Christianity,  Personal

Reflections from an SBC Newbie

I have already written about some of the things that transpired at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) last week, but I have not shared my overall impressions of the meeting or my opinion about the most significant thing that happened.

First of all, full disclosure: I am a convention newbie. The San Antonio meeting of the SBC was my first time ever to attend the annual gathering. Travelling, lodging, and eating can bust the budget really quick without an expense account. So for me, going to the SBC has always been cost prohibitive. But this year I just decided to go anyway and to try to do so on the cheap. Thankfully, the Lord provided.

Being as it was my first convention, I had a rather steep learning curve. When I say “learning curve,” I mean that I was figuring out for the first time the very basics. That’s why I sat next to Russell Moore in the early sessions so that he could tutor me. The early sessions went a little something like this:

Denny: “Why are they telling me to raise my ballot? I thought I was supposed to punch out the holes to vote.”
Russell: “Most votes are taken by raising the ballots. The only time the president calls for a ballot vote is when it’s too close to call.”
Denny: “Oh, okay. Did you know that this is my first time to come to a convention?”
Russell: “No kidding?”

So for any of you who had the impression that I was a seasoned convention insider, I’m sorry to disappoint.

Second, the best thing by far about the convention is the fellowship with old friends from around the country. I got to spend a ton of time with my best friend of 23 years, Barry Joslin. Barry and I also linked up with our third amigo, Jim Hamilton. The three of us have been dear friends since we began seminary at DTS in 1996. We all earned our Ph.D.’s under the supervision of Tom Schreiner (whom we also got to see), and we continue to be the best of friends today. Since we all serve in different parts of the country now, I especially relish the opportunity to see them on occasions like this one. And if that weren’t retro enough, I also ran into my youth minister from high school, Doyle Cooper (and his wife Mickey), as well as my boyhood pastor, Bill White.

Third, the best speakers of the convention were Dr. Albert Mohler and Pastor Voddie Baucham. Dr. Mohler’s report on Southern Seminary was one for the ages, and I am ready to print up the “Mohler ’08” bumper stickers right now. There is little more that I would rather do at next year’s convention than to cast a vote for Dr. Mohler as SBC president. I hope the campaign starts in earnest. In his report he opposed the idea that trustees and entity heads can have no hiring standards beyond the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. He spoke eloquently to the point, and I think his argument will ultimately carry the day. For more on this, read the debate that is unfolding under my previous post, “Did Baptist Moderates Win in San Antonio?” There you can read comments by Rick Garner (who introduced the BF&M motion), Boyd Luter, Mac Roller (who composed the motion), and others.

Voddie Baucham’s sermon wasn’t actually a part of the official program of the Southern Baptist Convention. Baucham preached at the Founder’s breakfast which meets annually in conjunction with the Convention. Baucham argued that Southern Baptists need to repent in seven areas: regenerate church membership, church discipline, biblical exposition, church planting, family discipleship, biblically qualified leadership and Christian education (read about them here). But it is the first two or three in this list in which Baucham put his finger on the besetting sin of so many Baptist churches, a sin which indeed has compromised the witness of the entire Southern Baptist ConventionÒ€”the failure of our churches to maintain a regenerate membership.

And this brings me to my final overall observation and my greatest disappointment at the convention: the failure of the “2007 Resolution on Integrity in Church Membership.” I wrote two weeks ago that Tom Ascol would be proposing this resolution calling Southern Baptists to practice integrity with respect to church membership. Dr. Ascol’s resolution calls on Baptists to be Baptists. His resolution calls on Southern Baptists “to repent of our failure to maintain responsible church membership, and . . . to repent of the widespread failure among us to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members.” So many Baptist churches are ill today because they are composed of a mixed multitude of believers and unbelievers. This is due to the fact that leaders and members refuse to be faithful in guarding the front door (faithful gospel preaching and discipleship) and the back door (church discipline).

I was aghast that some Baptists actually stood and spoke against the resolution. As a result, the resolution failed to come to the floor for a vote before the messengers. Thus, the convention missed an opportunity to speak a prophetic word to the churches, and I am grieved about that. I had hoped to use the resolution to exhort my own church towards biblical fidelity and faithfulness to Christ. This was a missed opportunity as far as I am concerned. But I am thankful that Dr. Ascol has said that he will introduce the resolution every year until it passes. I aim to be there to support his effort. To understand why the failure of this motion is such a mistake, I encourage you to read Mark Dever’s “Southern Baptist Mistake”, which he wrote after the resolution failed last year.

There is much more that I could write about last week, but I will leave it at that. But one last thing: Vote Mohler in ’08!



    My memory on this may be sketchy, but didn’t you and Barry do a duet of Be Thou My Vision in seminary chapel back in the day?

    I seem to recall Matt Farlow (who was sitting next to me) saying it was “Denny & Barry” or some such.

    If so … that thing was good. I wanna be friends with it. I’ve never experienced it done better. It was very Simon & Garfunkel for me, which all should recognize as the gold standard.

    Also, I was providentially hindered from the convention this year, but do recall how overwhelming one’s first can be.

    There are some concerns to be had about the SBC for sure.

    Keep the faith, brother.

  • Jada Bown Swanson

    Hey Denny, so glad you got to go, and especially catch up with friends, namely BCJ! How fun!

    I was priveleged this weekend to be in Jacksonville and once again got to hear your former pastor, Mac Brunson, preach. LOVE IT!!!! He is down-to-earth, theological and creative at the same time!

    Jon and I look forward to going back in Jan./June for the next three years as we both will be starting our D. Min in Worship Studies.

    I can’t add anything about the convention….never been and not being SBC, well….I am sure, though, it was a learning curve.

    Take care and tell family hi,

  • Tim Guthrie

    Glad you could be part of SA 07. Love your thoughts! Not a bad idea about Mohler in 08 – some have even begun to cry as to why a Seminary President should not be included in the process though nothing has been talked about officially – I wonder why?

  • Andrew

    i’d like to see mohler as president, richard land as first vice, and voddie baucham or mark dever as second vice

  • Barry

    Dear Gunny,
    Getting Denny to look like Art Garfunkel was the easy part. Let me see if I can get a picture of Denny when he used to part his hair. He has circulated enough of my Junior High pics that I surely owe him one.

    On the convention, it was my first as well, like Denny. I remarked on Jim’s blog that the fellowship was indeed sweet, and that this was the best part for me. On the flip side, I was rudely introduced into SBC politics, but acknowledge them as part of the whole. Yes it is disheartening at times, but it has never been neat and clean. I am sticking with it, though.

    RAM IN 2008!!

  • GL


    Hola from another newbie. I enjoyed seeing you for the first time since the Passion book table. You capture some of the good things that I also experienced in your posts. Other factors, though, have me concerned about the SBC. While there are instances of health, I’m wondering how health the SBC is as a whole.


    Barry wrote: “Dear Gunny,
    Getting Denny to look like Art Garfunkel was the easy part. Let me see if I can get a picture of Denny when he used to part his hair. He has circulated enough of my Junior High pics that I surely owe him one.”

    I think I speak for the general public when I say it’s in our best interests if we get to see that.

    I’d love to see the one where he was getting dressed up, going to Scarborough Faire. I wonder if he’s still cooking with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

    What say you, Denny? All we’re getting is the sound of silence.

  • LS

    I don’t know you, but I am glad you came to the convention in SA. I hope you were able to eat lots of good Mexican food! LOL

    I hope you will be able to be in Indianapolis too. Each convention is important, and has unique opportunities to address the world about our christological view. Thanks for your sacrifice in coming.

    It is guys like you that have filled the gap, and made the difference in years past. Never lose sight of the significance in casting your vote and perspective at the SBC in SA or in the future. Your presence and perspective is important.
    From an old, seasoned conventioneer,

  • Don F

    Like you, Dr Burk, it was also my first tast of the convention and it was interesting to see how things work and I am also dissapointed that Dr Ascol’s resolution did not reach the floor for a vote. Hopefully next year it will. Unfortunately between working at the Criswell College booth and going out with teams to do street evengelism I did not get to attend as much of the convention or pastor’s conf as I would have liked. That said, I look forward to going next year in Indy. But the time in the streets was well worth it and a great blessing. One great story is a handicap guy named Jose, who would camp out in front of the convention center every day at lunch time in his wheel chair and sell ice cold bottled water for $1. Long story short I and a few others made friends with him on Mon, and by Wed, he prayed to recieve Christ as his Lord and Savior with a smie from ear to ear. Several of us are keeping in touch with him and today I mailed him a Bible and a Dallas Cowboy cap, both were something he really wanted bad. So my firt trip to the SBC was certainly worth it.

    PS I heared and met Dr Molher at Prestonwood Sun morning. I concur that I would love to see him as President of the convention

  • Tripp Spangler

    Great post Denny. Thank you for your observations.

    I love the bumper sticker, where can we get one? πŸ™‚

    Honestly though, does anyone know if Mohler would even allow himself to be nominated? He is a very busy man as it is as President of Southern, is this something that he would consider or is considering? I hope so. I cannot think of a better leader for our Convention during these times.

  • Jesse McMillan

    At the risk of displaying my complete ignorance of the SBC organization structure…can a sitting president of a seminary also be elected as the convention president? My question comes from my understanding that the president nominates the people who are/or who hire the trustees. so in essence he would be hiring his bosses. can anyone clear my confusion?


  • dennyrburk


    I had the same question you had. The answer is yes. Seminary presidents can be elected to the presidency of the SBC. It has already happened in the past at least a couple of times.


  • Shannon

    That pic of you with Bro Doyle & Miss M brought a little tear to my eye! Don’t know quite how they put up with us all back in the day. Keep up the good work, Denny!

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