An Open Letter to Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Trustees

The following letter was delivered to the leadership of Lifeway’s trustee meeting held in Nashville, February 13 and 14.

An Open Letter to Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and Lifeway Trustees,

I have been a Southern Baptist since my earliest of days. I was saved at the age of 10 at a revival meeting in a Southern Baptist church in West Tennessee. I graduated from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. I am a proud product of Cooperative Program giving. I have been proud of my association with the SBC because of the Cooperative Program and the opportunity it affords so many to partner in sharing the Great Commission in so many ways. Sadly, this attitude is swiftly changing.

I am very concerned over the publishing of a project that Lifeway has undertaken and is now in the process of promoting titled, “The Gospel Project.” The recent Baptist Press article introducing this project really spoke volumes. Consider the following comment, “This is more than curriculum,” said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project. “The goal is to provide a theologically driven study that points people to Jesus. It’s easy to come to Scripture looking for just new information or immediate application. We can even have Bible knowledge and not be focused on Christ,” Wax said. Add to that Dr. Stetzer’s comment and my concerns are amplified; “Going ‘deep’ means different things to different people.” Stetzer could not have been more accurate in his statement.

The list of contributors to this project is indeed telling. In looking over the list, it is obvious that there is a clear bias in this group that lacks any theological diversity and it is virtually reformed to the core. In reading Dr. Stetzer’s comment regarding the direction and input from those who are serving the local church, it is unclear to me who Stetzer is referring to. If Dr. Stetzer is indicating an expressed need for a Reformed theological project of this magnitude, then it might be considered a prudent move to undertake such a bold project. It is clear to me in Stetzer’s comments that this particular group was carefully selected, for whatever reason, to “speak into this project at the outset,” and help them “think through important high-level issues at the outset of the curriculum’s development,”

If it is true that there was a demand from local churches for such a special project as this, my strong suggestion is to title this project, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” In this way, those in the local church who have expressed the need and desire for such a project will know that this project has been developed for them. If that is not the case and there was no specific demand for a “Reformed perspective” as such, then the question begs to be answered, “Why such a radically theological leaning advisory board and writing consortium?”

There is no shortage of widely publicized jargon that makes it perfectly clear that those in this carefully selected group consider the Doctrines of Grace and the Reformed position of soteriology the most consistent form of Christianity and the purest presentation of the Gospel. It is also absolutely clear from Dr. Stetzer’s own statistical data, that the SBC is overwhelmingly non-Reformed in their soteriology, no matter how “shallow” their understanding of the deep theological truths concerning the things “God has accomplished in the Gospel for us,” may or may not be. In speaking for myself, I do not desire to have a project of this magnitude produced by Lifeway that has any appearance of attempting to reform the people who attend the average Sunday School classes in non-Reformed churches. Lifeway ought to be diligent with respect to the products it produces to make sure this does not happen. That is not the case with “The Gospel Project.”

Why this expressed concern for “The Gospel Project”? Unless there is indeed a call from church leaders across the SBC for a Reformed Curriculum then it can only be assumed that Lifeway has produced “The Gospel Project” with the expressed purpose of reforming the shallow and incorrect understanding of just what the true gospel is within our autonomous Southern Baptist congregations. While I believe in my heart that there is no real demand for this kind of project from the typical SBC church, I have no problem with churches purchasing this kind of literature as long as they understand up front what it is that they are buying.

I do have serious concerns with Lifeway’s labeling this project simply as “the Gospel Project” with no reference to its theologically leaning perspective. The administration of Lifeway knows full well that Baptist churches have looked to Lifeway for decades for theologically pertinent literature for their members. Many churches will see the promotional information on the “Gospel Project” that is new and exciting and Lifeway knows churches will purchase the literature. There is absolutely no doubt that this project will have a Calvinistic leaning perspective; otherwise there would be no reason to choose such a tightly knitted theological group.

Here comes the anticipated two-fold defense. “This is not a theologically biased project.” That argument is an argument from naivety, ignorance, or intentional cover-up. To attempt to even make this kind of argument, in my opinion, a brazen insult to this group of writers who were carefully selected for this project. No one should expect them to set aside their strong theological persuasion to produce a project of this magnitude and not be biased in their understanding of the synonymous position that the “true gospel” is Calvinism. It was their own admission and original purpose to make this project “Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan.” For this select group of writers that plan is best set forth in the Doctrines of Grace and Calvinism.

The second anticipated response is, “There is no hidden agenda on Lifeway’s part to put this project into churches to help ‘reform them’.” Great. Label the project’s title as “A Reformed Perspective” and all will be kosher. This is a simple request. Anything less, will shed serious doubt on Lifeway’s intentions and its ongoing ability to provide theologically pertinent literature to the mainstream Southern Baptist church. This potential problem MUST be avoided. According to Dr. Stetzer’s 2006 research 90% of SBC churches are not Reformed in their theology and as such, I suggest that they are not very likely to be looking for literature to move them in that direction any time soon.

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Hadley
Pastor, Westside Baptist Church
Daytona Beach, Florida

The Future of This Ole Ship, The Southern Baptist Convention

The SBC is embroiled in a politically charged environment that is not going to go away. At stake is the direction this old stately ship is going to sail in the future. Everyone knows that this is the case. There are many who do not mind and support the direction the rudder is facing today. That is part of the process. It is one of the difficult aspects of being so diverse. It will work itself out.

While I have been criticized for being so critical of what I see taking place, I am trying as best I know how to be as fair as I can, given the information I have to go on and things that I see taking place that I do not approve of. I clearly recognize the responsibility of those who disagree with me to express their concerns and opinions accordingly and welcome and respect those opinions. if I did not, I would not be posting here.

It is helpful to read those who have differing opinions, or else the whole concept of blogging would be a waste of everyone’s time. All the Calvinists would just gather over at “The Voices” and rant and rave about the non-Calvinists that gather to rant and rave at Peter’s Place. The interaction I think can be helpful to some degree. However, this propensity to refuse to acknowledge a dissenting opinion and perspective and marginalize the one who is making it, it petty and unbecoming to everything we should be here to do.

I have made statements that fall into that category as well and have apologized for doing so and will apologize again. I would love nothing more than to find a comfortable balance here but I do not believe that is possible and I also am becoming increasingly more aware of the fact that the Calvinist agenda may well now be so far along that the convention’s future will no doubt look much different than it did yesterday. That is a compliment, for the record.

I will continue to express my opinion and solutions as I see them to avoid what I believe will be the inevitable change that appears to be coming. Do I have a crystal ball, no. Do I believe everyone always says what they mean and mean what they say, no. Sorry; no one else here does either. So with that being said,

May God lead and guide and direct the future of the SBC and may He maintain the glory in all we undertake to do. The SBC needs God; God does not need the SBC.

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A Response to Trevin Wax and His Remarks Concerning the Gospel Project

Dave Miller has posted an interview with Trevin Wax, the managing Editor for Lifeway’s newest intensive Bible study, titled, “The Gospel Project” at SBC Voices, a SBC Blog site to help keep Southern Baptists informed on current issues. You may read Dave’s interview and Trevin’s answers
by clicking HERE.

I want to respond here to a number of comments Trevin makes. First of all, I have no problem with the production of the project if there was a legitimate need expressed for such a project as this. I do have a problem with the way it is being marketing and that is the extent of my issue. I will address that in more detail at the end of this response.

Statement #1… “How do we encourage people to study the Bible in a way that shines light on the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things?” Supremacy as in soteriology and conversion, which are the heart and soul of Reformed Theology and we can expect this select group of writers to “go soft on unconditional election and irresistible grace?” I would not expect anything of the sort from this group.

Statement #2, “We are driven by this same approach to the Scriptures — one that has a long heritage in Baptist life.” Given the strong historical underpinnings of Reformed Theology in the storied history of the SBC and the only more recent shameful move away from it, I would certainly expect to hear more from some guys than others. Hey, history is history, right? Ask the Jews about today’s historicity of the Holocaust. Seems the significance of history is all too often in the eye of the beholder, or in many cases the eye of the writer.

Statement #3, “(In fact, one of the quarters in the 3-year cycle is called “Atonement Thread.”) The goal is to show how all the stories of the Bible are telling one overarching story of redemption through Jesus Christ.” The interesting focus here is the “one overarching story of redemption”. Let’s see, reservations go up or go down?

Statement #4, with respect to the “gospel”, Trevin wrote, “This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).” I am sure the role of regeneration will come up somewhere in this presentation.

Statement #5, “The uniqueness of The Gospel Project does not mean other curriculum options are not theological or gospel-focused – any more than calling your congregation Life Baptist Church means that the other churches in town are all dead.” That was an interesting illustration to say the least. Seems like I have heard similar remarks about folks who differ on what the true gospel really is.

Statement #6, the nitty gritty, “No. When we put together the initial advisory group to give us some initial insight into the scope of topics we should cover, we invited people who were known for emphasizing the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures. The advisory council is made up of people who think that way (and most were connected with Ed in some way).
But this “Christ-centered” emphasis is not exclusive to Reformed folks. That’s why eight of the eleven council members are Southern Baptist. The other three are Baptist, but not SBC.” Who can argue against folks who are promoting “the Christ-centered nature of the Scriptures”? After all, SB’s are people of the Book! The obvious problem is where we center Christ in our theology. We all are Scripturally based. Interesting choice of words here. Trevin says being Christ-centered is not exclusive to Reformed Folks so as to include non-Reformed folk but notice his next statement, that is why 8 are SB and 3 are just Baptist; failing to mention that ALL are decidedly Reformed, especially the 3 non-SB folk. I am sure that was just a slip of the tongue there.

Statements 7 and 8 are very interesting. #7, “As far as how many are Reformed or not, I honestly do not know how many points people claim.” Nice touch. Reformed, absolutely; how reformed, who knows! #8, “That (the indoctrination of the DOG in SB churches) wasn’t a question or even a topic of conversation that came up in those initial meetings, as far as I can recall. The conversations were about how we could structure this curriculum in a way that points to Christ, not Calvinism.” Here is the real problem I have with this project. It is a Calvinist project that points to Christ. Any way you slice it, that is what it is. Man up! Anyone who has half a brain KNOWS that this is the case. Otherwise this last statement would have been moot. It is what it is. That is the problem.

Statement #9, “We think it is great that leaders like D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, James MacDonald, and Danny Akin would take the time (without compensation) to give us their input in how to shape a curriculum. That’s a dream team for us.” These three gentlemen are card carrying unapologetically Reformed in their theology. Nice Dream Team for some; not “all of us”.

Statement #10, “Yes – at least I think so. We’ve never asked anyone if they were Calvinists. We ask them about the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.” I believe Trevin is telling the absolute truth when he said, “we never asked.” I believe that 110%. The BF&M 2000 has most certainly garnered much more mileage than it was ever intended to get in today’s SBC! That is a fact.

Statement #11, Response to the question, will we hear about the TULIP, regeneration etc, Trevin;s response, “I don’t think so, but it depends on the non-Calvinists. We are not going to bring a doctrinal system to the text, but we do have convictions about the text as Southern Baptists.” In otherwords, while the terms are left off, the concepts are no doubt there. My contention all along has been, I would expect no less from these individuals who have both the responsibility and obligation to themselves and to the God they serve to write from the depths of their hearts and conviction. I would be sorely disappointed if they did not.

I will conclude my comments with the following statement from Trevin. “In the end, many people will not prefer this curriculum because it is confessional at the core. For those who are inside our denomination, I think there will be two groups who will not like this curriculum: SBC Calvinists who believe their soteriological system IS the gospel and want to push Calvinism rather than Christ, and anti-Calvinists who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.

First of all, everyone and I do mean EVERYONE knows that good Calvinists do believe “there soteriologal system IS the gospel” so that is correct but everyone also knows that no good Calvinist pushes Calvinism over Christ. Is that not a great definition of a Strawman or what? Second, all those anti-calvinists out there ‘who think any inclusion of Reformed writers (or someone who once met or even read a Reformed writer) entails a conspiracy or agenda to push a particular view of soteriology.” Another nice little condescending touch; after all, anyone who is not Reformed is illiterate or incapable of being theological so the only objection they could possibly come up with is “the writers association with reformed Theology.” Why should I be alarmed? Silly me.
“Both of these groups are misguided.” We may not be as misguided as Trevin thinks.

Once final comment for Trevin. I have suggested and will continue to do so, the following simple solution to this whole issue. Name the project, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” Perspective is certainly fair and is not necessarily suggesting that it is “fully reformed” if your contention is that it is not. Most of the folks that I have talked with would be relatively satisfied with that modification in the title.

Here is why I believe it is fair and responsible on Lifeway’s part. If the demand was to produce a piece with this theological leaning, then identify it as such so those looking for it till know that is what it is. The only possible objection would be, it will not sell. If that is the case, then it ought not sell. It would be highly unethical for Lifeway to intentionally sell a program to churches that do not want a Reformed perspective in their literature. While I know that has already been done to some degree, this move is unprecedented in Lifeway’s history. Lifeway is aware of the relationship SB churches have with it and they are also aware of the connotations the phrase, “The Gospel Project” will garner in the marketplace. Seems to me the Reformed effort to “hijack” the term gospel is similar to their doing the same thing with grace. It is a highly effective move and will continue to be so.

Lifeway’s refusal to market this project for what it is will only lend to the argument that this project has been produced to help reformed pastors who go to pastor non-Reformed churches do the tough work of reformation. That is a fact and once again, everyone knows the stakes. I implore you to do the right thing and convince Lifeway to correctly label this project that you all ought to be proud of and do not cheapen its impact by refusing to label it for what it is.

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Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?

The following is a comment I left at SBC Voices concerning an article, titled, “Is There a Reformed Conspiracy to Take Over the SBC?” The article can be read by clicking HERE.

For the record, there is no Reformed conspiracy to take over the SBC. You are correct. A conspiracy would involve a “secretive” effort. Calvinists are way past that point and are successfully extending their reach farther and farther into SBC Life. There is a marked difference in the Convention and the entities. You are correct in your statement that the SBC is an annual meeting of messengers who vote to do or not to do certain things.

The entities of the SBC are entirely different. The trustees make decisions that determine the direction of the various entities. The trustees of NAMB elected the new President. They voted “sweeping changes” of NAMB in Feb 2011. The same thing is true of the seminaries. Trustees are responsible for the leadership and direction of the entity they are charged to oversee. Same for Lifeway. Trustee appointments are crucial to the overall health of the convention because the entities are kind of like a rudder on a ship. It may be one of the smallest parts of a ship, but it is the most important part when it comes to navigating the direction of the ship.

While I do not claim any conspiracy theories, there has been a definite effort to get key people in key positions in the various entities to give the Reformed Platform the visibility it needs to prosper and the viability it needs to persevere. To try to argue against this is ludicrous. Here is an excellent article that speaks to the positioning of key people in the seminaries, NAMB and Lifeway that are clearly and carefully charting the course for a Calvinistic led SBC. The article is titled, “Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention: Code RED” Most of you know I wrote the article.

Anyone who understands how the SBC works understands that those who control the entities eventually directs the future of the convention. Like it or not, it is the way it is. The Reformed minority has managed to gain control of the entities and that is reality. They have done a masterful job in accomplishing so much with so little attention on what they have done.

Although there are several conversation points on Dave’s article, I will focus mine on the following:

Dave wrote, “And that is where the problem (positions of influence in the SBC) arises. Calvinists are no longer contented to sit silently in the rear pew. Calvinism is now a real threat in the SBC to those who view the doctrine as a threat to the gospel and to Christianity. It can no longer be ignored. Those not willing to coexist with it must fight against it.”

My concern can be seen in the statement in bold above: who view the doctrine as a threat to the gospel and to Christianity.

It is crystal clear that the influential Calvinists in these leading positions clearly understand THE GOSPEL as that presented in the DOG. For the Calvinist, Calvinism IS the most consistent form of Christianity. Why should you expect me to sit back and say… I do not agree with you guys on that minor detail but hey… I can agree to disagree; let’s just all get along and cooperate and hey… it is no problem that you are teaching that to college and seminary students that are going to go into our churches and teach something that we do not believe in… there is no problem with THE GOSPEL PROJECT that is written by leading Card carrying calvinists who are not going to write literature that is inconsistent with their theological perspective… come on! We all know better!

of course I am sadly omitting the caveat here… that the reason I am not a calvinist is because I don’t really understand it because if I did understand it, I would be one. This is not an issue that I can in good conscious just “agree to disagree on.” How a person passes from death unto life is not something that I can compromise on. Here is the truth of the matter; neither can the Calvinist. The calvinist does not like my position any more than I like his. It is a fact and that is not, no never going to change!

Dave is exactly right: “There is no question that a Calvinist-influenced SBC will have a somewhat different future than a Calvinist-free SBC.” We are already seeing evidence of that in the confessional nature of the church plants being started by RT groups. The very minute the RT group knows that they can change the BF&M to reflect a Calvinist position, they will do so. I would not expect anything less. Seminary professors that are not reformed will be shown the highway. Entities will be tightly controlled and churches that send money will be probably continue to be tolerated; with the possible exception of a few that I can think of!

The cry to lay down our arms and lets all get along is ALWAYS the cry of the underdog. ALWAYS. Is there an easy fix for this situation. No. It is not going to just go away. Each side has its moral compass and its own convictions and each must stand their own respective ground. It is not a matter of one side hating the other. It is a position of conviction that each equally shares that must prevail to assure our children and grandchildren and their respective generations that the SBC will continue to carry the banner of Christ forward.

Your own That is the nature of Baptist life. Each constituency advocates its vision and whoever is in the majority sets the direction.” sums up my position as well as any. The majority is not yet calvinist. However, the direction of the convention is turning way too fast to suit me and I believe that majority that really has no idea what is going on.

Do not expect the heat to go down; my prayer is that the heat rises enough for the people in the pew to wake up and understand what is going on and decide who is going to determine the convention’s future. The non-Calvinist led convention or the Calvinist led entities.

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Calvinism in the SBC: Proposed Changes for NAMB and LIFEWAY

A lot of attention is being focused on NAMB’s funding of church plants that are being started by a number of Reformed church planting organizations. While this ought to be cause for alarm, I want to re-emphasize the point that this may not be their most critical mistake. In an article I wrote last week, I made the following statement, “Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization.”

I personally believe that this is NAMB’s biggest mistake; it seems easier to go out and start new works than do the tough job of helping support works that are struggling but already viable and visible in our communities. Here is a suggestion: If a percentage of the funds that are being poured into new works, were made available to help struggling churches with additional staff members, or to help associations in conjunction with their state convention, hire people to help struggling churches with revitalization programs like the one the Florida Baptist Convention has, change could actually be beneficial in areas where it could impact communities where churches are already planted.

NAMB’s single focus of planting new churches is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. It is an admirable one. However here is the real problem I have with what appears to be NAMB’s second biggest mistake: the open practice of funding church plants that are confessionally associated with ANY church planting organization. Make no mistake about it, I am adamantly against the level of influence that Reformed Theology proponents have managed to gain in the entities of the SBC. I had no idea that they had managed to make the inroads that they have made. I knew it was coming; I had no idea the extent to which it was already here. This is the problem I have with today’s NAMB.

When I say that I am against NAMB’s funds being spent on church plants that are confessionally connected to any theological ideology that is what I mean. One of the unique identities of the SBC has been the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. That has been usurped in the founding of these church starts. For NAMB to fund any church starts that do not have their own unique identity, is wrong. The statement has been made repeatedly, as long as church starts affirm the BF&M 2000 then they are eligible for SBC funds. This has become the Reformed battle cry of late.

It has been argued that there is little that the convention or any trustee appointees can do to curb this new trend as long as the BF&M 2000 is affirmed. That may be true where Seminary hires are concerned; it may hold true on a number of delicate issues with respect to the other entities, but it does not have to hold true in NAMB’s selection of church plants to fund. It is time for people in the pew to put a stop to this practice and reign NAMB’s open door policy back in. If any church plant has to sign a pledge to be reformed or non-reformed for that matter, then it ought to be ineligible for NAMB funds. End of discussion.

Here is another suggestion with respect to Lifeway’s new project, called “The Gospel Project.” I have voiced the plea for Lifeway to produce the project with the following name, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” That remark has gone virtually ignored, with the exception of a couple non-Calvinists who have acknowledged it and agreed with it.

Here is my take on that issue. Lifeway is in a tight on this one, if pressed. Their position is that there has been a “great need expressed” for a project of this magnitude. Ok. If that is true, then Lifeway ought to be willing to identify it as such so those who are supposedly “clamoring” for it, will be able to buy it. However, I do not believe that is the case at all. I believe those at Lifeway who have produced this piece have no intention of allowing the title to be changed and here is the reason why: “THEY KNOW IT WILL NOT SELL.”

If indeed this is the case, then the project ought to be scrapped before good money is spent to promote a product that has no business being in the hands of unsuspecting churches that do not want Reformed Theology literature in their Sunday School Classes. Lifeway knows the literature will sell because it is a product produced and promoted by Lifeway.

It is time to reverse the change that has already come without even a hint of permission from the people in the pew. The SBC is still a convention, a voting entity that needs to address the moves that Calvinists have made in the backrooms of boardrooms as they have managed to take control of SBC entities “without even firing a shot.”

May God bless the SBC and lead us in the direction we need to go!

The Calvinization of the SBC

“There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.” If I had a dollar for every time I had heard that statement made in the last year, I could retire. Why on earth would anyone make such a claim? Let me answer that question. Things are FAR worse than I realized until this morning. I have been seeing numerous “red flags” waving opposing this statement. Understand that when I use the term “red flag,” I am not including the fact that many seminary professors, many college professors and administrators like Al Mohler are already in the lime light because of their open proliferation of the Reformed Theological Platform. While it was a “red flag” in my mind, it has not appeared to be a “red flag” to many others. And in addition to this, I am not including stories of churches that have split over the issue of Calvinism because Calvinist individuals were called to pastor non-Calvinist churches without truthfully revealing their theological differences in an attempt to correct the theological position of the non-Calvinist church they were called to pastor as they sought to lead them to be more “Biblically or Gospel centered.” I knew Calvinism was a major issue; I did not realize how MUCH of an issue it has already become.

I am writing this at 2:30 in the morning. I woke up with this article on my mind.

The First Red Flag for me: seminary graduates. A recent Lifeway report that said 1 in 3 seminary graduates are self-professing 5-point Calvinists was a “wake-up call” for me. I contrasted that alarming statistic with the same report that said that only 1 in 10 current pastors were professing Calvinists. I maintain that less than 85% of the people in the pew are Calvinist, and I really believe I am being liberal with that number. Keep this in mind, this is in addition to the fact already mentioned that a vast majority of Reformed professors are the ones teaching these future denominational leaders.

The Second Red Flag for me: (Actually there are Multiple flags: I will call them Orange Flags that lead up to the Red Flag) NAMB Actions. The First “Orange Flag.” Personally, I was disappointed at the appointment of Kevin Ezell as President of NAMB. Let me say for the record, I have never met Dr. Ezell. I am sure he is a quality individual and has been an exemplary leader and pastor or else he would not hold the position he holds. Why the disappointment with his appointment? Dr. Ezell was Al Mohler’s pastor. Whoa Nellie! What? “That is the reason you were disappointed with his appointment to lead NAMB? You are kidding right?” No. The one thing I have seen demonstrated consistently with respect to LEADING Calvinist advocates is their proclivity for association. I cannot for one moment imagine that Dr. Mohler, of all people, would attend a church that has a pastor who differs from him on matters dealing with the essentials of salvation. Dr. Mohler is a man who sincerely believes that Calvinism is Christianity and the most consistent form of Christianity is Calvinism. He is not going to attend a church, unlike a prominent national leader, and pay no particular attention to what the pastor preaches.

Now, just as I could not in good conscious attend a Reformed preaching church and did in fact leave one that I started attending when I first moved to Florida for that reason, neither would I expect Dr. Mohler to do any different. Does this mean that Dr. Ezell is a Calvinist? I suppose the answer could still be “no.” Hint number two: As I was watching all of this unfold, I have noticed conference after conference of various Reformed Church planting groups with speakers who are unquestionably Reformed in their theology (and well they should be) but guess who consistently shows up on the speaker list? Dr. Ezell. As I said earlier, one of the distinguishing characteristics of these Reformed leaders is their unmistaken, intentional tendency to associate exclusively together. So my reservation is nothing more than “guilt by association,” correct? Correct. I said it was a concern. It still is.

The Second Orange Flag for me was NAMB’s cutting of funding to COSBE, the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. $90,000 is a LOT of money for a lot of folks. This is one of the first issues I took up as a blogger. I remember reading NAMB’s stated objectives concerning the importance of sharing the gospel and their efforts to support organizations that were “taking the gospel to the streets so to speak.” As I saw it, NAMB’s move was a move away from itinerate evangelism. I had been reading Calvinist’s criticism of invitational evangelism and how it was unbiblical and responsible for unregenerate church membership and this “easy believism” that is plaguing the SBC. Granted to NAMB’s defense, they made cuts in various areas and as much as half of the budget was spent on COSBE attending the Southern Baptist Convention annually and it was stated that NAMB could no longer justify that expenditure. I certainly understood NAMB’s personal response to my concern.

Understand the rest of the money went to assist full time vocational evangelists who would sacrifice personally to go to help lead churches that could not afford to have a vocational evangelist come and had no or very few baptisms recorded in recent years. Since COSBE has no budget and is made up of vocational evangelists who struggle on a weekly basis to continue what they believe God has called them to do, it seemed unfair to me to cut $90K out of a $130 Million budget, when dollar for dollar even considering the travel expenses to get to the SBC’s annual meeting was still the best bang for the buck NAMB was spending. In my opinion, it was nothing less than a slap in the face of an organization that has and still does work tirelessly to tell others about Jesus. Oh by the way, this was one of the FIRST things Dr. Ezell did as the new leader of NAMB. Add it up. Strike two against Ezell in my disappointment of his appointment. Was this move a Calvinist motivated move? Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. It was an orange flag for me. I now wonder if this move had anything to do with Ezell’s comments regarding the “de-nerding of NAMB”? That statement was made alongside his statement that major changes were coming to NAMB so that they would be able to free up as much money as possible so that NAMB could place more focus on church planting.

Ah, church planting at NAMB, Orange Flag number three. This has certainly been a popular topic of discussion on SBC blogs. At first I thought, OK this sounds reasonable. However, the argument that NAMB ought to be focused on strengthening the core that is providing its support and spending money to start churches in areas that have been traditionally difficult places to get church plants started may do more long term damage than good. Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization. NAMB charged on.

I remember Dr. Ezell commenting that Associational DOM titles would be changed to Church Planting Catalysts. OK. Then I began noticing Reformed Groups popping up with one church planting initiative after another. There was the Acts 29 Group, then I was looking around the Founders Web Site and I noticed PLNTD, their church planting initiative. I started noticing more reformed church planting groups that were planting confessionally reformed churches. I am not going to go back and revisit all this: Google offers plenty of information for anyone concerned that I am overstating the obvious here. In reading some of the talk about this move and the implications of NAMB funds being funneled into these groups to help support the aggressive church start initiatives of these theologically connected plants, I heard the following statement made in NAMB’s defense: “You non-Calvinists do not want Calvinist preachers in your churches so what is the big deal in funding churches for them to preach in?” OK. I will let you connect those dots. Let’s go back to the initial statement of this article: “There is no attempt to Calvinize the SBC.”

Add to this Orange Flag number four, the most recent issue of ON MISSION magazine that features two church plants that are, you guessed it, confessionally Reformed and I can only assume, funded by NAMB. There are two church plants highlighted in NAMB’s magazine and both are Reformed. The two church plants are not 2 out of 10 featured; they are 2 out of 2 featured. Now, in defense of NAMB, there is no mention of their Reformed association so what is the big deal? Of course there is no mention to it; one has to do some looking to discover that seemingly insignificant fact.

The Third Red Flag for me: IMB moves. When Dr. Rankin retired as President of IMB, one of the names that quickly surfaced as a possible replacement was Dr. David Platt who spoke at the SBC’s Annual Meeting in Orlando where Dr. Rankin shared his final farewell comments .Dr. Platt is one of the leading Reformed pastors in the SBC. Dr. Tom Eliff was selected to head the IMB.

Fast forward to 2011’s Lottie Moon Promotional Video. What? Pop in the Promotional Video and here are two leading SBC pastors speaking about the importance of SBC churches giving sacrificially to the Lottie Moon Mission Offering to help the IMB send missionaries around the world. Now, how on earth could that be a Red Flag? Drs. David Platt and JD Greear are encouraging SBC churches to give sacrificially to LMCO to help send missionaries around the world. BOTH of these guys are card carrying Calvinists; they are not just casual Calvinists, they are at the top of the list. One is a former IMB missionary; both have come under fire because they pastor churches that have apparently failed to file ACP reports, which contain statistical information that help the various SBC entities gauge how they are doing as far as effectiveness is concerned.

Both are arguably missions giving individuals and pastor missions giving churches. The question is, how much do they actually give to the cooperative program to support CP work? It is one thing to be the pastor of a great missions giving church that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on new church plants and overseas missions projects which without a doubt makes one a great kingdom work leader but that does not make him a model spokesperson for churches that cannot afford to spend that kind of money and do that kind of kingdom work themselves. This is why the CP exists. This is why the LMCO exists. The IMB most certainly has figures on the top giving churches that support Lottie Moon with their offerings and those are the guys that ought to lead the charge to encourage us to “do as they do not as they say we ought to do.” Are the churches these two men lead, leading givers? No one knows. Are they leading figures? Without a doubt. Both continue to be quality featured speakers for IMB events, along with a host of other well qualified individuals.

Ignore the statement about the ACP charges that have been discussed and debated since this material was released; the facts are, the two guys the IMB tagged to do the promotional piece, are not just leading, influential pastors, they are leading, influential Reformed pastors. That is a Red Flag for me.

Fourth Red Flag for me: Lifeway. Count the red flags: Seminaries, NAMB, IMB and now Lifeway. What is the problem here? Well there is the Vice President of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources, Dr. Ed Stetzer. He is a featured speaker for Acts 29 conferences and is listed on Monergism’s site as a featured speaker and author and he is a frequent speaker at Founders Conferences.

Dr. Stetzer is the project manager for Lifeway’s newest project, “The Gospel Project.” The facts are crystal clear that everyone associated with the production and the writing of this project are not just casual Calvinists, they are confessionally and unashamedly Reformed. The project clearly states that its purpose is to provide “a theologically driven study (according to the writers) that points people to Jesus.” The “correct theology” of these individuals will no doubt be reflected in the theological position of this project. There is no reason to expect anything less here. Make no mistake about it: “The Gospel Project” will deliver everything promised and a LOT MORE.

This is alarming to me and certainly ought to send a wake-up call to the people in the pew in Southern Baptist Churches that something needs to be done about the influx of this Calvinist influence and deliberate effort to turn the SBC into a Calvinist led theological entity. Remember, Calvinists believe that Calvinism IS real Christianity. In their minds, there can be no compromise. Personally, that is the only statement in this article that I wholeheartedly agree with (the no compromise part). This is where the SBC is heading; no, sadly that is where it is TODAY! If something is not done now, not soon, but now, the SBC will see significant changes in the not so distant future, changes that are already being signaled by the entities of the SBC.

One final comment. Given the current state of affairs, I am today more sympathetic to a discussion of a name change for the SBC. It seems that this is coming, like it or not. Since Southern seems so offensive to so many, I am sure CBC may soon resonate well: The Calvinist Baptist Convention.

Maybe I will go back to bed and wake up and all this will have been a bad dream. I could only wish that was true.