Why Every SBC Church Must Send Messengers to Indianapolis this June

Ethan Jago

Sounding The Trumpet Clearly in Defense of Sound Doctrine

In 1 Corinthians 14:8, the Apostle Paul asks “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?”

Many sounds are being made about the Southern Baptist Convention right now; few of them are clear. Instead, there is a cacophony of mixed signals coming from many of our “leaders.” 

Our President, Bart Barber, says he is a committed complementarian and that the system “works.” But he opposes the Law Amendment. And he appointed a proud egalitarian, Jason Paredes, to the Cooperation Group shortly after the SBC messengers in New Orleans voted to disfellowship Saddleback for the very same ministerial beliefs and practices that Paredes unapologetically holds and employs at his own church

We are told “is no liberal drift,” even while First Baptist Orlando, an SBC church in my own Florida Baptist backyard, baptizes unrepentant homosexuals—and the Credentials Committee refuses to act on it. 

Far too many of our 47,000 churches are unaware of the battle that is being fought in the SBC right now—against worldly ideologies, against compromise, for sound doctrine, for Christian ethics, and for our denominational future

So, I want to do my best to sound the trumpet clearly and help summon the thousands upon thousands of sleepy Southern Baptist pastors and lay members across America to join the fight.

How can they do this? By learning about the issues we are facing, standing on biblical solutions, and coming to our annual meeting in June.  

Compromise in the Church

Compromise. This is the word that best describes what is plaguing the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader church in America.

Compromise can simply mean “an agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” But it can have a darker meaning, especially for a Christian organization: “Accepting standards that are lower than is desirable.”

Some things can be compromised. But doctrine isn’t one of those things. Yet in modern American Christianity, we tolerate doctrinal compromise for the sake of unity and love. We accept ethical compromise because “the whole world is watching.” And we adopt an ecclesiological compromise in an effort to increase the numerical growth of churches, giving, and acceptance by the culture. However, when we look at Scripture, compromise has no place within the body of Christ and for the people of God. 

As the Bible so clearly warns us, even the best-intentioned compromises with the world bring cultural influences in the church that convince God’s children to stray from His commands: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11). 

The New Testament warnings about compromise in the church are what one could call “warnings from experience” for the people of God. Take the children of Israel as an example. After Yahweh delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He delivered them not only from physical slavery but also from the spiritual slavery of the pagan influences in how they worshipped Him. Even after such a grandiose exodus, over time, they drifted back into a state of compromise by allowing the construction of a golden calf to serve as their new God (Exodus 32:1–4). That narrative serves as a warning for us today in what transpires when the church adopts the world’s methods. 

In Leviticus 18:1-4 we see Yahweh addresses the Israelites’ tendency to compromise, clearly outlining to Moses a command for personal holiness and pure worship:

“Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘I am Yahweh your God. ‘You shall not do according to what is done in the land of Egypt where you lived, nor are you to do according to what is done in the land of Canaan where I am bringing you; you shall not walk in their statutes. ‘You are to do My judgments and keep My statutes, to walk in them; I am Yahweh your God” (Leviticus 18:1-4).

The warning Yahweh gave to the sons of Israel—spiritual separation—is a command we must understand, adhere to, and follow today as the church. Just as the children of Israel were commanded to be completely separate from all other nations both physically and spiritually, the church—and by extension, the SBC as a body of cooperating churches—is called to be spiritually separated from the influences of culture today. 

However, the hidden theological drift that has been ongoing for the past several decades has come to the forefront of the theological battle today. Worldly influences have crept into the church and have found fertile soil within certain theological circles. These unbiblical influences have been growing and building an interconnected root system within what were once conservative seminaries, publishing houses, and now the Southern Baptist Convention. 

Instead of churches being separate and distinct from the culture, many have now prioritized cultural acceptance. Instead of calling the world to look like the church, the church now appears to look like the culture as much as possible. Many church services today, even in the SBC, are indistinguishable from concerts, movie theaters, and secular institutions, as people “punt the Bible” for Super Bowl Sunday and have “Movies at the Church” Sundays. These worldly antics are ostensibly done to draw in “the lost.” However, Scripture clarifies that lives are changed from the uncompromising truths found in Scripture, not the tactics and allurement of the world. 

What’s At Stake

If you are wondering what this has to do with the Southern Baptist Convention, you fail to realize the importance of the local church and the influence each church has on setting the course and future for our Convention. 

The origins of the Baptist denomination began when the Baptists separated from the Church of England due to its compromise on Scriptural authority. The purpose of Baptists was a cry of ad fontes, “back to the sources,” which was a critical aspect of the Reformers in breaking from the tyranny of tradition of Scriptural authority. 

The fight of the Reformers has been, and continues to be the same fight ongoing today within the Southern Baptist Convention, and can be summarized in a question, “Is the Bible truly our only rule of faith and practice?” Is the Bible the standard for how we elect elders, worship Christ, and determine morality and ethics? Is the Bible the absolute standard for regulating how we are to worship God? Or is the Bible merely a helpful analytical tool? 

The nature and extent of Scriptural authority is at the root of all the issues within the SBC. Are we, as church leaders, willing to compromise Scriptural authority and sound doctrine at the cost of cultural acceptance? 

This June, thousands of messengers will gather in Indianapolis to vote on several important items. One issue that’s proven to be controversial (even though it shouldn’t be) is the Law Amendment. Some may argue over the semantics of a difference between the title and role of a pastor; however, that is merely the tip of the iceberg. What is lurking below the theological waters is one question: Is Scripture our governing authority or is it our compromised preferences? 

The vote in 2023 in New Orleans was overwhelmingly positive in affirming the Law Amendment, which shows that the SBC messenger body is still predominately conservative on this issue. But we must pass it a second time, and the “Platform,” and the egalitarians, and the “I’m a complementarian, but” contingency are working overtime to defeat it on this second vote. 

Over the last year, I’ve often wondered why the voices of the theological liberals are louder than those of the theological conservatives in the SBC. The egalitarians, and their sympathizers, are blowing their trumpets loudly. Why aren’t we, we who stand with, and not against, the Bible on this issue?  

It is because those from the liberal churches see that by sending messengers, they can influence and sway the course and direction of the convention. Therefore, they prioritize, campaign, and send every messenger they can. In contrast, the conservatives appear to be far more passive in getting engaged and sending their messengers. 

The time for passivity has passed. The time for action is upon us. We must now contend for the faith—not just in our pulpits, but also in the convention hall of our annual meetings. 

The Need to Contend

The conservatives are more prominent in number than what many wish for you to believe; however, unless they prioritize and encourage their church to get involved, the liberals will fuel the theological drift of the convention. 

Therefore, I am calling on all of my fellow conservative pastors to come to Indianapolis in June and to send as many messengers as they are allotted. The ship is taking on water, but it has not sunk yet. Hope is not lost. We can rally together and take back what was once a conservative institution. If we answer the call and show up, we can bring the SBC back under the authority of Scripture, and purge the pagan influence from our midst. If you and your church leadership have been discussing leaving the convention, I charge you to hold fast, stand firm, fight back, and contend for the truth. There is a fight at hand, and the Word of God is at stake. 

Instead of retreating, we need to dig our heels in and fight. Before anyone accuses me of just “looking for a fight,” let me remind everyone in the SBC that the fight to defend our doctrine on this point isn’t something the complementarians went looking for; no, it was brought to us by the egalitarian subversion that has been tolerated, and even celebrated, within our ranks. Every generation must defend the faith at the precise points of the fiercest attack from the world.  

Jude challenged the Christian Jews in Palestine to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3) in their day. To contend is to exert intense effort on behalf of God’s Word for the faith which has been handed down to the saints. To contend in Indianapolis in June is not simply to fight for the sake of preserving our ability to identify as Southern Baptists but for the greater, noble cause of being a good soldier of Christ (2 Timothy 2:3). 

We support the Law Amendment not because we are misogynistic or unloving but because we speak the things that are proper for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). We hope that by doing so, and by denying ungodliness and worldly desires, our future generations of Southern Baptists will be empowered to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:12). As pastors and lay members, our command is to “hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching” (Titus 1:9). 

Your ability to affect future generations for the gospel will take place in June. The vote in June will not change the convention overnight, but it will begin to turn the theological drift back into biblical truth. This vote is but a small, albeit critical, skirmish in the larger ongoing war within the SBC. Wars are often won in the small battles, the small victories as the forward line of troops begin to push deeper into enemy territory until the final battle. 

My brothers, this is a war. This is a battle. It is a battle for the Bible. We all need to rally together under the banner of truth, to fight against the drift, to purge the false ideologies that have invaded our lines, and to make the soil uninhabitable for continuing compromise to continue to flourish in our midst. We must understand that we are not called to merely exist, or cooperate, or compromise, but to contend

Thankfully, this fight does not require you to pick up any worldly weapons or travel overseas. All you must do is make the time, and the travel plans, to be in Indianapolis on June 11-12. Our missionary forefathers braved far worse for the spread of the gospel to the nations. Can you not take two days and come to America’s heartland to defend sound doctrine? I believe you can—and, again, I charge you that you must

Answering the Trumpet Call

If you are willing to answer the call and contend for the future of the SBC and our gospel witness, here is what each of us must do. 

  1. Pray. We need to ask the Lord for His wisdom and guidance. We must discern who we vote for and what we allow to pass, and we do this by getting involved. 
  2. Get involved. You get involved by understanding what else is at play currently within the denomination. 
  3. Understand the root of the problem. You need to be aware of several other battles within the SBC. Items such as sexual abuse, financial transparency, woke ideologies being taught in SBC-funded seminaries, doctrinal compromise, ELRC, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and several other items. We fight these by simply being informed about what is happening, bringing it to light, and sending messengers to vote against these agendas. 
  4. Share. Share the information found at the Center for Baptist Leadership and other resources to inform our fellow brothers and sisters that the fight is not over and we need them at the annual convention this year, perhaps more than over. 
  5. Plan to come with all your messengers. The first thing to do is to commit to come to the annual convention. No excuses. No “I don’t have the time.” Make the time. Every church in the SBC gets a minimum of two messengers and a maximum of 12. It’s easy to find out how many messengers your church can send. Simply visit this website, SBC Annual Meeting, and review the guidelines and calculations for messenger allotments. Along with the two messengers you get, you receive additional messengers according to this rubric:

“The Convention will recognize additional messengers from a cooperating church under one of the options described below. Whichever method allows the church the greater number of messengers shall apply:
(1) One additional messenger for each full percent of the church’s undesignated receipts which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity; or
(2) One additional messenger for each $6,000 which the church contributed during the fiscal year preceding through the Cooperative Program, and/or through the Convention’s Executive Committee for Convention causes, and/or to any Convention entity.”

You probably get more messengers than you think. Far too many SBC churches use the annual meeting as a “vacation” for the senior pastor and his wife, often leaving three, four, six, or more messenger slots unfilled. That might be fine in times of peace, but it is not fine this year. If your church gets eight messengers, send all eight. If you get five, send five. Every vote counts. 

The time for cowardice and complacency is over. The time for men and women who are willing to contend for the truths of Scripture is at hand. If you have ever wondered what you could do to help revitalize the SBC and bring it back to the Bible, the answer is right here: Register, show up, and vote. It is that simple.

I’m just a faithful, unimportant local pastor. But I’m going to Indianapolis. I’m bringing all our messengers. And I’m blowing the trumpet, as clearly as I can, in the hopes that others will join me.

Lord willing, I will see there. 

  • Ethan Jago

    Ethan Jago is the Lead Pastor at 5 Bridges Church in Panama City Beach, Florida. He is a graduate of Liberty University, holding a Doctor of Ministry in Theology with a focus on the reliability of New Testament/Textual Criticism. He served in the USAF as a Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist for 15 years and as a Private Military Contractor for four years. Ethan hosts the Battlefield Theologian Podcast and YouTube channel, providing sound doctrine for everyday people through digital media. He co-authored an upcoming study through 1 & 2 Peter with his wife Dianne, releasing in October 2024. Ethan and Dianne have three children.