Two of Evangelical Christianity’s most recognizable preachers are warning the nation’s largest Protestant group to resist compromise amid a wave of internal disputes and controversies.
Pastors Voddie Baucham and John MacArthur were on hand for an event hosted by the Conservative Baptist Network in the runup to this week’s annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Anaheim, California.
In addition to messages from Baucham and MacArthur, Sunday’s event had around 2,000 attendees and featured a panel discussion with candidates endorsed by CBN who are running for SBC offices.
The CBN is described as a “partnership of Southern Baptists where all generations are encouraged, equipped, and empowered to bring positive, biblical solutions that strengthen the SBC in an effort to fulfill the Great Commission and influence culture.” It was formed in 2020 amid growing concern that the denomination is drifting from biblical orthodoxy towards more “social justice” theology and “woke-ism.”
Baucham, who lost a bid Tuesday to become the next president of the SBC Pastor’s Conference to a relatively unknown North Carolina pastor, touched on several topics that have roiled the SBC ranks, including critical race theory (CRT) and new revelations about sexual abuse and coverup within the SBC.
He issued a stark reminder about the sovereignty of God in building His kingdom, adding that “we recognize that God doesn’t need the Southern Baptist Convention.”
“I love the SBC. I’ve been trained and educated and nurtured in the Southern Baptist Convention. I praise God for the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Baucham, according to Church Leaders. “But hear me when I say [that] God does not need the Southern Baptist Convention. Now, we pray that God will continue to use the Southern Baptist Convention, amen?”
Baucham, 52, currently serves as dean of theology at African Christian University in Zambia. He was nominated for president by Founders Ministries, a conservative group within the SBC for which he also serves as a board member.
But while his election loss didn’t occur until the following day, Baucham indicated that the conference was grappling with a decades-long history of abuse within the SBC due to God’s “judgment” falling upon both the Church and the culture outside its walls.
“I recognize that God doesn’t need America. … What I’m worried about is that there is this judgment that is happening simultaneously,” he said. “There’s this judgment that we’re seeing in our broader culture that is also being reflected in a kind of judgment that we’re seeing within broader Evangelicalism and a judgment we’re seeing within the Southern Baptist Convention.”
Baucham also cautioned against emphasizing benevolence and social justice over the Gospel in a country where Christianity is increasingly demonized and despised as an “enemy in the culture.”
“One of the things that happens when the Gospel becomes an enemy in the culture is that we want to appease the culture by doing the good without the name,” he said. “The work that we do is known as work that is social in nature [and] that has absolutely nothing to do with the Gospel. It’s work that anyone else can do, and you don’t need the name of Jesus in order to do it. And we do this because we recognize the animosity that the culture has toward the Gospel.”
“They’ve gone [from] arguing that we’re wrong to arguing that we’re evil,” he added.
Baucham specifically cited social justice ideology, which he said “argues that there is not only this sort of oppressor-oppressed paradigm but that the oppression is ultimately rooted and grounded in Christianity.”
Speaking later in the day Tuesday, MacArthur, who pastors the non-denominational Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, encouraged his fellow laborers in ministry to worry less about cultural trends and focus instead on the Word of God.
“All effective, uncompromising ministry starts with an understanding [that the Kingdom of God is not of this world],” MacArthur said. “The world provides nothing for you to advance the Kingdom of God — not politically, not in terms of power, not in terms of influence, not in terms of alliances, not in terms of connections. It offers you nothing.”
He referenced the trend of ministries and pastors working to accommodate more culturally-friendly services and sermons, saying, “You can hook yourself to the world and you can think it’s only the style, but they will drag you to the bottom.”
MacArthur also quoted Matthew 11:20, when Jesus denounced those cities “in which most of His miracles were performed because they didn’t repent.”
“I’ve never had any interest in providing what the children of the devil want. I don’t want to design a church service for the children of the devil,” MacArthur said. “I don’t expect to be popular with them. I expect to be hated.”
Despite the ongoing controversy over sexual abuse and other “denominational” rifts, Southern Baptists remain the largest Protestant group in the U.S., accounting for more than 5% of the adult population and nearly one-fifth of all Evangelical Protestants, according to a Pew 2014 study.
Southern Baptists, which evolved from 17th-century Baptists who settled in the American colonies, formed their own group in 1845 over disagreements with their northern counterparts regarding slavery.