The Law Amendment and the Future of the SBC

Landon Douglas

Today’s Youth Pastor is Tomorrow’s Church Leader—And They Need Clear Guidance on Complementarianism

The stereotypical path of a senior pastor in the SBC often begins in youth ministry. They start out as a youth pastor, caring for the souls of the younger saints, until either the senior pastor steps aside and they are able to “be promoted” to the pulpit full-time, or the Lord calls them to another church in need of a pastor. The period for most youth pastors is a season of growing and building biblical foundations, learning how to be a pastor, and interacting with all types of people. Given their age-related and unavoidable lack of experience, most of the men serving as youth pastors have not completed their seminary work, nor have they had to endure enough hardships to learn what it really means to stand firm on Scripture. 

The largest Southern Baptist youth summer camp, Falls Creek, is located in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma. This camp alone hosts 50,000 students each summer, not counting all the adult sponsors who sacrifice their time to serve. Each week, hundreds of students are taken to this camp, and many answer the call into ministry. In the summer of 2023, 500 students were called into ministry. Over the past three years there have been a total of 1633 students called into the ministry.

At the same time, for the past three years, the SBC has been trying to find an answer to one of the most basic biblical questions: “What is a pastor?” Without clarity from our denominational leadership on such an important matter, where are these students to turn for guidance? Especially when many of their youth pastors haven’t even completed all of their pastoral training and are looking for guidance themselves. 

How can Southern Baptists equip, train, and mobilize 1633 students for faithful gospel ministry if the Convention as a whole doesn’t know what a pastor is? Thankfully, the entire SBC doesn’t think this way. Most of us know who can be a pastor. But over the past decade, the elected leaders and the members of the Credentials Committee have led what amounts to an egalitarian charge throughout the Convention with very little pushback. That is until Mike Law started his effort, and Saddleback made waves.

Sadly, it wasn’t until a church with a large audience and Cooperative Program impact decided to blatantly disobey scripture and ordain three women into the pastor’s office, and Mike Law started advancing his Amendment, that the SBC woke up to the issue of rising egalitarianism in our ranks. Once Saddleback was submitted to the Credentials Committee, which is the committee tasked with ensuring churches are meeting the qualifications to be in friendly cooperation with the Southern Baptist Convention, they stated they don’t even know what a pastor is. They requested clarification in Anaheim at the 2022 Annual Meeting. This led to a large debate in the 2022 annual meeting, revealing the true colors of many who also have made the blatant compromise.  Since then, the SBC has disfellowshipped Saddleback and a few other egalitarian churches, but those actions are bandaids on a bullet wound. The issue runs much deeper, with multiple estimates putting the number of women pastors in the SBC at nearly 2,000.

Many of the 1633 students I reference above will make their collegiate choices based on the calling that happened in the summer, which leads them to be sent off to universities to help grow their knowledge and training. Many of them will be heading to one of the over 50 undergraduate Baptist colleges and six theological seminaries listed as a part of the Cooperative Program. What confidence can we have that our Convention’s leadership is making sure that these institutions, where these future pastors will be trained, are keeping in step with the biblical instructions on who is qualified to be in pastoral leadership? 

This entire debate reveals that the real issue lies with today’s SBC leaders. Their lack of leadership today will hurt tomorrow’s leaders. Can those who need a debate over “What is a pastor?” be accurate in their judgment of how these young men and women are being taught? The future of the SBC is dependent on what is taught to the next generation of leaders now.

As it stands today, if we remain on our current trajectory and fail to ratify the Law Amendment, in one generation the Southern Baptist Convention will be just one step behind the Disciples of Christ, UCC, AG, ELCA, ECUSA/TEC, UMC, and PCUSA on the road to apostasy. When will we wake up? How long must we fall for the enticement of just a “little” compromise and then console ourselves by saying, “Well, we’re not like those churches,” because the compromise is not as bad?

The next generation of SBC pastors is growing up now. What sort of foundation will they have upon which to build their ministry? A biblical foundation of unapologetic complementarianism? Or a shaky and ultimately doomed-to-failure foundation of unbiblical egalitarianism? How will they answer, “What is a pastor?” when they are asked for the first time? What resources besides Scripture will influence them? 

Typically, young pastors will go to their seminary professors and fellow college students they met along the way to find answers to big questions. Many of these seminaries and their trustees have been appointed by leadership in the SBC who have publicly spoken against the Law Amendment. Outside the seminaries and the colleges, the largest “resource” available comes from Download Youth Ministry. This shop allows you to not only purchase resources to enrich ministries. It primarily sells these packages with full-written manuscripts. The community that utilizes this service, based on their Facebook page, is around 18,000 youth leaders from many denominations.

How are young pastors learning how to lead and disciple the future of the body of Christ by purchasing their sermons? This question is even more concerning when you remember that a recent former SBC president was caught plagiarizing and purchasing through Docent (A service very similar to the ones used by their youth pastors). This is yet another big problem in the SBC; there is no integrity. Youth pastors come in and purchase their sermons to be fun and relevant to the younger generations, while their senior pastors are doing the same thing when leading their congregations. 

Thankfully, there are still some churches that stand firm on the foundation of God’s word, are strong in their integrity, and do everything they can as unto the Lord. However, to the outside “watching world,” it’s obvious that many of our leaders are cheating the system, paying for their sermons, and just reading the finished pre-typed manuscript.

A major lie about the younger generation of Christians is that they cannot comprehend deep doctrinal studies. This leads to youth pastors watering down sermons, focusing on extravagant events, or just playing games entirely. This changes the dynamic of youth ministry from being a place for young adults to come, grow in the Lord, and have fun to having fun for no other reason than growing numbers.

Additionally, there is a drought in the SBC of aspiring pastors; the average youth pastor only lasts in their position for 18 months. This leads to many problems. The largest is a lack of discipleship and knowledge of biblical doctrine. The need for clarity in the SBC is at an all-time high. The majority of youth ministers are confused; they are the blind leading the blind. They start with a strong passion and calling in their life, but due to a lack of proper leadership, a lack of clarity in the governing entities, and liberal drift in seminaries, they become lost. How can we expect these young men to answer questions that the leadership of the SBC can’t even answer?

We need to pass the Law Amendment because it is the right and biblical thing to do now. However, it is not just for the current messengers and members of the SBC. We must also pass the Law Amendment for future generations of Southern Baptists, both those who will be in the pews and those who are preparing to take the pulpit.

The path we choose at the Annual Meeting in Indianapolis on June 12 will not only set a direction for the SBC today, but it will also set up the future generation of SBC leaders for tomorrow—either for biblical success or liberalizing failure.

This is why the Law Amendment is so important. It’s not just the world that is watching; it is the next generation of pastors. The youth pastors of today are the senior pastors of tomorrow. And they need to know what a pastor is, biblically, before they can ever hope to do their job well before the Lord.

Passing the Law Amendment will weed out the current confusion that is sending mixed signals to our SBC youth pastors. It will give them a firm doctrinal foundation to stand on. It will strengthen the men as they grow. And it will give a sense of security to the congregations they serve that their future pastor actually knows what a pastor is.

  • Landon Douglas

    Landon Douglas is lifelong Southern Baptist and the Youth Pastor at The Road Church in Clever, MO. He has a Computer Information Science & Christian Studies degree from Southwest Baptist University. He is married to his wife, Rachel, and they are expecting their first child in September