A Time for Choosing in the SBC

Tom Hicks

Are We On The Lord’s Side Or Not?

After the people of Israel made a golden calf in the camp, “Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is on the LORD’s side?’” (Exod 32:26). Southern Baptists, it’s time to choose sides. Will you side with the one true God, or will you side with the spirit of this world? 

The question of whether we are in friendly cooperation with churches that have women pastors does not require study or nuance. The Bible is clear (1 Tim 2:12, 1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9). If a church can make the Bible say that women may be pastors of churches, then that church can and will make the Bible say anything it wants. 

Unfortunately, this year in Indianapolis, Southern Baptists chose the wrong side. Or, 39% of the messengers at the annual meeting did, thus making a decision for all of us. Pragmatism won out. The Executive Committee, the North American Mission Board, the Baptist Review, J.D. Greear, and others pulled out all the stops to prevent the ratification of the Law Amendment, a much-needed constitutional amendment that would have provided clarity and guidance to the Credentials Committee on the question of women pastors. 

I’m unsure of all the calculations that went into their decisions to oppose such a basic and helpful amendment. I can imagine it was decided that removing 1,800 churches with women pastors would “hurt” the mission—and, of course, “the mission matters most.” Someone pointed out that we need money from those churches for the sake of the Great Commission. Perhaps others thought removing them would look “mean” to the watching world.

But make no mistake, this pragmatic decision was both a sinful decision and a problematic decision. First, it was sinful because God forbids women pastors (1 Tim 2:12), and to welcome sinning churches into friendly cooperation is itself sinful (Eph 5:11; 1 Tim 5:22). Our Baptist forebears would have removed these churches without a second thought. We are not free to make decisions that contradict the plain teaching of God’s Word for pragmatic reasons. Second, this decision is problematic because the mission of the SBC is to plant churches at home and abroad. To imply that Southern Baptists are in friendly cooperation with churches that have women pastors will have an impact on the mission field, and it will inevitably compromise our mission (when we rightly understand that our mission must always be grounded in doctrinal fidelity).

There is, however, good news. The good news is that Southern Baptists voted to remove First Baptist of Alexandria for having a woman pastor. That action shows we are (largely) theologically unified on the question of women pastors. The problem is not with our theology but our resolve to apply and practice our theology consistently rather than sidelining our theology for pragmatic reasons.

If you voted against the Law Amendment, may I encourage you to repent? We don’t have to try to be wiser than the Word of God. Come to Dallas next year and be prepared to continue to purge the SBC of the sinful practice of egalitarianism. Stand on the Lord’s side, and trust Him with the results. The mission is the Lord’s. Christ will build His church. He does not need compromising pragmatism. He cares more about His mission than you do. And you have nothing to fear in denying yourself, taking up your cross, and following Jesus.

I understand that many conservatives in the SBC are discouraged right now. However, there are many reasons to be encouraged by what we accomplished at the annual meeting. The messengers overwhelmingly approved an important resolution against discarding embryos (children) through IVF. The Convention very nearly approved a motion to abolish the ERLC due to waffling on abortion and covert use of far-Left funding sources. That means more and more are seeing the problems. We just need to get all the agencies to become financially transparent. The SBC is, and I believe can continue to be, a tremendous influence for good at home and abroad. I know of no other group of churches that has a greater longing to see the gospel taken to the nations for the glory of Jesus. But to preserve this mission, we have some work to do.

Fellow Southern Baptists, now is not the time to quit! If you were for the Law Amendment, take heart and lean in further. This war is far from lost! But we have to act. 

Let me encourage every SBC pastor to bring the full number of messengers allowed to your church to the SBC in Dallas in 2025. Go to your local associational pastor’s conference and raise the discussion. Talk to other pastors in your area and encourage them to come and vote with us, too. The vast majority of Southern Baptists are with us, but we have to get to Dallas and vote together. 

Start making your plans now. And the first step is to pick a side: Will you and your church choose the Lord’s side against the world or the world’s side against the Lord?

  • Tom Hicks

    Tom serves as the Senior Pastor at First Baptist of Clinton, Louisiana. He is married to Joy, and they have four children: Sophie, Karlie, Rebekah and David. He received his M.Div. and Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky with a major in Church History, emphasis on Baptists, and with a minor in Systematic Theology. He serves on the board of trustees for Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary and is an adjunct professor for CBTS, IRBS, and NOBTS.