Some Thoughts from Southern Baptist Country

For the past few days I've been hanging out with hundreds of Southern Baptists and I have to say that I like these guys. (And I use "guys" because they only have guys in pastoral ministry.). I sure appreciated their passion for God's Word. It's great to see people actually carry their Bibles into worship services and then keep them open during sermons. (And most of the Bibles look really old and beat up—like they've actually been read and reread for decades.) I love their passion for evangelism. I love the way people nod their heads and talk back during sermons. Where else can you hear "Amen," and "Preach it," and "That's right," and "Yes!" sprinkled throughout a message? I mean, these folks actually know how to listen to a sermon! In some ways, I think Southern Baptists do their part to keey this country from plunging over the edge.

Having said all of that, I honestly have to say that I couldn't join the SBC. For me it feels like becoming a Greek Orthodox Christian: parts of it intrigue me but there are too many theological differences (like the complete absence of women in leadership for one) and then the cultural barriers are also huge. You know, I love Souvlaki and Gyros and Mediterranean cruises but I'm just not Greek. In a similar way, I also love SEC football (go Georgia Dawgs!), year-round warm weather, and sweet tea but the inculturation process would take a while.

I realize that Americans move around a lot these days, but I'd still argue that there are some key regional differences in this country–just as I discovered that Long Island has cultural distinctives that differ from the culture of my home state of Minnesota. For one thing, a lot of people in Jacksonville, unlike former New Yorkers like me, are actually nice. Really nice. But even if I lived in the South for a decade I'd probably still feel a bit like a displaced Midwesterner.

So here's a friendly suggestion from a long time Midwest guy: consider changing your name. Keep the "Baptist" part but drop the "Southern" part. I know it's a big hassle switching all the letterhead, but I think it will be worth it. For starters, we need more "Southern Baptists" in our neighborhoods in the Midwest or the Northeast. (Although I wouldn't recommend sending too many lifelong southerners to plant churches in places like Newark, Boston, or Long Island–unless you train them like you'd train someone going to Bangladesh or Tanzania.) I'm not sure where the name-changing discussion is at these days, but as just one lifelong northerner, I hope you start the discussion again sometime soon.

January 28, 2012

Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments

David Stone

January 28, 2012  7:38pm

I think that we are closer than we have ever been to have a name change in the near future in SBC life. Here is a post on the process from Ed Stetzer...http://www.edstetzer.com/2011/12/sbc-name-change-research.html. I also think that the change of the Baptist General Conference to Converge will also help Southern Baptists make the leap. What I really think is good about the Converge name change is that it reflected their vision so well. Time will tell of how the vision of the SBC will move forward together in unity. For a Midwesterner, I agree that it is pretty awkward to say "Southern" Baptist anywhere but the South.

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sheerahkahn

January 28, 2012  7:06pm

Okay...pushing those generalizations aside, I just want to point out that if you dig yourself some old-timey music, talk back preach'n, and fair-to-middl'n kick back then you can live with the "Southern" part of the Southern Baptist. As for me...I like them, I like Roman Catholic, Anglicans, oh, and Messianic Jews...now there is some deep messaging there, and for the life of me even though their services bore me to tears, I loves me some Episcopalians as well. But just because I like them doesn't mean I ask them to change their name to be more palatable to my own biased California viewpoint...if there is a problem with their theology that is one thing, but a name is a name. Dig the people, dig the name they have chosen for themselves.

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Gary Howell

January 28, 2012  11:07am

Reading this post was like a throw back to the civil war. "Yankees go home" is a bumper sticker I often see. But I think the entire post is based on false assumptions. The idea that what you experienced was because the people were southern is ridiculous. It's no longer the 1800's. Today people earn a degree and then apply for jobs all over the country. Anyone can get in a car and within a few hours be hundreds of miles from where they had been. There are few "rebels" living in my southern town, most everyone is a yankee. Our country is a mixture of everyone.

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Robert

January 28, 2012  10:43am

Im glad that you like us and all that...but do you know the history behind our name? How have you encountered some of my SBC brethren lately?

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