BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Top leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention took to the stage on Monday during the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) “Send Luncheon,” and donning wigs, hats and electric guitars, sang karaoke to the Lynyrd Skynyrd hit “Sweet Home Alabama” for the thousands of pastors who had gathered for the event. Video footage of the performance, which is a part of the 2019 annual Southern Baptist Convention, has generated concern that the SBC is “sliding into apostasy.”
“Sweet home Alabama, where the skies are so blue,” they sang out, with the lyrics appearing on the screen behind them and the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in large letters.
According to reports, the five Southern Baptist leaders who put on the karaoke performance were:
Kevin Ezell, president of the mission board; Ronnie Floyd, former SBC president and current president of the SBC Executive Committee; Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board; Jamie Dew, president of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary; and Adam Greenway, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
The event was held at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex in Alabama, and is presented in conjunction with the annual Southern Baptist Convention meeting.
This year’s gathering is to include a presentation by the Southern Baptist Sexual Abuse Advisory Study, a commissioned report that seeks to address the problem of sexual abuse within SBC churches and to “illuminate the evil that has occurred within our midst by sharing the stories of survivors of sexual abuse.”
Hundreds of childhood sexual abuse survivors were reportedly interviewed for the study.
In February, concerns were also generated among some as current SBC President J.D. Greear was recorded singing Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” during a youth event.
“I wanna dance with somebody. I wanna feel the heat with somebody,” he sang and danced after being introduced as “Pastor J.D. Greear, a.k.a. Whitney Houston.”
President Greear, the pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina and author of books such as “Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Belongs to Churches That Send,” was joined on stage by two others who likewise belted out the tune as they danced together on stage. The audience laughed and cheered.
“You don’t win people to Christ by being like the world. People are won to Christ by sharing the gospel. Being unlike Christ confuses people who don’t know Him,” one commenter said of the recording. “I’ve heard many pastors say, ‘the evangelistic methodology you win them with is a methodology a church will have to maintain to keep them.'”
Similar remarks were made in regard to Monday’s Send Luncheon, an event that described on the NAMB website as featuring “great stories of how and where God is at work in North America.”
“The SBC has started the slide to apostasy. It grieves me greatly,” one viewer said.
“Trying to become relevant, they became anything but,” another remarked.
“Entertaining the goats,” a third lamented.
“At a time the SBC is seeing almost 1000 churches die a year, when conversions and baptisms are at a 70 year low, this is their plan? Romancing the world? I guess they just don’t have the stomach to be genuine Christ followers (you will be hated for My name’s sake),” another mourned.
Ryan Denton of Christ in the Wild Ministries, who formerly served as a Southern Baptist pastor in New Mexico, told Christian News Network that he is troubled about the direction of the Convention.
“As a former SBC pastor and graduate of an SBC seminary, I’m very concerned with the direction of the SBC. A lot of people and churches are leaving the SBC because of their laxity when it comes to theological commitment and a desire to be set apart from the world,” he said.
“I think for the most part the SBC has become very cheesy,” Denton opined. “It has gone the route of liberalism in many ways, thinking that in order to fill pews and get people’s favor they need to act like the world and pander to social agendas.”
He said that he perceives that some Southern Baptist leaders are more interested in pandering to the people than pleasing God.
“It’s shameful to see Christian leaders act this way. They’ve replaced God’s way with the world’s way when it comes to growing a church or a denomination. Not trusting in Bible preaching and prayer, they turn to rock music and comedy,” Denton remarked. “Then they turn around and ask for God’s blessing.”
Denton, an open air preacher who conducts gospel outreaches at universities, homeless shelters, abortion facilities and other locations, said that the founders of the Southern Baptist Convention would not have behaved in such a manner.
“Some may say it’s not a big deal, but that’s exactly what’s wrong with the denomination. It’s become lighthearted and silly,” he stated. “It’s a far cry from the mindset of the founders. Those men fasted and were set apart from the world. They didn’t apologize for being serious about the gospel. They didn’t care if the news or the world was upset with them. Their business was gospel preaching and prayer.”
“Now the SBC seems more concerned with what politicians, news anchors, and carnal churchgoers think than they do God Almighty,” Denton lamented. “That’s what’s motivating the decisions to play rock music at their most important convention of the year: Please like us. Please think we’re funny. Please come to our churches. Please attend our seminaries. We’ll have fun. We’ll be really nice. It’s tragic, really. Far cry from the ways of Christ and the apostles.”
James 4:4 reads, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 exhorts, “Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”