Having won the “battle for the Bible” in the last two decades, the Southern Baptist Convention now risks losing a battle for cultural relevancy, the president of America’s largest Protestant denomination said last week.
“There has been a battle for inerrancy across our convention for many, many years,” SBC President Frank Page, pastor of First Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C., said Thursday in chapel at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“I want to tell you right now, be very clear, in all sincerity I praise God that battle was won,” Page said.
But Page, a political outsider elected without blessing of a cabal of former presidents that worked to exclude moderates from SBC leadership since 1979, said divisions over Calvinism, social drinking and speaking in tongues now threaten to derail the convention’s future, particularly with the younger generation.
“If we do not start asking the question not only about inerrancy but also about relevancy, then we are going to lose it all, and it’s all going to be a moot point, for our churches will die and the lost will no longer come to hear the gospel preached,” Page said.
“As we come into the 21st century, are we going to be a relevant convention?” he asked. “Are we going to be able to connect with younger people and varying styles? Are we going to be able to reach out ethnically to the groups across our land? Are we going to be relevant?”
Page won election in a three-way race for SBC president in June. Factors in his dark-horse candidacy included a home-field advantage in Greensboro, N.C., his hometown; a split ticket between two identified SBC conservatives entering the race; and chatter by a mostly younger generation of bloggers supporting the conservative resurgence but questioning the status quo.
“The early church had very little influence but great power,” Page said. “The church today has great influence but no power. And we’re losing our relevancy. We’ve held onto old programs that may have been wonderful programs in the ’50s and the ’60s, but they simply do not reach out to the lost in the 21st century.”
“The early church was met with persecution,” Page said. “The modern church is met with a yawn.”
“I will not be a part of a defeatist convention,” he said. “I will not be part of a church in decline.”
Page said the SBC “needs a new direction and needs a Holy Ghost revival.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.