The Southern Baptist Convention is not in any danger of being hijacked by people who don’t believe in the authority of scripture. Frankly, with the evidence in hand, I doubt that it ever really was in much danger. It certainly isn’t now. Nor is it in danger of being over-run by Calvinists or Charismatics. I don’t even think it is in danger of being taken over by churches who believe women can be deacons, or even pastors. It is probably safe from those who like a more presbyterian approach to leadership by having elders governing the church instead of congregational authority. It is completely safe from those who accept gay and lesbian clergy and leadership.
It is not safe from everything, however.
It is not safe from decline. The total membership figure keeps inching forward, though the actual gains are tiny, only about 2,800 per year in recent years. But other areas are in decline, including baptisms, which represent our evangelistic efforts, as well as weekly worship attendance and Sunday School enrollment and attendance, which fell by more than 100,000 between 2004 and 2005. Depending on whose analysis you read, as many as 80% of the churches in the SBC are plateaued or declining. And while all this is happening, we are debating whether or not a few of our missionaries should be allowed to serve because they have experienced a private, prayer language that they believe is the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, and whether those who think this is O.K. should be serving in leadership of the SBC.
I’m not suggesting that some sort of denomination-wide program, emphasis, or initiative is needed to reverse the decline that is already showing itself in the SBC, and has for quite some time. I’m not sure that anything like that would be effective in reversing a decline that is coming about as the result of cultural and demographic changes that affect the local churches. But debating the finer points of doctrine to the point of threatening the exclusion of those who disagree is definitely a waste of time, and won’t help.
The real danger is not doctrinal impurity, it is cultural irrelevance. We’ve got the basic doctrine right. We need to find ways to make it understandable to the people that are around us, and motivate ourselves to care enough to deliver it.