Category Archives: Southern Baptists

Announcement: I will be revising and updating A History of Mississippi Baptists

Left to right: Dr. Shawn Parker, executive director-treasurer of the Mississippi Baptist Convention, Dr. Anthony Kay, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission, and myself. We are standing by a painting of the first Baptist church in Mississippi, Salem Church (Coles Creek) in Jefferson County, by retired Mississippi Baptist pastor Robert Mamrak. Photo by Barri Shirley.

I am pleased to announce that on November 3, 2021, I signed a contract with the Mississippi Baptist Convention to revise and update A History of Mississippi Baptists by Richard Aubrey McLemore. The book was published by the convention, which holds the copyright, in 1971.

I expect the project to take a few years, as I will be doing a thorough revision of the original work, checking it for accuracy and rewriting in a more narrative style. After the revision is done, I will add two more chapters to update the last 50 years. You can read the full news story about the book here.

Follow his blog for stories that I learn and share along the way!

Book review: “Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770-1860”

Menikoff, Aaron. Politics and Piety: Baptist Social Reform in America, 1770-1860. Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publicaitons, 2014.

Aaron Menikoff fills in important gaps in Baptist history with this well-researched study of Baptist involvement in social reform between the American Revolution and Civil War. He is well-prepared to write on the subject, with a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and experience as a legislative assistant to U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, a Baptist.
This book debunks the common idea that Baptists in the 19th century were only concerned about personal salvation, and neglected social issues. He first examines the overall attitude of Baptists toward salvation, morality, politics, and church and state, with particular emphasis on how Baptists held in tension the idea that church and state should be separate, yet a nation needed to be virtuous to survive. In other words, the Baptist understanding of separation of church and meant the government had no right establishing a particular religion, but this did not mean a separation between church and society– far from it.
Next, Menikoff examines how this Baptist attitude played itself out in five major issues of the time: political parties, slavery, the Sabbath Mail Controversy, poverty, and the temperance movement. He shows the majority Baptist approach to each issue, while also revealing how different Baptists took different sides on each of these issues. ]
On political parties, Baptists usually avoided endorsing candidates or parties, yet spoke out on political issues, and some were more directly involved as candidates and supporting parties.
On slavery, Menikoff shows the complexity and diversity of Baptist views, including the colonization movement to resettle slaves in Africa. While Northern Baptists generally joined the abolitionist movement and southern Baptists opposed it, he shows how there were southern Baptists opposed to slavery in the south as late as the 1830s, and Baptist leaders like Richard Furman called upon slaveholders not to neglect the spiritual needs of their slaves.
The Sabbath Mail Controvesy is largely forgotten today, but at the time there was great religious opposition to the delivery of mail on Sunday, including most Baptists. He tells the fascinating story of how a Baptist Senator, Richard Johnson, gave the Congressional report supporting the delivery of mail every day, calling his fellow Baptists hypocrites for trying to unite church and state over the issue.
On poverty, the author shows how Baptists were active in relief efforts for the poor, although they often blamed the poor for getting themselves into their situation and focused on targeted giving of the “deserving poor.”
The temperance movement to abstain from alcohol was the most popular Baptist cause, as all Baptists saw alcohol abuse as a major social problem. However, Menikoff shows that Baptists also had different opinions over the temperance issue, especially defending the liberty of conscience for individual Baptists who drank moderately, and those Baptists who opposed to political efforts at prohibition on the grounds that it mixed church and state.
This book gave me a new perspective on several issues, especially the fascinating Sabbath Mail Controversy as well as how complex and diverse Baptist opinions were on slavery in the south. Menikoff’s research is carefully documented, with hundreds of footnotes and an exhaustive bibliography, leaving a rich resource for further study on the subjects covered. It is not light reading, but for those interested in Baptist history, it is rewarding, indeed.

The Next IMB president

Doug Munton writes an excellent blog on what we should pray for in the next president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

via The Next IMB President

The HCSB is now the CSB. What’s the difference?



In 2003, Holman Bible Publishers, which is owned by Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, released a completely new translation of the Bible, called the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), which was used in all of LifeWay’s literature, including its Sunday school curriculum. The HCSB was nearly as readable as the popular New International Version (NIV), yet closer to the New American Standard Bible in accuracy. When Zondervan revised the NIV in 2011, making it more accurate in some ways but gender neutral in reference to mankind, messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention publicly condemned the revision, and some pastors who were using the NIV, myself included, switched to the HCSB. Now the HCSB is no more.

In 2017, Holman released a radical revision of the HCSB, under the new name, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). It is now the translation used in LifeWay literature instead of the HCSB. So what’s the difference? Basically, the CSB has positioned itself between the New International Version (NIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV). It is nearly as contemporary and readable and almost as gender-neutral as the NIV, but nearly as accurate and literal as the ESV.

1. The CSB is more gender neutral.

Interestingly, the CSB follows the gender neutral trend of the NIV far more than the HCSB did. Even the HCSB had begun to use “people” instead of “men” in places where the text clearly refers to people in general, like Matthew 4:19 where it refers to Jesus teaching His disciples to “fish for men.” But the CSB goes much further. In Proverbs 27:17, the CSB says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (The HCSB has “men.”) One may argue that the context implies all people there, although men’s groups have often equated it to masculinity. A more significant change is the constant reference to the believers in the church in the New Testament letters as “brothers” in the HCSB. The CSB changes this to “brothers and sisters.” So we read in Romans 16:14, “Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers and sisters who are with them.” Again, the reasoning for this is that the apostle must have had in mind all members of the congregation, both male and female (although all of the Greek names in Romans 16:14 happen to be male).

To be fair, the CSB avoids the extremes examples of gender neutral language found in the NIV. The NIV goes so far as to translate the Hebrew ab, father, as “parent” in Malachi 4:6, and in Hebrews 12:7 it says “God is treating you as children,” although the Greek word is “sons.” The CSB does not goes this far; in both of these passages, the CSB uses the masculine word, and the CSB is consistent in always referring to God with the masculine pronoun (as is the NIV).

2. The CSB is more traditional.

The HCSB broke translation tradition in several ways, including the frequent, but inconsistent use of the literal “Yahweh” instead of the traditional “LORD” in all capital letters to translate the Hebrew name for God, Yahweh. The HCSB also translated the Greek christos as “Messiah,” since many people did not understand that Christ and Messiah are Greek and Hebrew words for the same title, Anointed One. In contrast, the CSB has returned to more traditional wording. The CSB uses “LORD” in the Old Testament for Yahweh and often uses “Christ,” for christos in the New Testament, although the CSB does use “Messiah” in some places where a declaration of faith is made about Jesus, such as John 11:27: “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God…”

3. The CSB is more literal.

A good example of how the CSB is more literal than the HCSB would be Psalm 1:1, which the CSB translates literally: “How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway of sinners or sit in the company of mockers.” The HCSB paraphrased the “walk, stand, sit” poetry of Psalm 1:1 this way: “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers!” (Notice again, however, that the HCSB uses “man,” while the CSB uses the gender neutral “one.”)

4. The CSB no longer capitalizes pronouns referring to God.

A fourth major revision of the CSB is that it dropped the capitalization of pronouns referring to God. The HCSB showed reverence to God by capitalizing all pronouns that referred to God, as does the New American Standard Bible (NASB). The CSB does not (nor does the KJV or ESV). The CSB translators reasoned that it is not always clear in the context if the reference is to God. Thus we see the difference in  John 15:26, a passage which refers to all three persons of the Trinity. This verse is translated by the HCSB: “When the Counselor comes, the One I will send to you from the Father– the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father– He will testify about Me.” But John 15:26 is translated this way in the CSB: “When the Counselor comes, the one I will send to you from the Father– the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father– he will testify about me.”

No translation is perfect, as they are made by imperfect people, and language is constantly changing. As I said at the beginning, the CSB has positioned itself between the readable, gender-neutral NIV and the more literal ESV. In doing so, it has eliminated some of the quirky, fascinating translation characteristics of the HCSB. For this reason, I hope that the HCSB will still be available for those who want something different. Each person will need to make his (or her) own choice, and never forget that the Author is God, not man (or humanity).

(For more study on changes from the HCSB to CSB, here is a good resource:

(You can read Holman’s own list of the changes here:

Guest blog: GBC president Hattaway calls Georgia Baptists to pray for revival

(Below is a guest blog post from Dr. Don Hattaway, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cartersville, and president of the Georgia Baptist Convention.)

DonHattawayRevive 2014: A Call to Prayer

A message from Dr. Don Hattaway, President of the Georgia Baptist Convention

The Georgia Baptist Convention has been greatly blessed by God. We have some of the most dedicated pastors and leaders in the history of our convention, excellent educational opportunities and resources, and the technological ability to deliver our message to the masses. In addition, we live in a state with over 7 million lost people desperately in need of the Gospel. Considering these factors, you would think we would be making great strides in reaching our state for Christ. Sadly, the opposite is true. Baptisms are down. Giving is down. Church attendance is down. Despite all of our efforts, we continue to lose ground in the battle for the souls of men, women, boys and girls across our state. If this downward trend is to be reversed, the problem causing it must first be determined.

I have come to believe that the greatest problem facing our convention is of a spiritual nature. We are in desperate need of revival. As the president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, my vision is to see spiritual renewal experienced in the churches throughout our state. This can only happen when we humble ourselves and seek the face of God. The time has come for all Georgia Baptists to cry out to the Father in confession and repentance of sins. When we are right with God and each other, God will be able to use us to impact our state with the Gospel.

If revival is going to be experienced throughout Georgia, prayer is where it will begin. Since there is no such thing as a prayerless revival, I want to call upon all Georgia Baptist pastors and leaders to begin to pray fervently for revival in our state.

Throughout this year, I will travel across Georgia encouraging the formation of prayer groups that will regularly meet to seek God’s face for spiritual renewal. I hope to see the momentum of prayer and spiritual expectancy build throughout the year leading up to our annual convention at Ingleside Baptist in Macon, Georgia. Our theme will be “Revive Us Again!” The Scriptural basis for this focus is Psalm 85:6, “Will You not revive us again so that Your people may rejoice in You?”  This emphasis is so important I have chosen to refer to this year’s convention as “Revive 2014.”

When messengers leave “Revive 2014” in November, I want them to be able to say they have experienced God’s power and presence in their lives.  My ultimate desire is for Georgia Baptists to come away with a renewed cleansing from God, a unified fellowship among God’s people and a restored passion to worship God and reach our state with the Gospel message. 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit descended to empower the Church. After ministering alongside Jesus for three years, the disciples were not ready to do ministry because they lacked the power of the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit descended on the Church at Pentecost, Peter preached the Gospel and 3,000 souls were saved.  The Church, ministering in the power of God, turned the world upside-down for Christ. We, as believers, have the Holy Spirit living within us. However, sin grieves the Holy Spirit and limits His power in our lives. God wants to demonstrate His power in and through us.  For this to happen, we must humble ourselves and pray for a fresh encounter with God.  Only then will we be able to minister in the power of God and impact our state for Christ.

Will you join me in consistently praying for a spiritual renewal throughout Georgia in 2014?  We must not delay.  God wants to do a new work in us and in our convention.  Let us join Him in His work.







(If you see a video ad below this post, please understand that I have no control over these ads, and that I do not necessarily endorse the product. If you see an inappropriate ad, feel free to contact me, Bob Rogers, at

ABC’s of Praying for Missionaries

When you ask missionaries what they need from us, more than anything else, they say, “Prayer.” So how can we pray for them? Here are seven scriptural prayers, arranged alphabetically:

Accepted by the believers
“Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that the gift I am bringing to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,” Romans 15:31 (HCSB)

Language study can be difficult, but it’s vital to be accepted among the believers, and fit in. If the missionary isn’t accepted by the believers, he won’t be able to reach the unbelievers.
Unfortunately, believers aren’t perfect, and can have conflict in churches on the mission field, just as churches here can have conflict. So pray for unity between the missionaries and the local believers.

Bold in sharing the gospel
“Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20 (HCSB)

Dr. Cal Guy was a missions professor who was asked to preach a revival. Members were concerned about one man, “Fine Old Mr. Crenshaw,” who was known to be a fine man, but saw no need for Christ. The pastor took Dr. Guy to meet him, and said, “Mr. Crenshaw, I’ve been telling Dr. Guy what a fine man you are.” Dr. Guy retorted, “I don’t believe it. If you’re a man as I’m a man, then you’re a rotten sinner, headed to hell.” After a long pause, Mr. Crenshaw smiled and said, “You’re right. Let’s talk.” And he accepted Christ.
Missionaries cannot be timid about sharing their faith. They need wisdom about when to be bold.

Clear in sharing the gospel
“…that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.” Col 4:4 (ESV)

The gospel can often be misunderstood. Hindus want to add Jesus to their other gods, and need to hear that Jesus is the only way. Muslims often think that when we say Jesus is the “Son” of God, that we are talking about a literal, crude sexual relationship between God the Father and Mary. So pray that missionaries will make the message clear in the culture where they serve.

Delivered from unbelievers
“Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, that the gift I am bringing to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints,” Romans 15:31 (HCSB)

Persecution is very real in many places around the world. Missionaries have been expelled from countries on trumped-up charges. Pray for them to be rescued.

Enter open doors
“At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah, for which I am in prison,” Colossians 4:3 (HCSB)
“After they arrived and gathered the church together, they reported everything God had done with them and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” Acts 14:27 (HCSB)

Steven Gillum, IMB missionary in Curitiba, Brazil, prayed and prayed to discover an area of his city without a church, and then it was shown to him.
Missionaries are always looking for unreached areas. Pray those doors will open for them to go in.

“Now I want you to know, brothers, that I often planned to come to you (but was prevented until now ) in order that I might have a fruitful ministry among you, just as among the rest of the Gentiles.” Romans 1:13 (HCSB)
“You have already heard about this hope in the message of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. It is bearing fruit and growing all over the world,” Colossians 1:5-6 (HCSB)

William Carey labored in India for seven years without a single convert. One North American missionary befriended 60 families among an unreached people group, but has not yet seen one of them convert to faith. The work can be hard. Pray that they will be fruitful, as Carey was, when eventually God sent a revival. Today there are over a million Baptists in India who consider William Carey their spiritual forefather.

Good Health
“Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health physically just as you are spiritually.” 3 John 2 (HCSB)

Anytime you go to a different country, you may be exposed to different diseases. When I went on a short-term mission trip to Villa Berthet, Argentina, I noticed trees painted white halfway up, and certain markings on houses. When I asked what it meant, they said that it meant the “chagas” disease from an insect had infected those trees and houses.
In Africa and Asia, missionaries often have to confront malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, typhoid fever, cholera, and hepatitis A, among other diseases. Pray for their health.

Missionaries serve in many different circumstances and different places around the world. Carlton Walker is a missionary reaching out to some of the 24 million senior adults in Japan. A retired man, Mr. S, takes Carlton around and introduces him to people, and he boldly shares his faith when people who have been Buddhist all of their lives. Pray for missionaries like Carlton Walker and others in the United States and around the world.

Guest blog: Georgia Baptist president’s observations on the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention

JohnWaters (Below is a guest blog by Dr. John Waters, pastor of First Baptist Church, Statesboro, Georgia, and president of the Georgia Baptist Convention. He shares his personal observations about the 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, which met last week in Houston, Texas.)
Southern Baptists gathered in Houston, Texas, this month for our annual convention meeting. Controversy or unsettled issues often marked previous conventions, so the annual meetings usually morphed into an annual show down, with messengers already having made up their minds regarding a particular issue weeks before their arrival.

This year’s Southern Baptist Convention, however, seemed to mark a course correction. With a shockingly low attendance barely breaking the 5,000 mark, not many Southern Baptists made the trek to the Lone Star state for this annual meeting, but those who attended participated in a well-planned and effective event.

Having attended this year’s annual gathering, I offer the following four observations about this year’s Southern Baptist Convention:

1. Baptists are beginning to favor cooperation over conflict.
With several potentially divisive issues before us, Baptists chose to respond with wisdom, grace, and a plea for unity. The theme of “Revive Us: That We May Be One” set the stage for a spirit of cooperation that sadly has been absent in many of the previous conventions. The report regarding Calvinism and the resolution about Boys Scouts of America were characterized more by their thoughtfulness than their abrasiveness, and messengers seem to be resisting the urge to fight, choosing instead to make strong statements tempered by love and the spirit of Christ.

2. Previous “hot issues” seemed noticeably absent.
With the commotion caused in recent conventions about the Great Commission Resurgence (Orlando, 2010) and the descriptor name of “Great Commission Baptists” (New Orleans, 2012), it was remarkable how these hot topics seemed to be long forgotten. Even though these issues were passionately debated and subsequently approved, Southern Baptists seemed to have put them in the past, relegating them to the historical archives of the Convention for anyone who wants to search for them. But did the adoption of these quasi-controversial matters substantively change the make up and DNA of Southern Baptists? Given the deafening silence about these issues only a few years after their acceptance, they apparently were forgotten as quickly as they were adopted.

3. The call for global missions has been re-ignited among Baptists.
It was difficult to miss the mandate to get the Gospel to the nations, and rightly so. Over the past 30 years or so, Southern Baptists privately swelled with pride when talking about our global mission strategies and our thousands of fully funded missionaries around the globe. But the growing statistics of lostness among the nations and the fatness among Southern Baptist churches have been a wake up call. Danny Akin’s closing sermon was particularly insightful, as he reminded messengers that they could be parachuted into places on the globe and walk for weeks on end without ever meeting a single believer or seeing a single church. They would find, instead, countless people groups representing millions of souls that have never once heard the name of Jesus. In an over-saturated America with churches on every proverbial street corner, maybe it is time we managed with less at home so that we can poke deeper and wider holes in the darkness in parts of the world that don’t even have access to the Gospel.

4. Fred Luter’s genuine spirit set the right temperature for Baptists.
Noticeably uncomfortable in certain settings requiring parliamentary finesse, president Fred Luter displayed an affable and infectious spirit that endeared him even more to Baptists, if that is even possible. He capably handled all of the business required of any SBC president, but his love for churches and pastors was apparent and set a gracious tone for the entire meeting. His gregarious manner was perhaps best displayed after he struck the gavel for the close of the annual meeting and then looked into the crowd and shouted, “Love y’all!” With men like Fred Luter leading the Southern Baptist Convention, the days ahead will be good ones indeed.

Reflections on the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans

I recently attended the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, where we elected our first African-American SBC president: Dr. Fred Luter, pastor of Franklin Ave. Baptist Church in New Orleans. Dr. Luter is an outstanding pastor, preacher and Southern Baptist leader. He took a congregation of 65 people and built it to thousands of members, only to see the membership decimated by Hurricane Katrina. He returned to rebuild the membership to over 4,500 in weekly attendance today. His church is a leading supporter of Southern Baptist missions. I am very excited that we have elected Dr. Luter, and I hope you will join me in praying for God to bless his leadership of our convention.
The convention also voted on changing the name of our denomination. By a 54-46% vote, messengers approved the proposal to keep the legal name Southern Baptist Convention, while at the same time encouraging anybody who wants to use a different name to call themselves “Great Commission Baptists.” I voted against this. The name “Southern Baptist” has come to stand for who we are. Changing actions is more important than changing our name. I felt that it was an unnecessary proposal, since churches do not have to use the name “Southern Baptist” in their local church name anyway to be affiliated with us, and even though the other name is just an alternative option, I feel that it will be confusing for us to be using two different names to refer to our denomination.
The convention passed nine resolutions and declined to bring forward some proposed resolutions. Resolution #3 was a hotly debated resolution affirming the use of a “sinner’s prayer” to express repentance and faith. Some people, such as David Platt, have criticized the use of a “sinner’s prayer” to give people a false hope that they are saved simply by saying a prayer, even when they have not repented of sin. The resolution affirmed that the Bible often speaks of crying out to God in faith, and that there is nothing wrong with asking people to repeat a “sinner’s prayer” of faith, as long as it is not used as manipulation or an incantation that does not include a full explanation of the gospel and expression of repentance. Makes sense, right? However, two amendments were proposed to this resolution, both of which failed. One amendment tried to completely delete the term “a sinner’s prayer.” This amendment was defeated. The other amendment tried to add specific language saying that salvation is available to all who hear and all may respond. This amendment was also defeated, since the resolution already said the gospel is offered to anyone who repents and trusts in Christ.  Then the overall resolution was adopted. Apparently, the two amendments that were offered came from opposite camps in the debate over Calvinism. Some Calvinists have criticized the use of a “sinner’s prayer,” since they feel it is manipulative, and cannot bring salvation to a person unless that person is first chosen and called to faith by God. The other amendment, which stressed the availability of the gospel to all to hear and respond, seemed to be a direct attack on the Calvinist doctrine of limited atonement (the belief that Christ only died for the elect), since it was stressing a general appeal to all to believe. It is very interesting that both amendments were defeated; despite the controversy, the convention and most convention speakers seemed to desire to steer a middle course that is inclusive to both Calvinists and non-Calvinists.

Resolution #5 spoke out against the Obama administration’s violations and potential violations of religious liberty on several issues, such as the health care mandate for that violates the consciences of the Catholic church and other religious groups that do not wish to pay for contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs, and the threat to the ministry of military chaplains who do not believe in homosexuality, now that homosexuality is being approved by the military.

One resolution was of particular interest because it was not brought up for a vote. Dwight McKissic, an African-American pastor in Texas, had proposed a resolution against the racist statements in Mormon source documents. He was concerned that Mormons have been evangelizing people of color, without those people knowing that passages in the Book of Mormon such as 2 Nephi 5:21, Alma 3:6, 14 say that people with dark skin are cursed by God. An African-American member of the Resolutions Committee (I failed to get his name), said that the SBC has not been in the habit of speaking against specific religions, and implied that we didn’t want to set that precedent. He also said that since the Mormon church now allows people of color to be elders, we want to make sure we get our facts right before speaking on this issue. McKissic insisted that he still wanted the resolution to be brought up for a vote, because he said the Mormon church has never repented of these passages in their books, and the racist implications remain in Mormon “scripture.” However, the convention defeated Rev. McKissic’s motion to bring up his resolution.

Overall, it was a lively convention, attended by a little less than 8,000 registered messengers, full of inspirational reports from our International Mission Board and North American Misssion Board, great preaching and music. And of course, since it was a Baptist business meeting, there were as many different opinions as there were people in the room.

What really needs to change about Southern Baptists


In 1845, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) was organized in Augusta, Georgia, just a couple hours’ drive north of where I now live. However, we’ve come a long way since then, not just in miles or time.

In 1845, one of the main reasons why Southern Baptists split from the North was that the SBC wanted to appoint slaveholders as missionaries. Today, many SBC churches are integrated, including my own, African-American pastor Fred Luter is our vice-president, and Luter will probably be elected president this year at the convention meeting in New Orleans.

In 1845, all of our churches were in the South. Today, we are still concentrated in the South, but we have churches in all 50 states. One of our largest churches is in California.

The idea of changing the name, particularly dropping the word “Southern” in favor of something else, has come up many times in the past century, and has always been voted down. Now the Executive Committee of the SBC is passing along the following recommendation to the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention: to keep the legal name Southern Baptist, while at the same time encouraging churches that do not wish to use that name to adopt the informal name “Great Commission Baptists.”

I have mixed feelings about this recommendation. Although this is not officially a name change proposal, it could lead to name “erosion” and confusion. Imagine two Baptists who meet and ask about each other’s churches. One says, “I’m a Southern Baptist.” The other says, “I’m a Great Commission Baptist.” They have no idea their churches are affiliated with one another. How does that unify us?

While the name “Southern Baptist” is negative for some, it has positive connotations for others, such as those who received assistance in SBC disaster relief efforts after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and for millions who found faith and Christian nurture in an SBC church.

I am a Southerner, but I grew up an Army chaplain’s son, and lived outside the South, as well. I remember that while attending a Southern Baptist church on Staten Island, New York, that “Southern” was not considered helpful to evangelism. After all, what New Yorker wants to join a “Southern” church? However, the church simply used the name “Baptist,” just as most SBC churches do in the South, including my own. My former youth minister, Jason McNair, who now serves in the Utah-Idaho convention, feels that a name change is a waste of time and energy and doesn’t address the most important issues.

If we earn a good reputation, people don’t care as much about the name. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is the name of a conservative Lutheran denomination. Lutherans looking for a conservative church are glad to find a church by that name, even if they are not in Missouri. It’s not the name that matters; it’s the reputation behind the name. After all, New York Life Insurance sells in Georgia, and Kentucky Fried Chicken sells in California.

Some claim that “Southern” is offensive to African-Americans. I asked this question of my former classmate Cathy McNair, an African-American who graduated with me from Petal High School in Petal, Mississippi. She said, “Well….used to…back in the stone age…it was pretty much understood that Southern Baptist was a synonym for Blacks need not attend….nowadays…not so much.” (By the way, Cathy said about the same thing as Jason, that spending time on a name change was ignoring “weightier matters.”)

Cathy makes an important point about the “used to” and “nowadays” of the Southern Baptist name. Although the name remained the same, the name gained a new reputation over the years, as Southern Baptists repented of the racial sins of the past and many SBC churches opened their doors to all races.

And here is the key: we must be known for what we are for instead of what we are against. Too often we are known as those people who boycott Disney and hate gays. We should be known as the people who love all people (gays included) enough to show them how to change. Our logo says it all. The cross, Bible and globe show what we are for: the gospel of forgiveness by faith in Jesus’ death on the cross, faithfulness to the Bible, and sharing this good news with the whole world. If we are known for these things, we will please our Lord, whatever name we choose to use.

I may vote in favor of the recommendation, since it keeps the legal name and only encourages those who already don’t want to use the SBC name to at least use the same name (“Great Commission Baptist”). But for me, the bottom line is, that it’s far more important for us to change our ways than to change our name.

(The Southern Baptist Convention will hear this proposal at its meeting in New Orleans on June 19-20, 2012.)

To read more on this subject, read these reports and blogs:

Official recommendation from the task force on a name change.

by Ed Stetzer, researcher with LifeWay Christian Resources, favors a name change, but feels changing our actions is more important. Many comments on his blog, many of them with objections to the name change.

by Benjie Potter, feels the name change proposal is silly, and offers a Southern Baptist revision of Shakespeare’s “Wherefore art thou Romeo?”

(Below is a photograph of the historical marker in Augusta, Georgia, where the Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845.)


“Love Out Loud: Face to Face”

Some 400 members of First Baptist Church of Rincon wore their blue jeans and t-shirts to Sunday morning worship on February 12, because they came ready to go out and work in the community that afternoon.
Members spent the afternoon doing 15 different community service projects that touched over a thousand lives all over Effingham County, Georgia. “Too often, the world hears what we are against,” said the pastor, Dr. Bob Rogers. “We want them to hear loud and clear what we are for. We are for Jesus, we are for love and we are for loving our community personally in the name of Jesus. That’s why this is called ‘Love Out Loud: Face to Face.'”
With that in mind, everything was done for free. Free food was distributed to first responders. There was a free car wash and vehicle safety check on the church grounds– no money accepted. Several people offered the volunteers money, but they politely refused, explaining it was an illustration of God’s grace, that we cannot earn.
Some members went to local laundromats and offered to pay for people’s laundry, while others washed windshields for free at a local drive-in restaurant. Still others grabbed rakes and gloves and cleaned the yards of the sick and elderly, or took their tools to do minor repairs in homes of those in need. Back at the church, a group of volunteers were giving a party for special needs children, while a large host of volunteers descended on the local nursing home and retirement home, visiting the residents, and giving cards and goody bags to the workers.
Some volunteers focused specifically on spiritual and emotional needs, praying with people in homes where volunteer work was being done, as well as making numerous visits to the homebound. One family who has to stay at home due to illness was visited, and said, “We are blessed to be members of such an awesome church who reaches out to our community.” Free Bibles were given away in many different sites, both in English and Spanish. Volunteers from the church’s Hispanic mission participated in several of the projects.
Even though this is the third year that the church has done a “Love Out Loud” day near Valentine’s, it still required weeks of preparation, led by coordinators Beth Pye and Sherri Gordy. A group of volunteers who gave away handmade cards and goody bags, spent hours in preparation before the day of distribution. Organizers had to prepare hundreds of box lunches that could be distributed quickly, so that volunteers had time to eat and go out to serve.
Members of First Baptist Rincon who participated seemed to feel as blessed as those they helped. Kim Callahan said, “First time doing Love Out Loud. It was awesome.” Angie Griffin said, “Our trip to the nursing home was so amazing. Our grandson Carson said after we left, ‘Meme, I feel so good coming here today and spreading Gods love.'” Leonard Zeigler visited the county jail to pray with inmates, and found he was deeply moved by one inmate as they stood on opposite sides of the glass, hands touching the same window, until he saw condensation start rolling down the window.
Kim Weaver, a beautician who helped cut hair for free that day, said, “We let God out of the box.” Joseph Douberly drove around with a team that randomly approached people and offered to pray for them. While some people refused, others were eager for prayer, even calling family out of their homes to join them in prayer. Douberly said that he got “way outside my comfort zone.”
A teenager who participated was inspired to keep serving even after the day was over. Ryan Cole shared, “I had fun washing cars, trucks and our two fire trucks. At the end of church on my way home I saw a lady who needed help. No one stopped to help so I stopped; she was very nice.”
Team coordinator Beth Pye said, “It’s exciting to be part of a church family that actively takes Christ into the community. When we get out there and get involved in other people’s lives, share their pain and their joy, we’re giving them a glimpse of how God can be the fundamental source of their strength and life.”
Logistics coordinator Sherri Gordy said, “It is one thing to talk about “helping people” but that never compares with the feeling of actually reaching down, out, and over to help another person. Love out Loud crosses age, race, denomination, and does exactly what Jesus does for us, if we let Him work in our lives.”
At least five people allowed God to work in their lives in a very personal way, praying to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.

2011 revision of NIV Bible both pleasing and disappointing

In March 2011, the copyright owners of the most popular modern translation of the Bible in English, the New International Version (NIV), published the first revision of the NIV since 1984.
As a pastor who did not like the over-reaching political correctness of the Today’s New International Version (TNIV, copyright 2002), I was concerned when I heard that the NIV itself was going to be revised. But after studying the digital early release version in numerous passages, I have been pleased that it is more accurate, but disappointed that while the use of gender-neutral language does not go as far as the TNIV, it still goes too far.
The new NIV retains 95% of the words of the 1984 edition, but where there are changes, it communicates the original meaning better to modern readers and more accurately than before.
Let me address several issues: gender-neutral language, omission of words, and accuracy of translation.

Gender-neutral language
First, the most controversial issue of the TNIV (the earlier failed attempt to revise the NIV) was its gender-neutral language. The Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in June 2011 saying they “cannot commend” the 2011 NIV. Why is that? The 2011 NIV does not go as far as the TNIV. In Hebrews 12, where scripture speaks of God disciplining us like a father, the TNIV changed “father” to “parent.” This implied that God was a gender-neutral “parent” rather than our “heavenly Father.” I’m glad to report that the new NIV has “father,” just as the 1984 edition had. However, the new NIV, like the TNIV, does use gender-neutral “brothers and sisters” when the context clearly means all believers. Since modern English speakers use both genders, “brothers and sisters,” when addressing all believers, not just the masculine “brothers,” it makes sense that the Bible they are reading do the same. However, this may not be acceptable to all readers, particularly in passages like Psalm 1, where the masculine pronoun is often associated with a reference to manhood. In the 1984 NIV, Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked… He is like a tree planted by streams of water…” but the 2011 NIV renders it, “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked…That person is like a tree planted by steams of water…”
The 2011 NIV changes “fathers” to “parents” in Malachi 4:6, although the Hebrew word is ab, fathers. Also, Ezekiel 22:30, the famous “stand in the gap” passage used by Promise Keepers to challenge men, has been changed from “man” to “someone.” A favorite verse of the men’s group, Promise Keepers, was Proverbs 27:17, because it said that as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. However, the 2011 NIV changes “man” to “person.” These kind of changes can be found hundreds of times throughout the Old and New Testaments in the 2011 NIV.
However, the 2011 NIV continues to say “sons” in Romans 8:14 and “sonship” in Romans 8:15 in a discussion of spiritual adoption which refers to the male heir. Thus it does not use gender-neutral language in places where it would impact theology, but it does use gender-neutral language in some places that have traditionally been interpreted as references to manhood. The revised NIV also continues to maintain clear sexual distinctions between the genders in passages like Genesis 1:27, which reads, “So God created mankind in his own image…male and female he created them.”

Omission of words
The second translation issue is the omission of words. One of the biggest criticisms of the 1984 NIV was that sometimes words in the Greek text simply were not translated. The most notorious example was the Gospel of Mark, which makes frequent use of the Greek word euthus, “immediately.” For some reason, there were many verses in the 1984 NIV that simply ignored this word. But the 2011 NIV is careful to translate it as “immediately” or “as soon” etc. in every place where it is used. I have been doing a verse-by-verse study of Romans in the Greek, and comparing the old and new versions of the NIV, I found that where the old NIV omitted the word “or” at the beginning of Romans 3:29, the new NIV restored the word. And in Romans 4:1, the old NIV omitted the words “according to the flesh,” but the new NIV put the phrase back in.

Accuracy of translation
The third translation issue is the accuracy of translation. In an attempt to be easy to read, the NIV has been less precise in translating words and phrases. It’s a difficult balance for any translation, but sometimes the 1984 NIV paraphrased the text in places that caused the reader to miss the technical point that the Biblical writer was making. For example, the 1984 NIV translates Romans 3:28, “observing the law.” But the 2011 NIV translates it, “works of the law.” The Greek phrase is literally, “works of the law.”
In Romans chapter 8, Paul uses the word “flesh” as a metaphor for the sinful nature. The 1984 NIV translates it “sinful nature,” which gets the idea across, but thereby obscures the deliberate play on words in Romans 8:3 when Paul says that when we were weakened by the flesh, God sent Jesus in the flesh. The 1984 NIV has “sinful nature” in these verses, but the 2011 NIV uses the literal word “flesh.”
In Romans 8:4, the 1984 NIV says that Jesus’ sacrifice satisfied the “righteous requirements” of the law. However, the Greek word translated “requirements” is singular. The 2011 NIV changes it to the singular “requirement.” This might seem a minor distinction, but theologically the singular implies that God covers the entirety of our sin, not just some sins.
In Romans 10:4, the 1984 NIV reads, “Christ is the end of the law…” The Greek word translated “end” is telos, which means completion. Paul does not mean the law will stop, but that it will be fulfilled. Thus the 2011 NIV reads,”Christ is the culmination of the law…”
Another example is Galatians 5:22, where the 1984 NIV lists “patience” among the fruit of the Spirit. The problem is, that there are two Greek words for patience: one word means patience with circumstances, and one word means patience with people. The word used in Galatians 5:22 means patience with people, so the 2011 NIV translates it “forbearance.”
The 2011 NIV has improved the accuracy of many passages in the Old Testament, as well. Psalm 93:1 reads in the 1984 NIV, “The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.” This is similar to the KJV, which was misinterpreted centuries ago to mean the universe revolved around the earth. But the Hebrew word means stability, and so the 2011 NIV translates it, “The world is established; firm and secure.” Psalm 107 gives four stories of people who have reason to thank the Lord. Thus Psalm 107:2 reads in the 2011 NIV, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story,” which is an improvement of the 1984 “Let the redeemed of the Lord say this.”

Different readers will have different opinions about the appropriateness of gender-neutral language in the revised NIV. Some will like it, and others will not. Personally, I can understand the change to “brothers and sisters” or “mankind” when the context clearly refers to all people, but when the context is not clearly gender-neutral, the translation should not be gender-neutral. It is unfortunate that this issue may cloud the discussion of this revision, which is otherwise more accurate than before. People who love the NIV and do not object to gender-neutral language should embrace this revision with even more confidence in its accuracy, and people who object to the gender-neutral language will prefer translations such as the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) or English Standard Version (ESV).

Georgia Baptist Convention inspiring, intense, interesting

The Tuesday meeting of the Georgia Baptist Convention was inspiring most of the time, and intense part of the time, as we had a great challenge with the Task Force Report on our future, and a confusing and close vote for president.

Reports from our three Georgia Baptist colleges were very positive:

The convention approved a resolution in support of Shorter University’s statement of behavior requirements for employees that included a ban on homosexuality. Shorter has been the target of protests by gay rights activisits.

We heard that Brewton Parker College has been rescued thanks to the efforts of the new president. It was a miracle that the school stayed open.

Truett-McConnell college “cannot find enough hooks to hang the students on” as it has exploded with growth.

A resolution against the social use of alcohol was adopted. Then a messenger proposed another resolution against gluttony, saying “everybody hear could pass a breathalizer test, but I’m not sure they would do well if they had to weigh in.” The motion was referred to the Executive Committee for study.

The budget was revised, cut another 6.2%, largely by eliminating any pay raises for convention staff. Messenger Michael Stovall questioned how we are going to get rid of the debt on the GBC ministry building so this budget isn’t burdened by debt, hurting missions. Dr. Robert White, executive director, replied that the recession has hurt our investments that were paying on the debt, but we are trying to pay it as best we can.

We heard a strong doctrinal sermon on Ephesians 2 by Brian Stowe of Maysville. He said, “Doctrine apart from duty is a disgrace.”

There was inspiring music from a young high school student named Andrea Townes, and another high school student named Will Bates who won the state speaker’s tournament, gave his speech on evangelism. The Fiddle Heads, a group of students from the Baptist Collegiate Ministry of North Georgia College, sang and did a super job on their fiddles with hymns and contemporary songs. If we continue to produce young Christians like these, our future is bright!

Tuesday afternoon we had a challenging report from the Task Force that was formed to study how Georgia Baptists can be most effective in sharing the gospel with the 7 million lost people in our state. They used the analogy of David who picked up five smooth stones to fight Goliath (because Goliath had four brothers). They listed five “smooth stones” that we need to make priorities: spiritual renewal, kingdom generosity, church revitalization, church planting, and authentic evangelism. Testimonies were given in each area, and then after a unanimous vote to adopt these priorities, messengers were encouraged to go to containers that contained smooth stones labeled with each of the priorities, and take one that they would resolve to focus on in their own church.

The registration was 1,686 messengers, which is up about three hundred from last year, I am told. There was confusion during the election for president, over which chad to punch in our ballots, so both candidates agreed to vote over again. There were a lot of jokes on Twitter about that one! In the election for a new president of the convention, Fred Evers received 656 votes, and John Waters received 749 votes. Dr. Waters is pastor of First Baptist Church of Statesboro. Later on Tuesday night when Dr. Waters was introduced, he thanked everyone for their support, and called on us to work together to reach the lost. Waters said, “A lost world will not be won by a divided church.”

Georgia Baptist Convention meets

Today I attended the opening session of the Georgia Baptist Convention at North Metro Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, in Gwinnett County, north of Atlanta. We heard several reports from various ministries, and a stirring sermon on missions from Dannie Williams of FBC Lyons. There was a mass choir and orchestra from the Gwinnett Metro Baptist Association that lifted the rafters with their songs.

Then the president of the convention, Dan Spencer, pastor of FBC Thomasville, brought a stirring message, asking us if we are willing to pay whatever price it takes to share the gospel everywhere. He told the story of a dog that wore a shock collar and could not pass an invisible electric fence without getting a shock. There was a cat that knew exactly how far the dog could go, and the cat licked his paws just outside of the fence to taunt the dog. Finally, the dog decided he was going to get that cat anyway, and he took a running leap, and jumped past the electric fence. After he shook himself off from the shock, the dog took off chasing the cat. Dan Spencer said that just as the dog had to decide that the pain was worth it, we must decide that it is worth it to share the gospel, no matter what obstacles we face. He talked about the apostle Paul’s willingness to go to Philippi, and how Acts 16 records that he was not disappointed by the small group that met by the river, but shared the gospel and Lydia accepted Christ. Then when Paul was arrested and thrown into the Philippian jail, instead of feeling sorry for himself, he sang and prayed, and God sent an earthquake that opened the prison, and led to the salvation of the jailer. Was it worth it? Paul would have said yes.

I wrote down a couple of interesting quotations that I heard today. At the Executive Committee meeting, a Baptist deacon and lawyer said, “Lawyers and preachers have a lot in common. Both depend on people to be a little bit bad to keep a job.”

Frank Page, CEO of the Southern Baptist Executive Committee, welcomed the messengers at the Georgia Baptist Convention. He said that when he was a young preacher, and older preacher told him, “Son, if the Bible is silent about something, it’s best that you be silent, too.”

Joseph Wong, pastor of the Chinese Mission in Savannah, closed the meeting with the benediction. He told us he would teach us how to say “Amen” in Chinese, and then explained that in Chinese it is “Amen.” He went on to pray in Chinese as well as English, and of course, he ended with “Amen.”

I saw lots of good friends from all around Georgia, like our former member Ted Kandler who is now the associational missionary for three associations around Fitzgerald, and Bobby Braswell, who is associational missionary for Middle Baptist Association in Sylvania, as well as the pastors at Windsor Forest Baptist and Immanuel Baptist in Savannah, to name a few.

Tomorrow the convention meets all day, and we will be voting on a lot of business, including election of a new president.