Calvinism in the SBC: Changes for NAMB and LIFEWAY

A lot of attention is being focused on NAMB’s funding of church plants that are being started by a number of Reformed church planting organizations. While this ought to be cause for alarm, I want to re-emphasize the point that this may not be their most critical mistake. In an article I wrote last week, I made the following statement, “Common business principles argue against focusing too much attention on new development and ignoring the core base that is financially responsible for the long term success of the organization.”

I personally believe that this is NAMB’s biggest mistake; it seems easier to go out and start new works than do the tough job of helping support works that are struggling but already viable and visible in our communities. Here is a suggestion: If a percentage of the funds that are being poured into new works, were made available to help struggling churches with additional staff members, or to help associations in conjunction with their state convention, hire people to help struggling churches with revitalization programs like the one the Florida Baptist Convention has, change could actually be beneficial in areas where it could impact communities where churches are already planted.

NAMB’s single focus of planting new churches is going to be an uphill battle to say the least. It is an admirable one. However here is the real problem I have with what appears to be NAMB’s second biggest mistake: the open practice of funding church plants that are confessionally associated with ANY church planting organization. Make no mistake about it, I am adamantly against the level of influence that Reformed Theology proponents have managed to gain in the entities of the SBC. I had no idea that they had managed to make the inroads that they have made. I knew it was coming; I had no idea the extent to which it was already here. This is the problem I have with today’s NAMB.

When I say that I am against NAMB’s funds being spent on church plants that are confessionally connected to any theological ideology that is what I mean. One of the unique identities of the SBC has been the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church. That has been usurped in the founding of these church starts. For NAMB to fund any church starts that do not have their own unique identity, is wrong. The statement has been made repeatedly, as long as church starts affirm the BF&M 2000 then they are eligible for SBC funds. This has become the Reformed battle cry of late.

It has been argued that there is little that the convention or any trustee appointees can do to curb this new trend as long as the BF&M 2000 is affirmed. That may be true where Seminary hires are concerned; it may hold true on a number of delicate issues with respect to the other entities, but it does not have to hold true in NAMB’s selection of church plants to fund. It is time for people in the pew to put a stop to this practice and reign NAMB’s open door policy back in. If any church plant has to sign a pledge to be reformed or non-reformed for that matter, then it ought to be ineligible for NAMB funds. End of discussion.

Here is another suggestion with respect to Lifeway’s new project, called “The Gospel Project.” I have voiced the plea for Lifeway to produce the project with the following name, “The Gospel Project: A Reformed Perspective.” That remark has gone virtually ignored, with the exception of a couple non-Calvinists who have acknowledged it and agreed with it.

Here is my take on that issue. Lifeway is in a tight on this one, if pressed. Their position is that there has been a “great need expressed” for a project of this magnitude. Ok. If that is true, then Lifeway ought to be willing to identify it as such so those who are supposedly “clamoring” for it, will be able to buy it. However, I do not believe that is the case at all. I believe those at Lifeway who have produced this piece have no intention of allowing the title to be changed and here is the reason why: “THEY KNOW IT WILL NOT SELL.”

If indeed this is the case, then the project ought to be scrapped before good money is spent to promote a product that has no business being in the hands of unsuspecting churches that do not want Reformed Theology literature in their Sunday School Classes. Lifeway knows the literature will sell because it is a product produced and promoted by Lifeway.

It is time to reverse the change that has already come without even a hint of permission from the people in the pew. The SBC is still a convention, a voting entity that needs to address the moves that Calvinists have made in the backrooms of boardrooms as they have managed to take control of SBC entities “without even firing a shot.”

May God bless the SBC and lead us in the direction we need to go!


About sbcissues

Interested in bringing the issues facing The Southern Baptist Convention to light.
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9 Responses to Calvinism in the SBC: Changes for NAMB and LIFEWAY

  1. Jimmy Sloan says:


    I appreciate your enthusiasm here, but I’m unsure that the methods offered are 1) doable or 2)the best for all involved.

    1 – I don’t see how NAMB could claim to support autonomy of the local church and then in the next breath say “but you can’t do this or you get no money” to church plants. I’ve heard it said that the BFM is narrow enough to protect sound Biblical doctrine, but wide enough to allow for both reformed and arminian theology. If Calvinists can be SBC members, then shouldn’t “Calvinist Churches” be able to be SBC Churches? Same goes for “Arminian Churches”. Can’t exclude one without the other, can you?

    2 – Hypothetically, if LifeWay had originally come out with your suggested title, what would the response be from those currently upset about the curriculum? I’m guessing we’d have seen Peter L. for the last time because he might have stroked out just from reading that. HA! I still find it hard to believe a church would order a brand new curriculum sight unseen. Also, it’s not like their current stuff won’t be available still. It’s new option for churches. And honestly, one I don’t really think that was really intended for the core SBC base like your church and some in my town.

    What’s wrong with a company operating within its parameters (both theologically and business-wise) to trying and grow its revenue base? At the end of the day, the better LifeWay does, the more money moved to missions efforts of the SBC, right? (And yes, I do understand that is some VERY deconstructed logic)

    BTW, what’s with all the tags on this post? There’s stuff tagged that’s not even mentioned. 😉

  2. Les says:

    “One of the unique identities of the SBC has been the priesthood of the believer and the autonomy of the local church.”

    Bob, Jimmy sort of stole my thunder. Is you really believe in the autonomy of the local church, why should these churches not be what they want to be and align with whichever other church planting orgs they so desire and still get the funding? You’re being inconsistence.

    • sbcissue says:

      Ah contrare… I did not say they should not be able to align with whoever they want to align themselves with. I am against NAMB funding them. if they are required to do so from their inception. There is a BIG difference there my friend.

      I am also in favor of NAMB spending money to support the base as opposed to them taking monies from the base to plant so many churches. Just not smart.


  3. sbcissue says:

    I am glad you qualified your own statements in the next to the last statement there… “(And yes, I do understand that is some VERY deconstructed logic)” JK. Could not pass that one up!

    First of all, my objection was supporting church plants that must agree to be confessionally connected to reformed theology; lets face it, I am not aware of that practice being employed by any other church planting groups BUT if there were some, my suggestion would be to disqualify them as well. I see your logic is a little better than the average so i am confident you are not having any trouble following the thrust of my post.

    As for your comments regarding Lifeway’s new project, I am guessing you are in agreement that they have absolutely no plans to include “Reformed Project” in the title for the precise reason that I stated. I am sure Peter will be just fine especially since the chances of you know what freezing over are actually greater than Lifeway doing the right thing on this project. I am confident that you also understand that Lifeway certainly hopes non-Calvinist churches will unexpectedly order this “wonderful gospel centered product” from a source Southern Baptists have trusted since the 1860’s.

    If as you suggest, the Gospel Project was not intended for the core SBC base, then they ought to have no objection to labeling it so; that will insure that it will not go to the core SBC base, which are your words and not mine.

    Thanks for the interaction!


    • Jimmy Sloan says:

      “Do the right thing” according to whom? You? Me? Who decides that? Oh, right, the people who actually work there and make those decisions. Which excludes all of us. Why don’t we just let them do their work.

      And I don’t agree that they are hoping to dupe churches. And I’d be worried about any church, mine included, that buys discipleship products without a thorough examination. Our church has an education minister that orders and reviews curriculum choices. I’m guessing you or someone you trust greatly personally reviews all curriculum used at your church. I trust most churches do.

      Are we so silly to think an unknowing church secretary will up and change her order for the year? If there’s anything we can agree on about baptists, it’s that we don’t like change. I think this is much less of an issue than some make it out to be.

  4. Les says:

    But Bob, you want, with denominational money, discriminate against Calvinist churches. Why should a denominational agency be able to tell an autonomous church what they can and can’t do so long as they meet the Baptist minimum…not baptize babies, etc. I.e. they are a Baptist church and because you don’t like their theology and associations you want no funding for them. It is clearly inconsistent as I see it. Usurp their autonomy you say. By limiting their funding.

    • sbcissue says:


      When 80+% of the people sending in the money to support NAMB would not be in favor of spending the money on those church starts, then it ought not be spent. The problem is, trustees and employees run the agencies and the people are not aware of what is going on.

      I don’t like what is going on; that is obvious. My suggested solution is to can all funding to help assist any group that requires its churches to sign confessional statements before becoming part of their planting organization. There is a difference in what I am saying and what you are saying. Whether you agree or disagree with the suggestion that is a different story.


  5. Les says:

    Bob, I know what you’re advocating. And of course you have every right to seek the changs you would like to see. All I’m saying is, your position is anti-autonomy of the local church. That’s all I’m saying. Anyway, I’m not trying to be argumentative. So with that, I’ll bow out for tonight.

    • sbcissue says:

      Ok… lets play your game. It is no less an anti autonomy position than the confessional requirements of the church planting group. So in either case, if the prospective church plant wants to go that route, then they decide not to receive funding from NAMB. Sounds simple enough to me.

      Good night.


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