Dr. Rick Patrick, Pastor
FBC Sylacauga, Alabama
Exec. Director, Connect 316
Then their eyes were opened and they knew they were Baptist; so they covered their name on their church sign, website and letterhead—for they were sore ashamed of their own denomination, despite its provision of generous funding.
In the history of the world, the Southern Baptist Convention may be the single largest institution that has ever attempted to thrive while simultaneously striking its name from every form of public display, promotion and advertisement. Businesses and politicians pay billions of dollars for name recognition. Organizations want people talking about them. The advertising proverb most frequently cited is, “All publicity is good publicity.” It is a first-order principle of public relations and advertising that one’s name must be presented before the world.
If the world does not like the name, then by all means, do what is necessary to change their opinion. But never remove your name from the eyes of a watching world. No successful company, government, business, or charity has ever done so. Having elaborated upon this subject in an earlier article entitled Bringing Baptist Back, the present essay offers additional lines of evidence, revealing that this self-defeating practice has negatively impacted not only our church planting efforts, but also the ministry philosophy that prevails at stealth SBC churches where the members of the congregation do not even realize they are Southern Baptists.
Stealth Southern Baptist Church Planters
The affiliation of our church plants with our Baptist denomination is consistently hidden. Below is the complete list of the 42 church names found in the 2018 NAMB Prayer Calendar. These churches all receive Cooperative Program funding from the Southern Baptist Convention. Only two of these churches (listed in blue) are openly forthcoming about their Baptist affiliation. Both happen to be reaching international populations. Everyone else apparently believes the questionable theory that admitting to prospects they are a Baptist Church will interfere with the process of evangelism, either by hindering the Spirit’s power to draw them through the gospel or by poisoning the free will of people whose only reason for rejecting Christ is that they dislike the name on the church sign. Inexplicably, leaders firmly opposed to pragmatism in other areas of church life nevertheless swallow this approach. Only five percent of the NAMB Church Planters listed on the prayer calendar are openly identifying as Baptists.
Dios Con Nosotros, Chicago, IL
Eden Church, San Jose, CA
Focus Community Church, Plainfield, NJ
Revolution Church, Miami, FL
The Neighborhood Church, Philadelphia, PA
West African Church, Cincinnati, OH
Palm Vista Phoenix, Phoenix, AZ
Northfield Community Church, Northfield, MN
Mosaic Boston Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, MA
The Heights Church, Denver, CO
Hopelink Community Church, Airdrie, Alberta, Canada
Christ Covenant, Atlanta, GA
Group 99 Church, Fountain Valley, CA
Mile City Church, South Lyon, MI
Fellowship Church Rouge Park, Pickering, Ontario, Canada
Level Ground Community Church, New Orleans, LA
Milestone Church, Natick, MA
Journey Church Mount Clemens, Mount Clemens, MI
WALK Church, Henderon, NV
Phares International Evangelistic Church, Somerset, NJ
Grantwood Community Church, Parma, OH
Filipino International Baptist, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Iglesia Bautista Gracia Eterna, West Valley, UT
Heart and Soul Community Church, Detroit, MI
Graffiti Church, New York, NY
Flourish Church, Seattle, WA
Nations Be Glad Forefront Church, Minneapolis, MN
Lightcast Church International, Jamaica, NY
Multiply Church Calgary, Calgary, Aleberta, Canada
Dwell Church, Edgewater, CO
Metairie Korean Church, New Orleans, LA
Christian Liberty Church, Baltimore, MD
Neighborhood Church, Overland Park, KS
Valley Life Church-Camelback, Phoenix, AZ
Seven Mile Road Church, Malden, MA
City of Joy Fellowship, East St. Louis, IL
City of Blessings, Covington, GA
Disciples Assembly, Lenexa, KS
Clarkston International Bible Church, Clarkston, GA
Renaissance Church, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Lightcast Church International, Woodside, NY
Ignite Church, Breese, IL
Is it wrong to suspect that the primary reason these church planters are technically Southern Baptist might have something to do with the money we give them? Would you understand it if I told you this notion makes me feel like we are being used? It feels like they do not particularly associate with us or identify with us, and yet they still cash our checks when we send them. I’m thinking of the teenager embarrassed to be seen in public with his grandparents who nevertheless receives a hundred dollar bill from them on his birthday. It feels like the SBC is more committed to our planters than our planters are committed to the SBC—at least when it comes to openly and honestly admitting they are denominationally and doctrinally Baptist.
What if we were to incentivize Baptist loyalty and identity? What if we donated twice as much money for those SBC church plants willing to claim their Baptist roots, doctrine and heritage by placing the word “Baptist” on their sign, website, bulletin and letterhead? Maybe we could do better than 5%. Maybe publicly loyal Baptist affiliation on the part of our church plants would begin to extend beyond those of Hispanic and Filipino culture.
Stealth Southern Baptist Church Pastors
Never assume that the only people ashamed to identify with Southern Baptists publicly are the church planters. Increasingly, Pastors of fully established Southern Baptist Churches do not bother to teach their members about their affiliation with our convention. They do not mention it from the pulpit, on their website, on their sign, on their letterhead, or in their bulletin. The members of their congregation are kept completely in the dark about the fact that their church is a Southern Baptist Church. They have no idea they are Southern Baptists.
Listen to the words of one such Stealth Southern Baptist Pastor as he explains to his congregation that they are part of the SBC. To put the matter in context, his explanation was necessary due to questions arising from his announced candidacy for an office in the Southern Baptist Convention:
The third question some of you just asked is, “Since when did we become Southern Baptists?” (Laughter) I get that. It’s not something we wear on our sleeve here. There are obviously parts of the SBC that we’re not excited about and we don’t feel like really represent who we are as a church…*
What I appreciate about this statement is its brutal honesty. There are parts of Southern Baptist life that this Pastor really wishes he did not have to explain to his flock. He’s not exactly proud of the entire Southern Baptist Convention. In his own words, there are parts of the convention that do not excite him. These parts of the SBC do not represent the identity of his church and thus he does not really wish to publicly associate his church with the SBC by wearing such an affiliation on his sleeve. As an autonomous church, his congregation has every right to take this approach, although I consider this the very definition of a Stealth Southern Baptist Church.
One might reasonably wonder, “Why then does this congregation choose to affiliate, even secretly, with the Southern Baptist Convention?” The Stealth Southern Baptist Pastor provides the answer to this question, revealing six million motivations for their church’s involvement in the SBC:
…but I will tell you that on the whole we are very grateful to be a part of a network of churches that cooperate for the purpose of mission. I’ll give you just one easy example to get your mind around. There are 158 members of The Summit Church that are serving overseas as missionaries with the IMB which is the international missions arm of the SBC. For us to pay for our members, just our members, for us to pay for them overseas, would cost us in excess of six million dollars a year. It doesn’t cost us really anything. I mean, we give to the SBC, but…they’re able to go just freely because of the cooperative efforts of 46,000 churches across the United States so we’re very grateful to be a part of it.*
Once again, what I appreciate about this statement is its brutal honesty. A Stealth Southern Baptist Pastor does not have to love everything about the Southern Baptist Convention in order to collect the six million dollars needed to support the missionaries that his church considers to be “theirs.” One might reasonably argue that the 158 missionaries in question should truthfully be considered “ours.” They are missionaries of the entire Southern Baptist Convention since all 46,000 churches are paying that six million dollars. What is the “one easy example” used by this Pastor to explain his church’s secret SBC affiliation? To paraphrase his answer, “They give us a lot of money.”
Frankly, this kind of loyalty is tenuous at best—hanging on by a thread. Organizations doing things right attract members who are unashamed to affiliate with them openly. As the Southern Baptist Convention financially supports new churches and existing ones, it is not too much to ask that they embrace our Baptist name and denomination publicly and unapologetically. I am not at all embarrassed by the Southern Baptist Convention. My church knows we are Southern Baptists. We wear it on our sleeves. You don’t have to pay us to be in the SBC. In fact, you couldn’t pay us to leave. We are Baptist and unashamed. And we wish more Southern Baptists felt the same way.
* Greear, J.D. “Your God is Too Small.” February 4, 2018. summitrdu.com/message (0:43-4:01)