Tom Ascol

A Call to Action for Southern Baptist Pastors

My friend and fellow pastor, Josh Buice, announced yesterday that the church he serves, Pray’s Mill Baptist on the west side of Atlanta, has officially broken ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. Josh and his fellow elders are thoughtful, godly men and, as he thoroughly explains in his announcement, they did not come to this decision instantly or lightly. I am saddened that they felt compelled to take this step but understand and support them in it completely. What saddens me even more, are the reasons he cites that led them to this point.
In fact, what Josh describes as the concerns of their church is exactly what I have heard from countless other SBC churches and pastors over the last few years. They are concerns that I and many in the church I serve also share. I have written and spoken about these matters repeatedly since 2017—both privately and publicly. Sadly, as Josh explains, such efforts have been largely ignored if not repudiated all together. If SBC leaders want more churches to leave, they just need to keep doing what they have been doing the last few years.
The Southern Baptist Convention desperately needs a change of leadership. We need men in positions of leadership who have both conviction and courage. The former without the latter may sound good but is useless when the battle rages hot—and it is currently boiling over. The latter without the former results in mere useless bluster, or worse, in bullying tactics that are justified for the sake of “the cause.”
Currently the SBC has more “convictional” cowards (who sign all the documents but don’t have the courage of their convictions) than blustering bullies (who will slanderously condemn in the name of standing for truth), but in reality, it has too much of both. What we need are pastors who fear God, are full of the Holy Spirit, and free from the fear of men. Only such men will be able to lead their churches safely through the minefields of our modern culture. Other qualifications might be of some assistance (such as experience, formal education, and exceptional giftedness), but without the three previously mentioned qualities a man will be worthless in gospel ministry and should stay far away from the pastorate.
Godly, humble, bold pastors are what we need today. That is the need of every generation but it is glaringly obvious today. It is the greatest practical need of the SBC. Our convention of churches is in a mess and only God can lead us out of it. I believe that if He is pleased to do so it will be by bringing thousands of pastors to our knees, leading us to confess that the institutions and agencies that belong to our churches have drifted and strayed because we—the undershepherds of the flocks who own them—have let it happen. We have not led our churches to keep our denominational servants accountable to the churches that they purport to serve.
Godly, humble, bold pastors are what we need today. That is the need of every generation but it is glaringly obvious today.
The only way forward is the way of repentance and faith—repentance over our failure to do our duty as pastors, and faith in the crucified, risen, Savior who has promised to build His church in such a way that the very gates of hell will not prevail against it. Jesus was not talking about the SBC when He gave us that promise. The convention of churches known as Southern Baptists could stumble so as never to rise again. That would be a great loss and cause for genuine sorrow, but it would not threaten in the slightest the certainty of Christ’s promise.
So, these questions cannot be avoided—Will Southern Baptist pastors stand up and take the lead in calling our SBC institutions and agencies back to a humble, responsiveness to the churches that own them? Will pastors call for the repentance or removal of those who have led these institutions into the cultural capitulation that Josh touches on in his announcement? If so, then we can hope for better days ahead. God has worked reformation and revival in the past and as Isaiah 59:1 says, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” If it pleases Him to do so, He will do it. If not, then His kingdom will continue unimpeded in spite of the SBC.
To my fellow Southern Baptist Pastors, I issue this challenge. Where we have been derelict in our duty, let us repent. Where we have feared men or lived for their applause, let us repent. Where we have failed to exercise properly the stewardship entrusted to us in leading our congregations to be responsible members of a larger convention of churches, let us repent.
Then let us bring forth the fruits of repentance by resolving now to call for integrity and righteousness in our leaders. The presidents of our institutions and agencies who even tolerate godless ideologies being imbibed by those who work with them must be called to repent and to destroy every stronghold, argument and lofty opinion that is raised against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). If they refuse to repent, they should be encouraged to exercise enough integrity to resign. If they refuse to resign, they should be relieved of their duties.
The convention of churches known as Southern Baptists could stumble so as never to rise again…it would not threaten in the slightest the certainty of Christ’s promise.
A call should go forth from the churches of the SBC calling on our current President, Ed Litton, to resign over his egregious, public sins and dishonesty that have been clearly documented and repeatedly discounted by him and his co-conspirators. If he refuses, then we should elect a new president at the 2022 annual meeting in Anaheim, June 12-15. I believe that man should be the kind of pastor I described above, a man who fears no one but God.
I know the challenges. I have heard multiple reasons why it is “unfeasible,” “problematic,” and even to some “impossible” to hope for real change at the Anaheim convention. They are not without warrant. But, brothers, we serve a God who raises the dead! Will He be pleased to rescue the SBC? I honestly do not know. But I do know this—He can do it! And if he chooses to do so it will be through the humble, determined, courageous leadership of Southern Baptist pastors.
Brothers, we must resolve now to show up in Anaheim and to bring our full allotment of messengers with us. If the very churches that own the institutions will not fight for them, then let us be neither surprised nor upset as we watch them fall completely into the hands of principalities and powers to do the devil’s wicked bidding for generations to come.

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Lessons from a Queen

In contrast to many of the ancient Near Eastern cultures, the Bible demonstrates a great respect for women. Among Jesus’ closest followers were Mary and Martha, and women were often the object of His kindness (Matt. 9:20ff; 15:22–28; John 8:1–11) and illustrative of His teaching (Luke 4:25–26; 15:8–10).
Once, in response to a Pharisee’s request for a sign, Jesus invoked the memory of a woman who lived one thousand years before His time. He used her example both to instruct and to warn those who had experienced the privileges of seeing His works and hearing His teaching.
After citing the sign of Jonah, Jesus said, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42).
The account to which Jesus refers is recorded in 1 Kings 10:1–13. When the queen of Sheba heard of the “fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord,” she traveled to Jerusalem to get a closer look at His renowned, God-given wisdom.
The king’s answers to her questions, the splendor of the Temple, and the impressive display of the royal retinue took her breath away. She said to Solomon, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom…. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard” (1 Kings 10:6–7).
Jesus uses the queen’s example to expose the utter folly of those who are unimpressed with the person and work of God incarnate. She responded with appropriate interest to the fame and reputation of King Solomon. Reports of his wisdom and accomplishments had reached the Arabian Peninsula where her kingdom was located. What she heard made her eager to know more.
So she made what must have been a several-week trip to Jerusalem to seek an audience with Solomon. Her sincere interest overcame any desires for convenience.
Furthermore, when she engaged the king she did not hold back any difficult questions from him. She was honest in her desire to learn from him and to receive what he had to offer.
In all these ways the queen of Sheba is an example to us. She investigates what she has been told in order to determine if it is true. Once she sees that it is, she rejoices in it. This is the kind of nobility that marked the Jews in Berea who eagerly received the word that Paul and Silas preached, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). It is the attitude that every honest hearer of the Gospel should possess.
But the queen of the South is not only an example worth emulating, she also is an indictment on many who have spiritual privileges and opportunities that exceed what she possessed. In her we see a great response to very little opportunity whereas too often today we see very little response to great opportunities.
All she had heard about was Solomon. We have available the complete revelation of Jesus Christ, the One “greater than Solomon.” Solomon was wise. Jesus is wisdom personified (1 Cor. 1:30). Solomon could provide answers. Jesus is the Answer, or, as He put it, “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
She had only heard reports from a distance and had to go to great lengths to get firsthand knowledge, but God has brought His Word very near to us. We have Bibles, churches, and helpful ministries readily available. She had no invitation to come to Solomon and no assurance that he would accept her. We have many clear invitations to come to Christ and multiple promises that He will receive us (Matt. 11:28–30; John 6:37).
Those who have heard of Jesus Christ and have had access to His Word yet have ignored or dismissed Him will find the testimony of this queen to be part of the case against them on the day of judgment. All of their excuses will be exposed as flimsy and inadmissible in the light of her example.
“I didn’t like the church” or “it took thirty minutes to get there” ring rather hollow after hearing about her more than twelve-hundred mile journey to meet Solomon.
“The Bible just doesn’t excite me” or “it’s too hard to understand” will sound utterly foolish next to the queen’s testimony of being stunned by the incomplete revelation and imperfect works of Solomon. We have Jesus Christ clearly and fully revealed in the Scriptures. Shouldn’t we be more amazed by Him than anyone could ever be by a mere mortal king?
To remain unimpressed or apathetic in the face of such opportunity is inexcusable. One day, the queen of the south will make that clear.

This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of TableTalk Magazine.

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The Virgin-Born Savior

Several years ago Larry King, the well-known talk show host, was asked who he would like to interview if he had his pick from all of history. His answer was Jesus Christ. The questioner paused and said, “What is the one question you would like to ask Him?” Larry King answered, “I would ask Him if He indeed was virgin born, because the answer to that would define history for me.”
In one sense, Larry King was right. Because the birth of Jesus Christ is the key which unlocks human history. If Jesus is who the Bible says that He is, then His life and work does indeed define history.
Each December people throughout the world will begin to focus on Christmas. Images of Mary and Joseph with a little baby will appear on greeting cards, television ads and in newspapers. In the West, at least, thoughts will turn to that scene in Bethlehem’s stable more that at any other time in the year.
Very few people, however, will stop to consider just who it is who was born there 2000 years ago. Not many will seriously entertain Larry King’s question: “Was Jesus born of a virgin?”
Matthew and Luke give us a record of the birth of Jesus. Both describe the natural circumstances, supernatural cause, and the eternal significance of what took place. When Mary turned up pregnant before their wedding day, Joseph her promised husband, must have been crushed. Matthew says that, rather than being vindictive, he did not want “to make her a public example” but thought to “put her away secretly” (Matthew 1:19).
The birth of Jesus Christ is the key which unlocks human history.
Only after an angel appeared to him and assured him that the child within her had been miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit did he change his mind. On that same occasion the angel also told Joseph that the child would be a boy and that his name would be “Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Matthew explains all of this by adding, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (1:23).
Jesus means “Savior” and he was given this name to signify his mission of saving his people from sin. Some people live as if they no longer believe in the reality of sin that separates all of us from God. Yet intuitively everyone knows that things are not the way that they are supposed to be. Consequently, people look for relief—for salvation—from all kinds of sources, including pleasure, relationships, wealth, and knowledge. But as the great philosopher and church father, Augustine, prayed, “O, Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”
The great American theologian of the twentieth century, J. Gresham Machen said, “From the beginning Christianity was the religion of the broken heart; it is based on the conviction that there is an awful gulf between man and God which none but God can bridge.” God has done exactly that through the coming of Jesus Christ.
In Christ, God has come to be “with us.” One of the most staggering truths that the Bible reveals to us is that the baby who was born to Mary is God in flesh. Because God is for us, He came to be with us. All that Jesus accomplished while he was on earth was in fulfillment of his mission to bring about salvation for his people.
This explains his life of humble obedience to the law of God. That is what the law requires of us. It also explains his death on the cross. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and all of us deserve to be paid in that currency. Yet, Jesus, acting as our representative and substitute, lived and died to “save his people from their sin.” On the cross he endured the penalty pronounced against sin and secured a just pardon for everyone who trusts in Him.
This is the good news of Christmas. The virgin-born baby is the Savior of the world. This is great news for everyone who knows that he is a sinner and in need of a Savior. Jesus came into the world to rescue fallen men and women and He has successfully done so by His life, death, and resurrection.
All that Jesus accomplished comes to benefit people when they turn away from their lives of self-sufficiency and trust him as Lord and Savior.
This great news is summarized in one of the best-known statements in the Bible. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
The birth of Jesus Christ is a display of God’s great love for us. All that Jesus accomplished comes to benefit people when they turn away from their lives of self-sufficiency and trust him as Lord and Savior.
Faith is the key that links all that Jesus did two thousand years to people today. The Apostle Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Trust in the Savior who was born. God sent him into the world to rescue people like you and me.

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Bindergate: An Appeal for Honesty and Integrity in the SBC

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a new scandal to add to its tragically growing list. Let’s call this one “bindergate,” because a black notebook binder with a red and white identification page is at the center of it. The following information is printed on that page:
2021 Resolutions Committee
James Merritt
June 2021
That binder evidently contains private emails that I exchanged with James Merritt (who chaired the Resolutions Committee that recommended resolutions to the 2021 SBC annual meeting that met in Nashville, June 15-16). I wrote those emails in response to Dr. Merritt reaching out to me with specific questions before the 2021 annual meeting. In an April 20 email he asked me two questions:
1) What are your specific concerns concerning Critical Race Theory and how the Southern Baptist Convention has handled this issue? 2) What specific things would you want our committee to hear from you?
I answered him as directly and helpfully as I could the very next day. We exchanged a couple of more brief emails before the annual meeting.
I had not given much thought to those email exchanges until a reporter for the Tennessean newspaper notified me a few weeks ago that he had obtained copies of them and intended to use them in a story he was writing on the SBC. Liam Adams asked to speak with me several times for the story. For a variety of reasons I never responded to his request (I was beyond cell service part of the time; I don’t trust mainstream media; and I find it somewhat distasteful that a reporter would make private emails public without at least asking permission to do so).
Let me quickly note that I am not concerned that Adams quoted my private correspondence. I long ago decided that I would operate as if every word I say in any context is being recorded and that anything I write anywhere will be made public. After all, a day is coming when I will give an account for all my words to a much higher court than that of mere human opinion. My Lord said, “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36).
So, I am not worried about my private words being made public in this way. I just think it is a slimy thing to do. Evidently it fits within the journalistic standards of the Tennessean, but I would like to think that Christians would have higher standards of ethics than that. Of course, while I might like to, I know better than to actually think that when it comes to certain SBC elitists. After all, this ain’t my first rodeo.
After Adams informed me in his third email to me (on November 18) that he intended to quote from my private emails to James Merritt, I contacted Dr. Merritt and asked him if he knew he had given my emails to Adams or if he knew how Adams had obtained them. Dr. Merritt called me the next day, while I was in Tennessee (which, as former ERLC ethicist, Philip Bethancourt reminded Southern Baptists is a “one-party consent” state when it comes to capturing audio secretly). He assured me that he had not given those emails to the reporter and that he had “no idea” how Adams obtained them. That conversation was the first time that I heard the word “binder” in connection with all of these shenanigans. Dr. Merritt said that Adams kept bringing up “some kind of binder” during an interview that he gave to Adams. Dr. Merritt assured me that he didn’t know what Adams’ meant by that.
In the story that Adams wrote for the Tennessean (which can be accessed here without a paywall) he states, “The documents, included in a binder that once belonged to James Merritt, the chair of the 2021 resolutions committee, include resolutions submitted on the subject of race and emails between top Southern Baptist leaders, including Greear.” I have since learned that a staff member from the ERLC is usually assigned to help the Resolutions Committee and that Executive Committee staff members would have access to their work room. Perhaps one of them could provide more information about this fiasco. I have also learned that it is not uncommon for each member of the SBC Resolutions Committee to have a binder with information related to their work at the annual meeting. That is understandable. What I do not yet understand is why the binder with James Merritt’s name on it and my private emails in it was given to the press.
In recent days we have heard a great deal about the need for transparency in the SBC. Calls for such have come from various sectors of the convention, including from the current SBC President. I generally agree with such calls. There was a time when Southern Baptist leaders tried to live by the old adage, “trust the Lord and tell the people.” Today that principle has morphed into “forget the Lord, just trust us, people.” But no association of churches can survive where the leaders call for trust from but eschew genuine accountability to the people they are supposed to lead. Much less can it survive when there is little or no fear of God demonstrated by leadership.
So, in the interest of transparency, and with full confidence in the power of the gospel to forgive any sin that may be involved and to strengthen any forgiveness that may need to be granted, I am asking for those who know how this binder made its way into the hands of the press to step forward and tell the truth. Southern Baptists have a right to know how something like this could happen. I have been informed that there are some whose salaries are paid by Southern Baptist churches who are in positions to know or at least to find out.
Perhaps the Lord would bless such a simple step of honesty and integrity to begin a deeply needed work of renewal among the people known as Southern Baptists.

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Lessons from the Fall

The Lord will not allow the work that He begins in His people to be overthrown even by the most severe attacks of our enemy. And when His children fall, He is willing and able to restore them as they turn from their sin and trust Him for forgiveness.

The Gospels depict the arrest and trial of Jesus in a way that shows us not only the insensibility of His accusers, but also His own steadfast faithfulness to the will of God through suffering and humiliation. Our Lord’s example shows us how to continue entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23; 4:19).
Jesus, however, was not the only one who was on trial on this momentous occasion. The gospel writers highlight the events surrounding His abuse and trumped up charges, but they also record another trial that took place that night. This second trial was not center stage; rather, it took place in the shadow, not before the immediate presence of Caiphas the high priest, but in the outer courtyard of his residence.
This other trial does not give us any examples to follow, but it is filled with lessons about sin and grace. At the very time that Jesus was humbly enduring abuse and scorn by trusting His Father, Peter was failing miserably as his own faith was being tried.
The facts of Peter’s fall are well known to those who are familiar with the New Testament. All four Gospels tell the story in detailed ways.
Matthew reports that as Jesus was being taken to the high priest, “Peter was following him at a distance” (26:58). As He was being interrogated and abused inside, Peter “was sitting outside in the courtyard” (v. 69) when his own trial began to unfold.
It started with a comment directed to him by a servant girl: “You also were with Jesus the Galilean,” which he resolutely denied (vv. 69–70). As he headed for the door another servant girl made the same observation, and then some bystanders cast doubt over his denials when they commented that his accent gave him away.
Peter’s anger rises with his fear, and the third time he is confronted about knowing Jesus he punctuates his disavowal of “the man” with curses (v. 74). He failed miserably, just as Jesus had warned him that he would.
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Encouragement for Gospel Ministers from John Newton

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry. Who was before a blasphemer… but I obtained mercy. 1 Timothy 1:12-13
What a privilege it is to be a believer! They are comparatively few, and we by nature were no nearer than others: it was grace, free grace, that made the difference. What an honor to be a minister of the everlasting gospel! These upon comparison are perhaps fewer still. How wonderful that one of these few should be sought for among the wilds of Africa, reclaimed from the lowest state of impiety and misery, and brought to assure other sinners, from his own experience, that ‘there is, there is forgiveness with him, that he may be feared.’
We are called to an honorable service, but it is arduous. What wisdom does it require to keep the middle path in doctrines, avoiding the equally dangerous errors on the right hand and the left! What steadiness, to speak the truth boldly and faithfully in the midst of a gainsaying world! What humility, to stand against the tide of popularity! What meekness, to endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may be saved! ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’ We are not in ourselves, but there is an all-sufficiency in Jesus. Our enemy watches us close; He challenges and desires to have us, that he may sift us as wheat; he knows he can easily shake us if we are left to ourselves; But we have a Shepherd, a Keeper, who never slumbers nor sleeps… When we are prone to wander, he calls us back; When we say, my feet slip, his mercy holds us up; When we are wounded, he heals; when we are ready to faint, he revives. The people of God are sure to meet with enemies, but especially the ministers: Satan bears them a double grudge: the world watches for their halting, and the Lord will suffer them to be afflicted, that they may be kept humble, that they may acquire a sympathy with the suffering of others, that they may be experimentally qualified to advise and help them, and to comfort them with the comforts with which they themselves have been comforted of God.
Cardiphonia: Letters to Rev. Mr. William Bull, 1:590 (taken from Jewels from John Newton, Banner of Truth, 2016)

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Ed Litton, Southern Baptist Leaders, and Judgment Day Honesty: A Call for Accountability and Action by Southern Baptist Churches

The eighteenth-century writer, Samuel Johnson, once quipped, “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Though, to my knowledge, I am not slated for such an end, I can testify to the sanctifying value of drawing near to death. It provides perspective and an opportunity to think simply, critically, and honestly, by reminding one of that unavoidable reality that Scripture announces unequivocally: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
On that day, when called to give an account for every idle word and the stewardship entrusted to us as those who have received the gospel of Jesus Christ, the kind of equivocation that often serves so well when we don’t want to make necessary judgments will be meaningless. As a Pastor, I have a double burden in this regard because I will “have to give an account” as one of those charged with keeping watch over the souls of the people I serve (Hebrews 13:17).
My late friend and mentor, Ernie Reisinger would occasionally exhort me when dealing with difficult, vitally important matters, to speak with “judgment day honesty.” He meant that I should evaluate the matter with the kind of seriousness that recognizes one day I will stand and give an account for what I say and do.
It is in that spirit that I have tried to evaluate the antics of many Southern Baptist leaders and pastors over the last seventeen months. An honest evaluation of several facts should convince Bible believing Southern Baptists who are interested in maintaining—or recovering—the integrity of the SBC that we are fast approaching DEFCON 1 in terms of how fast and far the convention has fallen.
The response to the Covid crisis, 2020 riots, BLM “protests,” governmental tyranny, and violation of religious liberties was in so many ways, abysmal. From Al Mohler’s “Covenant and Commitment” for Southern Seminary and Boyce College employees and students to Danny Akin’s disastrous “How to Shepherd Your Church through Racial Injustice” led by four Southeastern Baptist Seminary faculty to Kevin Ezell’s church planters’ similarly unbiblical assessment of the riots (though it seems NAMB may have removed their video from their website), Southern Baptists were served very poorly by those we employ to give leadership to key institutions and entities.
These are just a few highlights from the last seventeen months. Space does not allow me to elaborate on previous failures like the hiring of a faculty member who has endorsed the damnable Revoice conference or the elevating to seminary Provost of a self-described racist and white supremacist. Nor will I describe the cowardly smear campaign and admission of participation in sexual abuse coverup by Russell Moore (who stayed quiet for months if not years about what he calls “a culture where countless children have been torn to shreds, where women have been raped and then “broken down”) formerly of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
When questions were raised about these events by countless “SBC headquarters” (local churches), SBC elites dismissed or ignored their concerns altogether, scrubbed websites, and accused the pastors of those churches of being troublemakers or otherwise tried to gaslight them. It’s bad enough to be treated this way by those who are supposed to be our leaders. It’s doubly immoral to expect churches to continue to pay those leaders’ salaries as they do so.
Given the disconnect between the elites and rank-and-file Southern Baptists, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the almost complete failure of leadership when Ed Litton’s dishonesty and pulpit plagiarism came to light.
To be sure, I did not vote for Ed Litton to be the SBC president in Nashville. I didn’t like the fact that he claimed that he did not allow women to preach in his church while videos of him and his wife preaching were circulating. I also didn’t like the fact that NAMB (and on at least one occasion, Southwestern Baptist Seminary) sponsored him speaking around the SBC on the campaign trail. For me, those are simple integrity issues.
On June 26, less than two weeks after Litton was elected President of the SBC on the second ballot, I was sent a video clip of Litton’s sermon on Romans 1, along with a sermon by JD Greear on Romans 1. The date on Greear’s sermon indicated that it was preached in January 2019, a year or so before Litton plagiarized it. A comparison of the two was (and still is) bad. Very bad. After watching the video that morning, I sent Ed a letter. I wrote it as a pastor to a pastor. I acknowledged that while there might be an explanation that I simply could not conceive, what he did “looks very bad.” I encouraged him to step away from the demands of ministry long enough to “seek help and encouragement from trusted counselors.”
Those were my thoughts after seeing just the initial plagiarized sermon by Litton. Since then at least half a dozen more have been documented, including one from several years ago where Ed and his wife stole from Tim Keller in one of their joint sermons. There may be many more, but we may never know since Ed removed over 140 of his sermons from the Internet once the scandal broke.
And make no mistake, it is a scandal—scandal of massive proportions. The emperor has no clothes, despite how much certain SBC elitists and those who want Ed to further a progressive agenda try to convince us that he is arrayed in the finest of fabric. Just ask any child. Or think about what answer you will give to the Lord were He to ask you about Ed’s plagiarism on the Day of Judgment.
To my knowledge, only one SBC leader spoke directly against pulpit plagiarism in the immediate aftermath of Litton’s dishonesty being made public. Jason Allen, President of Midwestern Baptist Seminary tweeted this on July 5, 2021.

Re re-preaching other’s sermons, I believe:
One *ought* not preach another’s serm (w/ rare exceptions) even w/ permission & attribution.
One *must* not preach another’s serm w/out permission & attribution.
If this appears to happen, the church’s elders should review & resolve.
— Jason Keith Allen (@jasonkeithallen) July 5, 2021

This is hardly profound but in the presence of the deafening silence of his fellow SBC elites, pastors and churches welcomed it. Al Mohler, who was in an admittedly awkward spot having come in third in the race for the SBC presidency behind Litton and Mike Stone in Nashville, did recently speak on the matter in response to a student question about it. He put it in the context of the widespread practice of pastors using “manufactured sermons.”
There simply is no doubt that this conversation we’re having right now is occasioned by the fact that the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Ed Litton, has been involved to some degree in preaching someone else’s sermon. Beyond that we can see the whole issue of the kind of manufacture of sermons that is now widespread. I would simply have to say that that is precisely not what we are trying to teach or to hold up as an example here.
Again, true enough. But Southern Baptist churches and pastors could wish for the full-throated renunciation of this kind of dishonesty that a younger Mohler gave in 2006. Then, he called pulpit plagiarism “theft” and used unequivocal language to renounce it.
Words are our business, I cannot imagine using someone else’s as my own. It [Plagiarism] is one of the most despicable practices I can imagine… I cannot imagine sitting in the congregation knowing that this guy is simply parroting something he has read, borrowed, or stolen from someone else….He’s not [a preacher] if he is preaching somebody else’s stuff….It is never right to steal [a sermon] and it’s never right to suggest that it’s yours if it’s not….If a comedian stole another comedian’s material he would end up in court.
A simple google search reveals that this kind of plain-spoken assessment of pulpit plagiarism used to be common fare among Bible believing evangelical leaders, including Southern Baptists. Now, however, that we have a serial plagiarist as President of the SBC, our leaders have lost their voices. Or maybe it’s their spines. My guess is that it’s the latter.
So here is where we find ourselves. Southern Baptist Churches are being led by a President who is a confirmed pulpit plagiarist. As I see it, he should resign immediately and seek help from men of integrity who will deal honestly with him in caring for his soul. Ed Litton lacks integrity. He has forfeited any opportunity to lead the SBC effectively.
None of the SBC leaders have issued any kind of direct, public rebuke. None have called for him to resign, though several pastors have done so. Southern Baptists deserve better.
What should such leaders do when confronted with their failure to lead? They should repent and start doing what their constituents rightfully expect them to do. Or, if they refuse, they should resign.
What should churches do when the leaders whose salaries they pay fail to lead? They should call for their leaders to repent or resign. If such leaders are unwilling to respond to these kinds of admonitions from their congregational “headquarters,” then the churches should defund their institutions. If I pay you to guard my house and you stand by while enemies infiltrate at will, don’t expect me to keep you in my employ.
It is a matter of stewardship. I cannot keep count of the SBC churches who have contacted me out of a deep concern over the lack of integrity right now in their convention. Many of them have left or are in the process of leaving the SBC. Some are looking for an alternative—a way to stay Southern Baptist while demanding that the SBC elites quit ignoring simple facts and the expressed concerns of churches.
Here is what needs to happen—and in many places already is happening in churches of all sizes. Churches need to vote to stop sending financial support to those institutions and entities in the SBC whose leaders refuse to lead. Since each agency and institution gets a slice of the money given through the Cooperative Program (CP), this will inevitably mean working around the CP. I take no pleasure in that thought because the CP is an ingenuous mechanism for funding ministries around the world. Churches should determine which SBC entities—if any—they are willing to continue supporting financially. They can then decide to designate to those entities.
From my vantage point, the two entities that I am happy to support are the International Mission Board and the Disaster Relief work through our state convention. I don’t want our international missionaries to suffer for the leadership failures of SBC elites. And Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is second to none. If only half of the 47,000 SBC churches were to escrow or designate their financial gifts in this fashion, the elites would finally be forced to listen. If they are unwilling to confront Ed Litton over his lack of integrity as matter of principle, perhaps they will be motivated to do so as a matter of principal—especially if that principal begins to dry up because they have lost the confidence of the churches whom they serve.
Will this work? Absolutely. Have we reached the point where this course of action is advisable? Sadly, I believe we have. The facts of Ed Litton’s plagiarism are not in dispute. Neither is the God-honoring course of action open to him.
It is foolish to continue financing failed leadership. As long as Ed Litton remains president of the SBC, Southern Baptist leaders are failing. It is past time to hold them accountable.
It’s not complicated. It’s just hard.

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