention. I praise God for the Southern Baptist Convention,” Baucham said, according to Church leaders. “But listen to me when I say [that] God doesn’t need the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, we pray that God will continue to use the Southern Baptist Convention, amen?”
Baucham, 52, is currently Dean of Theology at the African Christian University in Zambia. He was named president by Founders Ministries, a conservative group within the SBC for which he is also a board member.
But with his election defeat not occurring until the next day, Baucham said the conference was grappling with a decades-long history of abuse within the SBC due to God’s “judgment” falling on both the Church and on culture outside its walls.
“I recognize that God doesn’t need America. … What worries me is that there is this judgment happening simultaneously,” he said. “There is this judgment that we see in our broader culture that is also reflected in a kind of judgment that we see in broader evangelicalism and a judgment that we see in the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Baucham also cautioned against emphasizing benevolence and social justice over the gospel in a country where Christianity is increasingly demonized and despised as an “enemy in the culture.” “.
“One of the things that happens when the gospel becomes an enemy in the culture is that we want to appease the culture by doing good without the name,” he said. “The work we do is known as social work [and] it has absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. It’s a job anyone else can do, and you don’t need the name of Jesus to do it. And we do it because we recognize the culture’s animosity toward the gospel.”
“They left [from] pretending we’re wrong pretending we’re bad,” he added.
Baucham specifically cited the ideology of social justice, which he said “holds that there is not just this kind of oppressor-oppressed paradigm, but that oppression is ultimately rooted and grounded in Christianity.” .
Speaking later in the day on Tuesday, MacArthur, who is the pastor of the nondenominational Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, encouraged his ministry colleagues to worry less about cultural trends and instead focus on the Word of God.
“All effective and uncompromising ministry begins with an understanding [that the Kingdom of God is not of this world]”, MacArthur said. “The world provides you with nothing to advance the Kingdom of God – not politically, not in terms of power, not in terms of influence, not in terms of alliances, not in terms of relationships. He offers you nothing.”
He referenced the trend of ministries and pastors working to accommodate more culturally sensitive services and sermons, saying, “You can hang on to the world and you can think it’s just style, but they will drag you down.”
MacArthur also cited Matthew 11:20when Jesus denounced those cities “in which most of his miracles were done because they did not repent”.
“I’ve never had any interest in providing what the devil’s children want. I don’t want to design a church service for the devil’s children,” MacArthur said. “I don’t expect to be popular with them. I expect to be hated.”
Despite the ongoing controversy over sexual abuse and other “denominational” divisions, Southern Baptists remain the largest Protestant group in the United States, representing more than 5% of the adult population and nearly one-fifth of all evangelical Protestants, according to a 2014 Pew study.
Southern Baptists, who evolved from 17th-century Baptists settled in the American colonies, formed their own group in 1845 over disagreements with their northern counterparts over slavery.