On the first official day of the 2022 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting in Anaheim, pastors and church members from all over the United States who spent thousands of dollars to travel to Southern California were greeted with a jolting reminder: Rick Warren and his army of church growth drones still own the SBC, and the cancer of doctrinal compromise has spread to every part of the Body.
The Invasion of Pragmatism
Since the early 2000s and the explosion of the Purpose Driven Life, evangelical churches have been overrun with Warren copycats, each new character utilizing the same basic lost person pleasing recipe for church, albeit with a slightly different take on the formula. We’ve seen hip deconstructionists, potty-mouthed and sex-obsessed “tough” guys, and prosperity gospel-lite, music-driven international “ministries” – all utilizing some form of Warren’s metrics-driven salesmanship.
Those who came up in the church during the last 20 years or so might be forgiven for not realizing the impact Warren’s customer-focused methodology has had on Evangelicalism. While Saddleback Church is officially affiliated with the SBC, its biggest contribution to the Convention has been the viral spread of seeker sensitivity and the postmodern subjectivity essential to its propagation. This man-focused methodology has taken over the Evangelical church and spawned a long list of symptomatically related movements – the now-integrated emergent church, #churchtoo feminism, and the infiltration of social justice/Critical Race Theory all owe their presence in the church (at least in part) to the worldly capitulation that seeker sensitivity unapologetically promotes as the essence of Gospel ministry.
Warren’s Druckerite brand of evangelism – which in the name of numerical success has made common cause with every fad of false doctrine including contemplative mysticism, fad diets, globalism, naked ecumenicism, and excusing homosexuality – has only one guiding principle, which is to give the lost world exactly what its wicked and depraved heart wants. Warren preaches a false gospel complete with an ignoring of sin and a Jesus who is merely an alternative method for achieving self-actualization and a better life. His best-selling book (which he brags is right up there with the Bible in popularity) presents his false gospel this way:
Right now, God is inviting you to live for his glory by fulfilling the purposes he made you for.
Real life begins by committing yourself completely to Jesus Christ. If you are not sure you have done this, all you need to do is receive and believe. Will you accept God’s offer?
Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: ‘Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.’ Go ahead. If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!
A “gospel” absent the existence of sinful culpability and the need for repentance fills pews with lost people, or at best infantile believers “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14).
Credentials Don’t Matter
Last year’s motion, referred to the Credentials Committee entitled, To break fellowship with Saddleback Church was adjudicated not by scripture, but by a (misapplied) application of the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, which states in Article VI:
While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.
The Credentials Committee returned the following to the 2022 Convention:
It is the unanimous opinion of the Credentials Committee that the majority of Southern Baptists hold to the belief that the function of lead pastor, elder, bishop, or overseer is limited to men as qualified by Scripture and that this was the intended definition of “office of pastor” as stated in Article VI of the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.
The Credentials Committee has found little information evidencing the Convention’s beliefs regarding the use of the “title of pastor” for staff positions with different responsibility and authority than that of the lead pastor. For this reason, the Credentials Committee makes the following report and recommendation:
Report: The Credentials Committee reports to the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 14-15, 2022, annual meeting, that pursuant to SBC Bylaw 8 and SBC Constitution Article III, that it is unable to form an opinion regarding the relationship of Saddleback Church to the Southern Baptist Convention, until clarity is provided regarding the use of the title “pastor” for staff positions with different responsibility and authority than that of the lead pastor. Therefore, the Credentials Committee makes the following recommendation:
Recommendation: The Credentials Committee recommends that the Southern Baptist Convention during its June 14-15, 2022, annual meeting in Anaheim, California, form a study committee, the members of which shall be appointed by the President, to report to the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting, June 13-14, 2023, in New Orleans, Louisiana, a recommendation providing clarity regarding the “office of pastor” as stated in the Baptist Faith & Message Article VI, The Church, given the many different offices within Baptist churches which include “pastor” in the title, though often with very different responsibilities and authority.
Noticing the editorial addition of the “lead” qualifier, messengers audibly and procedurally pushed back. Still, the Committee followed through with their recommendation to “study” what “office of pastor” means in light of the multitude of extra-biblical interpretations in use by present-day churches.
While it is common to see SBC churches employ functional female pastors by simply referring to them as “directors” or “ministers” and not allowing them to preach (the function without the title), Saddleback used the reverse approach – namely calling their ordained women “pastors” while claiming the title wasn’t indicative of the function. Language – like the meaning behind it – is simply a tool to be leveraged for numerical growth, and Warren realized he could please egalitarians by using the term “pastor” while placating complementarians by reassuring them that the word didn’t carry the traditional biblical meaning.
The Last Insult
While we argued that Ed Litton parading his suit-coated female worship
pastor director to lead the convention in Dominionist-lite and sin-censoring music was his last insult as SBC president, he had one more in the form of “extending a courtesy” to Rick Warren, who spent six uninterrupted minutes insulting and lecturing the Convention. While Warren spent the bulk of his time “not defending himself” by listing all of the numerically superior accomplishments he achieved while building his church (versus the lesser accomplishments of the SBC seminaries everyone is fighting over), he argued that women “pastors” was not worth dividing over.
The fact that for decades the false gospel-driven growth propagated by Warren and his customers/clones changed nearly everything about their churches seemed largely unknown to the messengers, many of whom offered Warren a standing ovation after he lied to and insulted them for six straight minutes. This was distinct from the knee-bending platformers like Litton, who ostensibly understand what Warren represents and can’t afford to care. They owe their full but doctrinally ignorant pews to the marketing innovations infused into the church by Warren and his ilk, and Ed Litton stood compliant behind the main microphone audibly affirming Warren as he lied over and over.
The Proof Was in the Pews
Warren’s horrifyingly narcissistic list of lies was bad enough, but the fact that so many in the convention hall clapped in agreement and stood to their feet to laud the Purpose-driven Pope was a watershed moment. It demonstrated beyond any doubt that the most involved and invested Southern Baptist church members are largely ignorant about the single biggest reason the SBC shrugged off the conservative resurgence and continued the downgrade, and are entirely unequipped to have a doctrinally-informed conversation, much less fight the liberalism that will soon render their denomination unrecognizable.
Yes, conservative leaders within the SBC have proven entirely impotent – incapable of calling men like Akin, Barber, and McKissic out for the wolves they clearly are, never mind woke charismatics like Matt Chandler or worldly compromisers like John Piper. They are as likely to attack polemics/discernment ministries as “divisive” when we say the things their respectability won’t permit. And they continually wonder why the invested SBCers (often ignorantly) side with the Platform and conservative pastors who secretly read Protestia won’t rally to their side. They are incapable of understanding that we are called to make every man a liar if necessary to obey God, and this means not breaking bread with His enemies – even when they show up at our conferences.
Most tellingly for the demise of the SBC, the unbiblical, infantile, and cowardly infection has reached stage 4 within the pews, and faithful believers must not be yoked with any of the likely lost people who offered Rick Warren praise.
It is too late to fight alongside these conservative leaders or on their charitable terms. The only remaining option is to break these institutions and re-form new ones, and it must take the form of not sending SBC leadership another dime. Leave these institutions, the ERLC, and the now-fully woke Executive Committee to the goats and focus on your local church. Fund missionaries directly – away from the woke demands of NAMB or the IMB. Plant churches that will stay open in obedience to Christ, willing to face down Caesar in obedience to the Lord. Protect your people and their faithful giving from the hands of men willing to debate truths God’s Word settled long ago. Do not listen to the woke compromisers who are frantically gaslighting, claiming conservatism, and “welcoming” you (and your funding) to stay under their big tent.
Shake the dust off your feet and never return.