Ethics: Traditionalist Baptist Seeks Pastorate of Calvinist Church

What would you do Wednesday!

Today’s post is especially for Southern Baptists as we think through how to get along as Calvinists and non-Calvinists working together for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There are some of us who believe Calvinists and non-Calvinists can serve together in a local church under the Baptist Faith & Message 2000. There are others who don’t believe such unity is, or should be, possible.

Let’s think about Southern Baptist unity in terms of today’s scenario.

You have a pastor friend who affirms the recent Southern Baptist Traditionalist Statement. This statement goes somewhat beyond the current Southern Baptist statement of faith – Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BFM2K). Your friend has been a strong advocate that a Calvinist Baptist should not pastor a non-Calvinist Baptist church regardless of whether or not the church only holds to the BFM2K.

Recently, a pastorate came open upon the current pastor’s retirement after finishing his last 10 years at this particular church. This local Southern Baptist church holds only to the BFM2K, but its pastor was a known Calvinist. He was not a Calvinist that spoke against non-Calvinists; he cooperated with all Southern Baptists. From time to time he would have guest preachers, like Steve Lawson and others, who would be strong Calvinists.

Upon talking to your Traditionalist friend, he admits that this church has had a Calvinist pastor, staff, guest preachers et al. However, he still sought out the pastorate at this church giving them full-disclosure of his non-Calvinist, Traditionalist positions.

The church has called your friend back to preach in view of a call. He seems to be violating his own principle he has written against – that a Calvinist should not pastor a non-Calvinist church.

He asks your advice on being asked back to preach.

What would you advise him?

  • Take his own advice and decline.
  • Preach, encouraging him to stick with the BFM2K.
  • Preach, but write an apology to Calvinists explaining his change of heart.
  • Preach, take the pastorate and rid the church of all evil Calvinists firing staff if he must.
  • Or….

tagged as , in Christianity,Church Issues,Culture,Southern Baptist,theology

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jason Neal May 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

First option. Then he should repent of his pride and take a break from the ministry.

2 Bart Barber May 8, 2013 at 11:13 am

Generally speaking, if someone asks for my advice, I try to advise them based upon what I think is right, not what I think is consistent with that person’s past actions or convictions. Other people, after all, have no need for me to tell them what THEIR convictions are. If they are seeking my advice, they’re wondering what MY convictions are.
And my convictions on this matter are pretty simple: I favor, in all matters, openness and informed consent in matters involving the relationship between pastors/elders/overseers and congregations. If there has indeed been “full disclosure” here (and, if he intends to fire all staff members who are Calvinists, the “disclosure” is not “full” unless it includes that detail), then there is no reason for them not to proceed.

3 Mark Lamprecht May 8, 2013 at 11:22 am

@Bart Barber Thanks for your reasoned reply. Do you think someone who does not follow their own convictions possibly has – even in the smallest amount – an integrity problem?

4 Even If Ministries May 8, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I realize what I am about to say may
possible inflame you or others. It is not written to be unkind. If
you feel it is not written in love, feel free to not post it or take
it down if it doesn’t require moderation first before it is posted
and there will be no hard feelings.
As a young boy, I grew up in the SBC.
I have seen first hand some of the great work their pastors have done
and I have seen first hand the damage that some of their pastor have
done to others – I have seen first hand the damage that the
Calvinist vs Non-Calvinist debate has caused. I have seen the people
that it has hurt – how lines were drawn – how even families have
been hurt over this – divided – brother against brother –
father against son. This caused me to leave the SBC as a very young
As a grown man, I am again part of the
SBC as part of the SBMF (Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship). The
SBMF doesn’t have these discussions because Calvinism or
Non-Calvinism is not part of the equation.
In the time of Yeshua (Jesus) there
were 4 main things the followers of Yeshua were called:
◾Minim (Jewish heretics)
◾Netzarim (Nazarenes)
◾Followers of the Way (their leader
said “I am the WAY, the truth . . .)
◾Christian (first used in Antioch of
the disciples including Paul and Barnabas)
There is no reason to believe that any
of these terms were endearing terms in their infancy.

The Jews added a blessing (a curse) to
the 18 blessings (Amidah) known as Birkat haMinim (Blessing of the
One of Yeshua’s own talmidim
(disciples) give us a hint as to how Netzarim (Nazarenes) may have
been viewed at the time:
John 1:46 (CJB)
 Natan’el answered him, “Natzeret? Can anything
good come from there?” “Come and see,” Philip said to him.

Followers of the WAY appears to be
sarcastic in some of the extant references.
Christian also appears to be sarcastic
by unbelievers towards believers in Antioch.
I bring these up because nowhere do we
see them being called anything in reference to man other than Yeshua.
In fact, when they try to do this, they are rebuked for being
spiritually immature – for being worldly – because they are
quarreling and living by human standards instead of Godly ones:
1 Corinthians 3:1-8 (CJB)
 As for me, brothers, I couldn’t talk to you as
spiritual people but as worldly people, as babies, so far as
experience with the Messiah is concerned.
 I gave you milk, not solid food, because you were
not yet ready for it. But you aren’t ready for it now either!
 For you are still worldly! Isn’t it obvious from
all the jealousy and quarreling among you that you are worldly and
living by merely human standards?
 For when one says, “I follow Sha’ul” and
another, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you being merely human?
 After all, what is Apollos? What is Sha’ul?

Only servants through whom you came
to trust.

Indeed, it was the Lord who brought
you to trust through one of us or through another.
 I planted the seed, and Apollos watered it, but it
was God who made it grow.

7  So
neither the planter nor the waterer is anything,

only God who makes things grow —
 planter and waterer are the same. However, each
will be rewarded according to his work.

This verse has been rationalized (make
the unreasonable sound reasonable) away so much and so many times
that I doubt there is anything new that anyone could add that hasn’t
been heard in this debate – there is no ignoring what is happening
when you look at in in context.
What would a Calvinist be called in the
time of Yeshua, a “Calvinite?” A “Follower of the Calvin?”
The entire Bible at the time (The Torah
and the Prophets) depended on 2 commands:
Love the Lord God with all your
heart, mind, soul and strength

Lover you neighbor as yourself

Nowhere in the Calvinist vs
Non-Calvinist debate do I see this, and if the entire text at the
time depends on this, that should give at least a few pause . . .

I would tell my friend he has a much
bigger problem than integrity on his hands, because in the end, if
the Rabbi Sha’ul (Paul) couldn’t convince his fellow Jews to abandon
their doctrine and follow the truth, then how will a Calvinist or
Non-Calvinist fare any better?
There truly is nothing new under the
sun . . . .

5 NickHorton1 May 8, 2013 at 5:04 pm

He should decline, in part to stay consistent with his stated beliefs, but also to spare the church the baggage of the attention such a violation of a public position would be. The church does not need the negative attention this would bring. It would be an easy thing for the enemy to sow divisiveness in the church, and the damage could be far greater than just himself. He should definitely consider those implications before proceeding. There should perhaps be a moderation of his position before he takes a pastorate that would violate his conscience. I’d be sure to ask him why he is willing to do so for this church.

6 Darryl Hill May 8, 2013 at 5:30 pm

My advice to him would be to stop worrying about who is a Calvinist and who is a noncalvinist, and seek the face of God in much prayer. Is the man sincerely seeking God’s will? Is the church sincerely seeking God’s will? If he is this uncertain about the whole thing, he at least needs to put this thing on hold a bit longer so that he can seek the face of God. Forget Calvinism. Forget Arminianism. Forget Traditionalists or Founders. Forget any agendas. If the man has an agenda of making the entire church into a bunch of noncalvinists, then his heart is not right with God. If a man’s desire is to make a church into a bunch of calvinists, he’s not right with God, either. 
I would consider myself to a 5-pointer (though I was not always such) and I serve a church that is probably a very typical SBC church. They are not calvinists or arminians or even traditionalists. The average pew sitter doesn’t know what he is, I’d say. But it’s not a reformed congregation, to be sure. I’ve been serving here for 13+ years and my theology changed about 8 years ago. (I’m not the senior pastor) And I’ve not made it my goal to make everyone a Calvinist. (none of my pastors have been reformed) My goal has been to preach and teach the Gospel, period. My goal has been to simply teach the Word, exactly as it says. And there are times of struggle, yes. And not everyone always agrees. But I’m not standing back here with a club waiting to punish them for disagreeing with me, nor am I trying to remove them. I am loving them.
I would submit to anyone that a man who faithfully preaches the Word of God, serves the Lord, and is a servant to his people, without worrying about making people into some particular group, will be loved by the people of that congregation. Some will not support you regardless, especially if you are faithfully preaching the Word. Has the man told the congregation that he isn’t a Calvinist? Yes. I think he’s fine. I know of many good brothers who I would trust to be my pastor who disagreed with me strongly on these issues. I’ve had several pastors through the years who have been excellent to me who are not calvinists. I know of several brothers whose theology, like mine, has changed over the years. This is a matter between God and the individual. I really don’t think you can successfully argue someone into becoming a calvinist any more than you can successfully argue someone into becoming a Christian. This is an issue between that person and God. 
Example: I preached a message a couple years back on Romans 8:28-30 and a dear deacon brother from the church came to speak to me about it the next week. I had shared what I had come to believe about predestination, foreknowledge, and God’s sovereignty in salvation. He asked for clarification. I clarified. He disagreed. He explained his point of view. I disagreed. We are great friends to this day and I couldn’t have a stronger supporter in this church than this man. I thank God for him, for his candor, and for his willingness to come discuss the issue with me. My point? I’m called to preach the Gospel, not convert people to 5pt calvinists. You are called to preach the Gospel, not make them traditionalists. We have the same calling and we better get to it. The house is on fire and we’re arguing about whether we should extinguish the flames with a water hose or a fire extinguisher.

7 Even If Ministries May 8, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Darryl Hill  Darryl, you got the right heart about your brothers in Messiah.    I would offer and encouraging verse:
Galatians 5:22-23 (CJB)
22  But
the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
23  humility, self
control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things.
Nothing in the Torah can be perverted through legalism to be in opposition to these things: Things we were instructed by our KING to do and be  🙂

8 Rick Patrick May 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Personally, I have absolutely NO PROBLEM with a Traditionalist following a Calvinist or a Calvinist following a Traditionalist. What if the church has just realized, on the basis of the previous ministry, that their convictions are overwhelmingly in the other direction? Perhaps they were really a Traditionalist Church all along that had a Calvinist Pastor for a while. Or perhaps they were a Calvinist Church all along that had a Traditionalist Pastor for a while. Again, the issue is NOT AT ALL the theological commitments of the PREVIOUS pastor. The issue is the “fit” of the NEW pastor with the congregation itself.
The problems I’ve had with Calvinists serving at Traditionalist churches (or theoretically, Traditionalists serving at Calvinist churches) are totally related to the FAILURE TO DISCLOSE THEIR CONVICTIONS on the part of the ministry candidate. If he doesn’t tell them what he believes up front, and then proceeds to try to change the church’s doctrinal commitments, then he has been dishonest and less than forthcoming about his ministry. THIS is the REAL integrity issue. Holding a biblical conviction different from that of the previous pastor presents absolutely no integrity issue at all.

9 Rick Patrick May 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

One other thing MUST be pointed out. The Trad Statement does NOT go BEYOND the BFM2K. Just like the Abstract of Principles, it fits WITHIN the BFM2K as a more doctrinally narrow subset.
Southern Baptists want a big tent. Well, we’ve got one. The BFM2K is a two car garage in which both Cals and Trads can easily fit. That’s why appeals to the BFM2K will not resolve the issues.

10 Mark Lamprecht May 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm

NickHorton1 Thanks, Nick. Yet, what if the church has no problem calling this pastor? What if they don’t mind if the pastor is a Calvinist or not as long as he holds to the BFM2K?

11 Mark Lamprecht May 9, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Darryl Hill I appreciate what you’ve written here. Do you believe a pastor should always have full disclosure of every aspect of their theology whether asked or not?

12 NickHorton1 May 9, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Mark Lamprecht I don’t have any problem with a calvinist church calling whatever Pastor they wish, so long as they hold to the BFM2K. Even then, they can call whomever they wish, even if it pulls them out of fellowship with the SBC. The church is autonomous after all.
I think it would be wise for this pastor to decline for the good of the church, if there will be dissension caused by his previously strong stance concerning calvinists pastoring a non-calvinist church. Some times it good for a man, even though he has the opportunity, to say no for the good of others. This presupposes that the church is unaware of his stance on calvinists and non-calvinists. However, if the church knows his stance, knows it could be an issue, and yet still wants to call the man? Call him.

13 Mark Lamprecht May 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Rick Patrick Thanks for stopping by. Do you think the church that formerly had a Calvinist pastor that now calls a Traditionalist should accept associate Calvinist pastor(s)? It seems a church like this would be accepting of either.
To your comment believe, I meant nothing nefarious about the Traditionalist statement going beyond the BFM. I was looking for simple words and “beyond” was used to mean further than in an attempt to clarify certain doctrines.
I disagree that appeals to BFM2K will not resolve issues. It depends on how narrow-minded each person is in their theology.

14 Darryl Hill May 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Mark Lamprecht Darryl Hill Absolutely Mark. I think full disclosure should always be the goal of all parties. I know there are concerns that reformed pastors would come in and try to reform a church. I’m sure it has happened. I’m sure it has been done deceitfully by some, but I would certainly hope not by most. I know of a brother whose theology changed mid-pastorate and he was simply preaching how he was being led. In the process, the church has followed his lead. Some left. Others came on board. Not everyone is in complete agreement with his viewpoint, but they are not required to sign off. Basically, the church’s theology changed as his changed. My theology changed at nearly the same time as his. It’s funny, we both graduated from Southwestern in December 1999 as what you would call traditionalists, but we both became reformed separately at almost the same time, without the other’s knowledge. 
 Of course, the other side of the coin in regard to pastor and staff searches is this: I’ve known of many guys who have gone in to meet with a committee which put their best foot forward during the process, but then to have the truth to be revealed regarding the many deep-set issues that the church was facing after they got on the field. 
The other part of this is this: I know for a fact that I could sit and tell many committees, “I believe in reformed theology, like Luther and Calvin,” and they wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. And I could say, “You know, like the TULIP.” And they still wouldn’t get it. I could expound upon these things, explaining it point by point, depravity, election, particular atonement, triumphant grace, perseverance, and many would say, “Sounds good to me preacher. Are you good at making hospital visits and can you make our church grow? Can you bring in some young families?” You see what I mean? There are so many “A-theological” people in our pews these days, few do much thinking about theology. 
But the short answer is yes- I think full disclosure is always the best approach, whether he’s asked or not. (and many won’t ask because they’re clueless) But regardless of all this, I think I could pastor your church or teach your Sunday School class in a way that you could appreciate, even if we disagree. I think the key is to not be threatened by disagreement. Many are threatened by that and they get offended and clam up, rather than speaking what is on their hearts and dealing with it. One of my best friends in ministry is a full blown Arminian. We’ve had some strong exchanges, but he’s my brother in Christ. He’s from a non-denominational church here in town. I have great respect for him. He loves the Lord.
Until we as Baptists can get over this, it will continue to be an issue. We’re MAKING it an issue, in my opinion, when it need not divide us. It must be addressed, but it need not divide.

15 Rick Patrick May 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Mark Lamprecht Rick Patrick 
As to your question, it really depends. SOME churches have had a Calvinist Pastor whose doctrines proved to be so divisive among the fellowship that the church split in two or parents became incensed that their children in the youth group, unknown to them, were being taught doctrines they disaffirm. Such a church may decide, over a period of time, to “move away from Calvinism among all church staff members.” Personally, I would hope they would do so by attrition, or at least gradually, giving the now theologically incompatible staff member time to find another ministry in which they are a better fit. 
On the other hand, OTHER churches, such as the one in your example, whose soteriological approach is neutral or indifferent, would be able to accept either a Cal or a Trad. I believe Chris Roberts serves a church like this in Florida. There are many other examples. But all churches do not fit in this category at all. I think some would require a Calvinist in order to be compatible with their Senior Pastor, while others would require a Trad for the same reason. 
As to the BFM2K discussion, I was merely pointing out that both sides fit within it, and many of the people on both sides are indeed narrow-minded, as you put it. It looks like this:

                The Baptist Faith and Message Two Thousand
                   Abstract of Principles    Traditional Statement

When Southern Seminary hires a completely Calvinist faculty, they do so out of loyalty NOT to the BFM2K, which would also allow them to hire Traditionalists, but rather out of loyalty to the AP. When a Southern Baptist Church screens out Youth Ministers who are Calvinists, they do so out of loyalty NOT to the BFM2K, which would also allow them to hire Calvinists, but rather out of loyalty to the TS. This is why I say that appeals to the BFM2K will not resolve the issue for every seminary or for every church. For SOME who just don’t care if a person is Cal or Trad, then sure, the BFM2K will be just fine. But let’s face it, those are not the churches or the seminaries who are experiencing tensions anyway. We need to resolve the conflict where it exists, not where it doesn’t.

16 Chris Roberts May 9, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Rick Patrick Rick, what about the vast majority of Southern Baptists who are neither Calvinists nor “Traditionalists”?

17 Chris Roberts May 9, 2013 at 6:06 pm

Rick Patrick Mark Lamprecht My church is certainly one example. My music minister is certainly no Calvinist and the majority of the congregation is not Calvinist yet this has caused zero issues. I am aware of one other Calvinist pastor in our association and he likewise has a non-Calvinist staff and majority non-Calvinist congregation and he’s in his 11th year, if I recall correctly. So from my experience, mixing Cal and non-Cal is not an issue.

18 Rick Patrick May 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

I disagree with your premise, believing that most in the SBC believe pretty close to the statement Eric wrote last year. Regardless, what about them? They fit within the BFM too. We’ve even got a few Presbyterians in the SBC…at least they receive members who have merely been sprinkled. Again, it’s a pretty big tent, and that’s okay, but if Group A goes narrow with the AP, then Group B can go narrow with the TS. This is what I mean when I say the BFM doesn’t settle it. Certain Baptists on both sides are not moving beyond it, but are moving more narrowly within it…which I suppose they have the autonomy to do.

19 Chris Roberts May 9, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Rick Patrick Any evidence behind that? While I grant you that most are non-Calvinist, it’s a stretch to say that most would affirm the Trad statement. So my comment is to point out that there aren’t two groups in the SBC. A large group of Calvinists, a small group of “Traditionalists” and a massive group of everyone else.

20 Rick Patrick May 10, 2013 at 9:59 am

@Chris Roberts Rick Patrick YOU got any evidence to support YOUR numbers? Listen, since Paige Patterson, Jerry Vines, Steve Gaines, Morris Chapman, Jimmy Draper, Bobby Welch, Junior Hill, David Allen, the late Roy Fish, Jerry Sutton, Chuck Kelley, and other stellar lifelong Southern Baptist fixtures have all signed the Trad Statement, I assure you, it’s mainstream SBC. Let them represent millions and millions of Southern Baptists who do indeed believe these truths about God’s Plan of Salvation.

21 Rick Patrick May 10, 2013 at 10:10 am

@Chris Roberts Rick Patrick Mark Lamprecht 
I am happy it is not an issue for you, Chris. Really, I am. And again, your experience is true many places. However, there are also many places where local churches possess soteriological convictions exclusively one way or the other. At these churches, theological disclosure by ministry candidates becomes crucially important to avoid a church split. 
With regard to the OP, once again, the crucial issue is not the theology the church and its previous pastor embraced historically, but rather the theology the church and its new pastor plan to embrace in the future. As long as this theological direction is clearly set forth and everyone understands and accepts this direction, it should be absolutely fine. Thus, there is no moral dilemma as long as there is full disclosure.


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