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Southern Baptists Becoming More Baptist than Southern

June 21, 2012

I don’t want to be put in the same category as Neil Young in the song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” in which it was made clear that a “southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”  I like the southern part of America.

I like its football, bar-b-que, sweet tea, and beaches.  I was born in Kentucky.  I don’t have a deep southern accent, but most of my friends do.  I married the daughter of a Kentucky tobacco farmer.  Beyond all of this, I was raised deeply immersed as a Southern Baptist. 

With that said, I am thankful that Southern Baptists have taken the initiative to make two key decisions this year at their annual convention to move beyond a southern cultural form of Christianity to the calling of Christ.  First, Fred Luter was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention as the first African-American to hold the office (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38081).  Second, Southern Baptists now offer churches the possibility to call themselves by the new name, “Great Commission Baptists” (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=38089).

The election of Fred Luter is historical for a group that started in 1845 because they wanted to approve slave owners as missionaries.  Southern culture was defining these Christians more than a biblical worldview in their take on “race.” 

Furthermore, the name change is a welcomed sight.  It is a move to embrace an identity that rests on the eternal purposes of God in Christ (aka “Great Commission”) rather than a regional preference.  I always thought that having a church in New England that is Southern Baptist would be like having one in Mississippi that is called Yankee Baptist.  Also, when Southern Baptists conduct missions in Mexico or Brazil, it must be strange for the people there to greet their “southern” friends from the north.  We are not south of most of the world that we want to reach.

One last thought:  It is the danger of every church to become more of a representation of the culture around us than of the heart of Christ.  We are not only prone to adopt the sinfulness of secular culture but also the “phariseeism” of our surrounding moral culture.  Both are devastating to the identity of the church.  This is why Jesus must be supreme amongst us.  He offers us a corrective measure as our gravitational pull to bring us to the heart of God.  Without the prominence of Jesus, we will syncretize our faith with our culture and read our norms into the Bible.  Perhaps “Great Commission Baptists” will have the opportunity to embrace the purpose of God that is within their own name.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Angela Carter permalink
    June 21, 2012 3:45 pm

    How I look forward to my few minutes with Nathan. “He offers us a corrective measure as our gravitational pull to bring us to the heart of God.” I’ve read this sentence 5 times… can’t seem to wrap my head around it. Can you put it in “Angela” terms, please sir? 🙂

  2. Sandy Whitlock permalink
    June 22, 2012 7:42 pm

    AMEN, Nathan. This agrees with everything you have been preaching to us about. This is a good move.

  3. Mary permalink
    June 27, 2012 5:25 pm

    No Perfect People Allowed!

  4. July 3, 2012 3:59 pm

    Thank you for sharing, and God bless you.

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