Several years ago, Joe Carter did a blog series called Know Your Evangelicals, in which he posted profiles some of the most well-known evangelicals of our day. I found the blog series to be helpful, and I’d like to do something similar with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The SBC is a diverse collection of churches with different approaches to ministry who (generally) affirm a common confession of faith and value cooperation for the sending of missionaries. Just like any Convention of churches, we’ve got elements to be proud of and elements to be embarrassed about. Overall though, I am glad to be a young Southern Baptist and continually tell young Baptists that it’s better to be in the SBC than outside.
Before we begin the “Know Your Southern Baptists” series, I thought it would be helpful to take another cue from Joe Carter and provide nine things to know about the SBC:
1. The Southern Baptist Convention was organized in 1845 and now includes more than 45,000 churches and 16,000,000 members, which makes it the largest Protestant denomination in North America.
2. The “Southern Baptist Convention” is shorthand for all the churches and individuals who identify as Southern Baptist. Technically, however, the Southern Baptist Convention exists for only two days a year, at the annual gathering. The rest of the year, eleven denominational entities carry out the instructions of the messengers to the Convention. Actions by the Convention are nonbinding on local churches because every church is considered autonomous.
3. An individual becomes a Southern Baptist by joining a Southern Baptist church. A church qualifies as Southern Baptist by contributing to the mission causes of the Convention.
4. Theologically, the Convention holds to a consensus statement (Baptist Faith and Message), but this confession of faith is not binding on any church or individual because every Southern Baptist church is autonomous. An individual church may choose to adopt the BF&M or may create their own statement. Faculty at SBC-owned seminaries and missionaries who apply to serve through the various SBC missionary agencies must affirm that their practices, doctrine, and preaching are consistent with the BF&M.
5. The Southern Baptist Convention employs more than 5,000 international missionaries through International Mission Board. These workers are joined by thousands of volunteers to bring the saving message of the Gospel to 1,089 different people groups around the world. Last year, workers with the International Mission Board and their Baptist partners overseas reported 506,019 baptisms and 24,650 new churches worldwide.
6. The Southern Baptist Convention also oversees the work of the North American Mission Board, which exists to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, start New Testament congregations, minister to persons in the name of Christ, and assist churches in the United States and Canada in effectively performing these functions.
7. There are six Southern Baptist seminaries (Southern, Southwestern, Southeastern, New Orleans, Golden Gate, and Midwestern) that currently serve more than 13,000 students by providing theological education.
8. Because every local church is autonomous, ministry philosophy and methodology can differ substantially from church to church. David Dockery has listed seven types of Southern Baptists: fundamentalists, revivalists, traditionalists, orthodox evangelicals, Calvinists, contemporary church practitioners, and culture warriors.
9. Since 1925, Southern Baptist have been partnering together for missions by giving to these causes through the Cooperative Program – a unified giving system that allows churches to pool resources in order to fund mission work and theological education.