What the Southern Baptist Convention Needs Right Now

Sam Rainer

June 3, 2018


For far too long, we’ve been wrong. We were wrong about slavery. We were wrong about Civil Rights. Now many of us are wrong about the #MeToo movement. The Southern Baptist Convention has been wrong about horrifying sins. Obvious sins. Massive sins affecting generations. Right now, we’re a dumpster fire, and we keep fueling it with shovels of manure. We’re full of it, and the world is watching. That’s not hyperbole.

We need repentance, not excuses. God’s wrath is upon us. Our God is a consuming fire. Excuses will work like tiny strands of straw standing against a raging wildfire. There should be no sermon at this year’s annual convention. Leave the pulpit vacant. Let the room be silent and call the messengers to prostrate themselves in repentance.

We need humility, not charisma. Our convention has wrongly elevated charisma over humility. The bold leaders with pithy lines tend to get the most attention. It’s time we submit to humility instead of charisma.

There are thousands of no-name pastors out there faithfully serving the bride of Christ. They get no attention—no book deals, no blog views, no Twitter followers, no positions of power. We need more pedestrian pastors like my wife’s grandfather. He toiled in obscurity among the rolling fields of Kentucky farms, shepherding in poverty without any glory or recognition. He preached the gospel until he died, then was forgotten. Give us more like him.

We need to care about character as much as we do about doctrine. We fought battles over doctrine, and the spoils of war went to power barons who lacked integrity. The conservative resurgence has not even brought about an increase in baptisms, much less revival. Instead, we are now flooded with the moral failures of former foot soldiers.

God is purging us. We need a new era—one defined by character as much as doctrine. Before you label me with assumptions, let me say I’m neither a liberal nor part of any Calvinist conspiracy. I led our church to rework our doctrinal statement to include the word inerrancy and make it a requirement for membership. And I’m a happy three-pointer who can make friends with just about anyone along the sliding scale of Reformed theology.

For the last forty years, we’ve worshiped doctrinal heroes and did not ask enough questions about their character. We assumed they were right in the heart since they were right in the head. Some of them were neither. Now we’re reaping what we’ve sown. It’s time to care as much about character as we do doctrine.

We need new earthly heroes. We have our heavenly Hero. Jesus is turning our tables of power right now. He’s driving out some of us with a whip of cords. The supreme place is for Jesus, and He will take it one way or the other. But we also need some new earthly heroes. How about the courageous women who have come forward to share their stories of abuse? How about the people of color who have stuck with us despite our gross legacy of slavery and racism? They are the true heroes of the SBC.

The prophet Hosea called for repentance. In order to return to God, the people had to be torn to heal.

We should be appalled. Horrified. Sick. No more “break her down.” We need God to break us down.

Come, let us return to the Lord.

For he has torn us,

and he will heal us;

he has wounded us,

and he will bind up our wounds.

The good Lord may just rip us apart to heal us.

184 comments on “What the Southern Baptist Convention Needs Right Now”

  1. Mike Roy says:

    Amen. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Robert Boe says:

      Ive only been to the wisconsin lutheran synod convention held last year. We had a wonderful convention last year . Christ doctrines what could be more important than that.? Christs doctrines include repentance Repentance lutherans do lots of that because its so much a part of our trust in Jesus having forgiving us. Repentance is very reassuring that Jesus has taken the guilt of our sins away . Jesus only came to save sinners and no one else! And he gave us repentance to show he still loves us that much .

  2. Andy Arnold says:

    Thank you Sam! You hit the nail in the head and hopefully the same nail will pierce our hearts.

  3. Thom Rainer says:

    I could not be prouder of you, Sam.

    1. David Blaney says:


    2. Love the article. Perfectly stated. Also very exciting for me to have a connection and see a picture of Sam. You have blessed our family for years with a book each Christmas for our children (WinShape Home in AL). Your faithfulness to bring joy also brings hope to me as you faithfully minister to our family. I get just as excited as the children to receive that package in the mail each Dec. Thank you! Stay the Course!!!

    3. cb scott says:

      And rightfully so.

    4. ed says:

      he looks like a young thom

    5. Rob says:

      Which two points of the TULIP does your son not adhere to? Just curious.

      1. Robert Boe says:

        Why not believe in all the verses of the bible the verses calvin used and the verses the other guy used against Calvin?

  4. Carroll d pettigrew says:

    I have felt this for years! Lay people tend to believe anything a popular Christian leader says without question!

    1. David says:

      Not just laity but many preachers do too.

    2. Ray Williamson says:

      You don’t give lay people enough credit

  5. John says:

    Thanks Sam! You hit the nail on the head! “We fought battles over doctrine, and the spoils of war went to power barons who lacked integrity.” Too true.

  6. John Little says:

    I was raised a Southern Baptist. At 54 I’ve now served as a pastor or staff minister for 35 years in Southern Baptist churches. Sadly the denomination I once was proud to be a member of I frankly could care less about being a part of anymore. I’m tired. I’m worn out. And I really don’t feel as if the denomination cares about those of us that have been on the front lines for years while we’ve seen massive changes made by the SBC to try to make us feel better about things. NAMB restructuring. IMB layoffs. Great Commission Baptist name change. All while our world is going to hell in a hand basket. We are told that we should ignore the great works being done by non denominational church because we have the cooperative program and they don’t. Yet the CP, for all it’s good, which is a lot, also became a litmus test for ones loyalty to the SBC. A competition among churches for greater placement in the state papers.
    It’s time we all simply go out and reach a lost world. Simply. The way Jesus showed us.

    1. Brenda says:

      Well said!

    2. Debbie Eddington says:


    3. Shannon Davis says:

      Well said.

    4. Jeannie Keist says:

      Wow! God love you and God bless you.

    5. audrey says:

      well said, I take exception to us getting involved with the #metoo movement because the people who are the loudest are using this to attack our President more than give voice to women. I’m 73, female and SB for 64 years. we have to be careful not to be a tare, when God separates the ehest from the tares.

    6. Bill Weaver says:

      Thanks, John. Don’t give up. Your plight will result in plunder on the other side. Competition has always been a problem in the convention. Let’s just do our calling and make our election sure. I hear ya brother. Keep fighting the most excellent fight.

    7. Julie Epps says:

      My parents buried three sons, moved 30 times in the military, and the hardest, but surest, decision they ever made was to resign their lifetime SBC membership about 40 years ago. I should find my father’s writings during that time to see how “prophetic” he was.

      1. John Little says:

        I’d love to read that Julie! Hi cousin!

    8. Judy Barnette says:

      Thank you for this. I’ve been saying for years that we spend way too much time and money debating doctrine…… what does doctrine matter if we have a lost world? Everyone needs to quit having debates and just go tell people about Jesus!

    9. Bam says:

      I’ve been a Namb missionary for 5 years .. I am
      DONE with the SBC .. full of politics, brother against brother .. looking at brothers as enemies .. process over the leading of the Holy Spirit .. having meetings to decide to have a meeting ., I am so done .. I want nothing to do unless there is a mass repentance in the leadership.

  7. Roberta Jones says:

    Relevant thoughts! Great writing!

  8. Virginia says:

    Thank you Sam.There is much I can say but you said it best. Dios le bendiga.

  9. Kelleen Little says:

    Oh yes! Such a powerful word. Thank you, Sam!

  10. You stirred my soul! I believe this could be the biggest thing the Lord does in our generation; in hearts, in the church, in our culture. This has the potential to defeat one of Satan’s longest standing lies to kill, destroy and annihilate a woman’s worth. Let’s turn it around on him and kill, destroy and annihilate his hold on us, and on the church; in Jesus’ name!

  11. Mark says:

    Good word! Unfortunately it rings true in most other tribes as well. I am a 3rd. generation (now former) Nazarene who has seen the very same slipping away. May we all fall on our faces and come up with change of heart, mind, and behavior. God save us from sin! God save us from ourselves!

    1. David says:

      Yes Mark, as a current Nazarene I agree that we need the grace of God to save us. Submission, obedience, forgiveness of others are expressions of true love for others. I am hopeful, not because I am good but because I have seen God’s ability to transform!

  12. Michelle Salzman says:

    I have left 3 SBC churches in the last 20 years due to the character of the pastor and other staff members. Everyone looked the other way. Thankfully, my family and I have been at a healthy SBC church for the last 9 years. I am so great full for this article and for the media unraveling the character flaws of leaders who shouldn’t be leading. I pray for revival!

    1. That’s the problem I hear so many people have, instead of ‘Standing Your Ground’ you run away. Ephesians 6 tells us to stand your ground twice. Correct the problems instead of running away.

      1. Michelle Salzman says:

        You’re assuming I didn’t try before I left. My husband and I both tried.

      2. Arthur says:

        You win Ace. You were the first to judge her.

      3. T Parker says:

        Ace: What makes you think you have the answer;seems like a might judgmental comment to me!

      4. michele says:

        I am assuming that “Michelle” is a woman – is she allowed to “stand her ground.”

    2. Rita Luce says:

      Where do you attend? I am beginning to wonder if there were any healthy Biblically sound doctrine SBC churches

  13. Heard across the world. Truth sounds clearly, will ears listen in these times?

  14. JD says:

    Don’t forget all the time spent demonizing the LGBT community, much of it by church leaders and members seeking to distract and mask their sins. Then, of course, evangelicals moved on to the war for marriage, pretending as if allowing gay marriages would somehow destroy the institution of marriage. Now evangelicals are angling for “religious freedom” laws as a last stand, somewhere they can still unleash all their pent-up hatred and bitterness toward the gay community. So yeah, nice article, but you failed to mention one of the chief reasons the church is in the state it’s in.

    1. Ellie Schiffer says:

      We should never hate people in the LGBT community, but we should hate the lifestyle. Our goal should be to lead them to repentance and a saving knowledge of Christ, who changes lives. Too many times we run from calling sin sin.

      1. Cynthia says:

        And what is that “lifestyle”? Nurses, teachers, farmers, parents at PTA meetings, churchgoers, volunteers…the same lifestyle you and your family. Please stop this nonsense and think about the words you use. Remember how people used to justify racial bigotry? How recently Roseanne did?? Did you read the article? The abuse is coming from straight Christians in leadership – those are the hidden lifestyles you should fear.

      2. Audrey Downs says:


    2. Bubba Smith says:

      The church is in the state its in because of the state of moral decline in the world around it. The church is made up of people. Sinful struggling people. You criticize it because the lifestyle you have chosen is called sin . And it is. One of many that people struggle with. You can expect the world to change and accept it be ause it has. But dont expect any church that follows the Word to accept that sin any more than the many others the Word mentions: drunkenness, adultery, lying, stealing, lust, … The church is struggling From not repenting and turning from the sin within itself The Word is very clear as to what is called sin. Some folks just dont wanna be told what they are doing is wrong.

  15. Terry says:

    I’m one of those no name SBC pastors spoken of in this article. The bi-Vocational servant who serves from a heart calling. I’m curious to see what shape, if any, this will take. Can the big SBC machine be humbled?

    1. Dennis J Smith says:

      Terry it seems to get worse after each convention. stopped going when I witnessed the Orlando charade when 2000 people showed up to vote then left. Biggest scam I have ever seen.

  16. Bravo and amen my brother! Truth cuts like a knife. In the hands of the Great Physician, that cutting brings healing. In the hands of just man, destruction. Thank you for shining His light to dispel the darkness. Thank you Pastor Sam!

  17. Eric says:

    Sam, this is the best response to all the mud slinging , power brokering, position jockeying, side picking that we’ve seen in the past few months.

  18. Dr. Chris King says:

    This is a word of great refreshment in a time of drought and famine. If the SBC hears your prophetic call and follows through, there could be glorious dividends of global proportions. If not, the SBC will go down to the ash heap of history as just another example of the sinful followers of Christ refusing to heed His message, endeavoring to build the kingdom in their own strength. Time alone will disclose the real answer.

  19. Bob Burroughs says:

    Amen and Amen ! Over the years, Southern Baptists have worshipped at the throne of popular and well known men with more charisma than God-ordained leadership. Our false idols are falling and failing!

    1. Rev. Vincent O Gonzalez, Sr. says:

      Glad to know you are making music: composing, teaching, conducting etc. God bless!
      -Vince Gonzalez

  20. Jason Mole says:

    God’s “wrath” is upon us? What happened to the cross of Jesus? If God’s wrath is upon us for this situation then why would it not be for others? The cross become ineffectual.
    Al Mohler’s article was titled with the same word- wrath. And all over social media respected pastors applaud.
    Can someone explain to me why this word keeps floating around? Christ took the wrath of God we deserve on the cross, Jesus took it all.
    Now is God refining, disciplining and pruning us? Obviously yes and we should not stiffen our necks.
    I was taught at one of our seminaries that words matter. Unless I’m off here can we please change our verbiage lest a dying world sees and wonders where is there is hope if the people of God speak/write in such a way.
    I agree with the rest of the article BTW!

    1. Justin Norwood says:

      ^^^What he said! Isn’t funny how we sing songs on Sunday that say “The wrath of God was satisfied” (In Christ Alone), and then 5 mins later the pastor gets up there and says the exact opposite. :eyeroll:

    2. Serving Kids in Japan says:

      So, what did Peter mean when he said, “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household”?

    3. Alan Perkinson says:

      I agree Jason Mole. Sam’s article is outstanding. The language used is VITAL. Father God’s allowing us “refining, disciplining and pruning us” is always true. His wrath however needs to be so very carefully used as our defining the situation. God bless Sam and the Bride.

  21. Edward Smatt says:

    I agree but let dig deeper. I have been a SBC pastor for over 25 years .My family and my self have been abused by ungodly deacons and church members, and by the negelect of SBC LEADERS IN THE ASSOCIATIONS,PASTORS AND DENMONIATION LEADERS.I have stories to tell of victories and God loving power and souls saved.

  22. Dana Qualls says:

    Thank you ! This is true for all of us, not just one convention. All of us have become smug followers of certain golden tongued speakers/leaders, not paying any attention to character. You so appropriately used Hosea. We need to hear this message more often and more loudly preached. I love the idea of no speaker but only speakers prostrate in prayer. What an awesome convention that would be! Again, Thank you!

    1. theartist says:

      I SO AGREE DIANA. I have been praying for this for a long time. God indeed does ANSWERS prayer.

  23. Lee Templeton says:

    We must stay true to the Bible, we can be tolerant of people but must reject issues just because they are politically correct if those issues are wrong, Attempting to fit issues that are sinful When acted upon into the doctrine of the church is sin itself, We must defend our beliefs with -t gentleness but we must defend truth, watering down God’s commands will cause disaster for any denomination

  24. Owen Mannin says:

    True of American Christianity in general. May we be Christ followers, beginning with His attribute of humility (Phil. 2:1-18) and pursue God’s perfect will for us (Rom. 12:1-3).

  25. Rev. Vincent O Gonzalez Sr says:

    The SBC has been horribly wrong (since you started the list) in its treatment of the LGBTQ community. I am a former S Baptist minister of music, ordained minister, having served more than 20 years in full time ministry with an additional 15 years in part-time ministry in churches in VA, GA, FL. I am a born again Christian and I believe the Bible is the Word of God. The issues for SBC is not what the Bible says but what you want the Bible to say, picking and choosing a verse here, a verse there to justify one’s already predetermined beliefs.
    I am a gay man, came out when I was 48. I am legally married to another Christian man. We are both deacons in our church and denominaton (PC USA). The SBC is losing young people and their families simply because of the bigotry and judgmental attitudes, and the lack of Christ-centered compassion and understanding. God made me who I am and it’s time, past time, for the church to celebrate the wonderful diversity in all of God’s creation.

    1. Mark says:

      The Bible is very clear on homosexuality. God did not make you a homosexual. He created male and female. Homosexuality is behavior and severely condemned throughout the Bible. If you have a problem with that feel free to take it up with the Author.

      1. Mandy McLean says:

        It’s comments like this that drive people away from churches like yours.

        1. Mark says:

          Sorry, It’s not my position, It’s God’s. We Don’t get to pick and choose. He clearly states that marriage is between one man and 1 woman, and that homosexuality is an abomination. No ambiguity exists. This is not about growing a church organization but hearing and obeying God’s Word.

          1. Mark says:

            You hold your beliefs and Inhold mine. Both based on faith and interpretation. The Bible represents man’s faithful interpretation and translation of his understanding of God over thousands of years. I have studied scripture all of my life and have studied the writings of hundreds of theologians. My understanding of God’s truth is different than yours. I love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters and that is God’s truth to me.

          2. Mark says:

            Not about my interpretation. Bible is clear. Don’t love them any less but not condoning behavior. God says it is wrong. Nothing to do with your feelings or interpretation.

          3. Mark says:

            We are not going to agree on this.

      2. Mark says:

        From one Mark to another, which interpretation of the Bible are you following. It is about as clear on homosexuality as it is on slavery, the treatment of women, whether the earth is round or flat, what you are allowed to eat, how to discipline your children, and I can go on and on! Quit focusing on who loves who, and focus on what the Bible is clear on, Love God and love your neighbor. Jesus said all the laws rely on this.

        1. T Parker says:

          How is the Bible clear on the interpretation of the treatment of women–if you are referring to the positions women can hold in the church?

        2. Mark says:

          Interpretation? Sorry, I can read. God’s Word is not ambiguous. Homosexuality is a sin and is never condoned in scripture.

        3. MS says:

          The Bible is much more clear on slavery, actually. It’s staunchly pro, if you prooftext. Inerrancy was thus a very effective tool to defend the practice for decades.

      3. Jay says:

        Homosexuality has been a convenient thing to demonize by Evangelicals for a long time. Of course, the reality is that Evangelicals cherry pick the Bible worse than anyone, and the ones most vocal about homosexuality typically use it to distract from their own their own sins of adultery, child molestation, etc. Jesus spends most of his time talking about money and never mentions homosexuality. But, of course, Evangelicals never seem to care what he did or didn’t say. They’ve established their own brand of Christianity that is virtually indistinguishable from the Republican Party these days. It’s all about empty patriotism, capitalism at all costs, etc. Evangelicals can’t ever give up the fight against the LGBT community because if they did, they might actually have to look themselves in the mirror and acknowledge their own sins for once.

        1. Mark says:

          I hope you free yourself from the sin of homosexuality.

          1. Mark says:

            Mark, I pray you free yourself from the sun if Homophobia.

          2. Mark says:

            “Phobia” denotes fear. I don’t fear it, simply see it for what it is: behavior & a poor choice that produces correlating consequencs. Hope you turn from this abhorrent behavior

        2. David says:

          Such a true statement about Evangelicalism. Sold out to capitalism, Republicanism, patriotism, xenophobia, and confident racism. Really wonder where Christ would fit were he to manifest a physical presence. I truly am concerned that the message of love and redemptive power has been co-opted by the love of political power. May the presence of the Risen Christ inform and lead us into His love and mercy.

    2. Tracy Allen says:

      Well, GOD meant what HE said & HE said what he meant. HIS warnings are loving AND clear. Romans 1:26-28 & 1 Timothy 1:8-11, to list a few. GOD’s Word is Truth, regardless of how we choose to live. We all will stand before the Throne & a lot us are going to be shocked beyond comprehension. Yes, we must extend Grace, but wrong living-according to GOD’s Word-is wrong living. There’s no debate.

    3. Cynthia Voortman says:

      Had to read through the comments hopeful someone addressed this – it is the logical next “sin” in the slavery, civil rights, misogyny…
      Ready for this too, or is this for the next repentance in 30 years?
      Cheers to what he addressed. A glaring hole remains.

  26. Susan Abner says:

    So very true Sam. Thanks for being bold about what many Christians are thinking. We need to humble ourselves before the LORD before He humbles is.

  27. Donna Curran says:

    Thank you Sam! May God bless you and guide you continually and give you strength and courage.

  28. Vincent Gimmelli says:

    Well, the question now arises what will or how will Rainer, Moore, etc do to help facilitate such change?

  29. Tom R says:

    Very well said.

  30. Frank says:

    Jesus is coming soon and the only thing we should be focused on, just as Paul exemplified, is Jesus Christ and him crucified. Sacrifice is more than just giving something of our own to another, it is laying down everything we are for the good of the Body of Christ. All of us should be saved in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

  31. Greg Norton says:

    Wow! What great insight. This is truth and I pray we could see a real move of God not only in the SBC but in every church. Thanks Sam!!

  32. Robert MYERS says:

    This applies to so much of evangelicalism, we valued doctrine to the extreme, and while others made the opposite mistake, we stopped learning from areas we needed them to stay balanced, grounded, and real.

  33. Linda Ritterbush says:

    Respectfully: you do not need women as heroes, you need them as equals. Women have been wounded literally, professionally, and spiritually in part because they have no voice, or little voice, in your seminaries and pulpits. Every institution, from the RC church to Penn State athletics to USC medicine, gets in trouble in part because women are not part of the thinking or the oversight. Jesus empowered women, the Holy Spirit endorsed women, Paul “co-worked” with women. Go thou and do likewise.

  34. Dan Blair says:

    It seems that too much of American Evangelicalism has forgotten the words of Jesus himself. What did Jesus say would be the identifying characteristics of his followers? Jesus said this, “by this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” It is true that we should know what we believe and be able to articulate it, but doctrine amounts to little if we don’t know how to love each other.

  35. Steve McClatchy says:

    I am reminded of giants in the faith like Lilly Bergin faithfully serving the less fortunate in Arlington Texas wee into her 80’s after serving on the mission field. Those are the leaders we need. I also long for the day the church is a place of refuge for those struggling with mental illness.