A Resurgence Not Yet Realized: Evangelistic Effectiveness in the Southern Baptist Convention Since 1979 -- By: Thom S. Rainer

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: A Resurgence Not Yet Realized: Evangelistic Effectiveness in the Southern Baptist Convention Since 1979
Author: Thom S. Rainer


A Resurgence Not Yet Realized:
Evangelistic Effectiveness in the
Southern Baptist Convention Since 1979

Thom S. Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founding Dean of The Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as pastor of churches in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Indiana. A prolific author, Dr. Rainer has lectured, preached, and led conferences on church growth across the United States. Among his many books are Surprising Insights from the Unchurched (Zondervan, 2001), The Unchurched Next Door (Zondervan, 2003), and Breakout Churches (Zondervan, 2005).

When Adrian Rogers was elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 1979, hopes were high among many conservatives that significant changes or improvements would take place in at least four areas. Both written and anecdotal sources make clear that the foremost issue was doctrinal. And the six Southern Baptist seminaries were the focus of the doctrinal reformation.

The strategy was cogent and clear. The president’s appointment powers would eventually reach the boards of trustees of the seminaries, who would hire new conservative professors and administrators for those seminaries. Those professors would then teach new generations of students, who would in turn lead churches toward greater biblical conservatism.

No informed observer can deny the efficacy of this strategy. Today all six seminaries are led by undeniably conservative presidents, and the faculties are dominated by conservative professors.

A second, but not unrelated, focus of reformation was the engagement of culture. Conservatives were anxious to make clear statements of biblical values on issues such as marriage, sexuality, and the sanctity of life. A primary venue for this expression was the annual Southern Baptist Convention, particularly through resolutions voted on by the messengers. Issues of cultural engagement from a conservative and biblical perspective dominated the approved resolutions since 1979.

Southern Baptist leaders are at the forefront of cultural engagement. R. Albert Mohler Jr., the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, hosts a daily, nationally-syndicated radio show that focuses primarily on cultural engagement.1 Mohler also writes a daily e-commentary that typically discusses cultural issues.2

When George W. Bush was re-elected as president of the United States in 2004, pundits across the political spectrum expressed surprise at the significant role that “values” played in the president’s victory.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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