Mark Dever on Baptist Ecclesiology and the Southern Baptist Convention

In addition to discussion regarding Richard Sibbes, the interview of Mark Dever linked in the last post was interesting for comments made by Pastor Dever concerning Baptist ecclesiology and the Southern Baptist Convention. These comments, transcribed below, are important for every Southern Baptist to hear in recovering a right perspective of the usefulness and proper limitations of the SBC.

Just remember, the SBC’s not a church. I mean, [saying, ‘Leaving the SBC’ is] like saying, ‘Leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’ Y’know, it’s like, I’m a pastor, and we have $4000 a year that goes to support this person who works with Wycliffe, and if I stop sending that $4000, then I’m ‘leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’ So, it’s not a church issue for us in that way. The Southern Baptist Convention is one means by which- certainly our congregation of Christians at Capitol Hill Baptist Church- we cooperate with other Christians through the Southern Baptist Convention and are delighted to do it. But we feel no obligation to do that; we cooperate through other groups too. We give money to the Conservative Baptists, we’ve given money to groups even associated with other non-baptistic denominations, just to encourage them in gospel work, and we certainly have given to multi or interdenominational groups- like InterVarsity or Campus Crusade- that do work. So we identify ourselves as Christians, and we certainly believe in believers’ baptism, but we would not say that our fundamental identity is Southern Baptist. We’re Christians, and we think the Bible teaches believers’ baptism and we the Southern Baptist Convention is a really good way to cooperate for international missions and can be pretty helpful in the education of ministers…

I don’t think we have the freedom under God to organize our churches in such a way that we begin to think of ourselves as one visible church. So that, let’s say we have a case of church discipline here [at Capitol Hill Baptist Church] and our congregation deals with it, and then some pastor sitting some place- y’know- in Richmond can actually say, ‘No, I reverse it, you’ve gotta put Tom back in the membership of the church. I mean, even if we obey that- let’s say we’re an Episcopalian church, which would obey that- I think we’re in sin for obeying; we’re not following what Jesus said in Matthew 18. We’re taking an unbiblical structure (because a bishop claims some authority) and we are acknowledging it. Well, I think the Lord will still hold us accountable for what we in our congregation do in obeying the words of Christ…

There may be some other church out there that calls itself Southern Baptist that’s preaching wacko stuff; well, that’s not at all in the same sense [as in my local congregation] my responsibility. Now, you can lay out a specific situation with another congregation- we may have more or less responsibility for it, and even with the non-church entities- the parachurch entities, like the Southern Baptist Convention, which is- y’know- it’s like a Christian publishing company, a Christian network of colleges or something- it’s not the same thing as a Christian church. So, let’s say I go to the SBC and somebody has a resolution saying, ‘Hey, we should have only regenerate members in our churches!’ or that’s what we should strive for, well, I go, ‘Of course, that’s what it means to be a Baptist.’ And let’s say the thing gets voted down. That doesn’t cause me to despair. I mean, I understand pastors aren’t all confused. I don’t think the SBC as a Convention has any kind of authority- it doesn’t pretend to. I think all that says is, ‘Yeah, we gotta go back to the books, and we gotta keep talking to pastors, and we gotta do a better job raising up this next generation of pastors’…

If you get your real jollies from what’s going on in the denominational press and the Convention and not what’s happening- y’know- in Mrs. Jones’ life in your congregation or Bob coming to Christ or that Sunday school class you’re teaching or that sermon from last Sunday, then you’ve just got a spiritual problem…

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4 Comments on “Mark Dever on Baptist Ecclesiology and the Southern Baptist Convention”


  1. […] Strange BaptistFire wrote an interesting post today on Mark Dever on Baptist Ecclesiology and the Southern Baptist ConventionHere’s a quick excerpt In addition to discussion regarding Richard Sibbes, the interview of Mark Dever linked in the last post was interesting for comments made by Pastor Dever concerning Baptist ecclesiology and the Southern Baptist Convention. These comments, transcribed below, are important for every Southern Baptist to hear in recovering a right perspective of the usefulness and proper limitations of the SBC. Just remember, the SBC’s not a church. I mean, [saying, ‘Leaving the SBC’ is] like saying, ‘Leaving Wycl […]


  2. […] Thanks to Timmy and the P&P Puritan Podcast, we have a great bit of insight on the Southern Baptist Convention by Dr. Mark Dever (SBTS alumni, trustee and Dr. Mohler’s homeboy). Here is the key point as quoted by our strange friends: Just remember, the SBC’s not a church. I mean, [saying, ‘Leaving the SBC’ is] like saying, ‘Leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’ Y’know, it’s like, I’m a pastor, and we have $4000 a year that goes to support this person who works with Wycliffe, and if I stop sending that $4000, then I’m ‘leaving Wycliffe Bible Translators.’ So, it’s not a church issue for us in that way. The Southern Baptist Convention is one means by which- certainly our congregation of Christians at Capitol Hill Baptist Church- we cooperate with other Christians through the Southern Baptist Convention and are delighted to do it. But we feel no obligation to do that; we cooperate through other groups too. We give money to the Conservative Baptists, we’ve given money to groups even associated with other non-baptistic denominations, just to encourage them in gospel work, and we certainly have given to multi or interdenominational groups- like InterVarsity or Campus Crusade- that do work. So we identify ourselves as Christians, and we certainly believe in believers’ baptism, but we would not say that our fundamental identity is Southern Baptist. We’re Christians, and we think the Bible teaches believers’ baptism and we the Southern Baptist Convention is a really good way to cooperate for international missions and can be pretty helpful in the education of ministers… […]

  3. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    I don’t think the SBC as a Convention has any kind of authority- it doesn’t pretend to.

    I wonder if this is true. I responded here on this.

    Something that Dever said has bugged me for a long time. How do we honor the determinations of another congregation, and hold them and members accountable? Specifically, do we, as autonomous bodies still have the responsibility to call to account the actions, both disciplinary, and non? Have we gone too far away from the Biblical requirements? Specifically, should we revisit the reasoning behind the 1689 in paragraphs 12 through 26 and chapter 27.

    There may be better statements of church cooperation and accountability. I mention these because it is where my predjudice lies. Notice in these that even though a number of churches may act as a corrective presbytery, they do not function as an authoritative or judicial one. I think this is a better balance than that which characterizes the SBC.


  4. […] “Don’t even consider leaving as an option.” Notice first how different this response is from Mark Dever’s recent response to the same question; one wonders what view of Baptist ecclesiology would have local, autonomous churches never have leaving voluntary association with other churches as an option. Notice also how contradictory this response is to Dr. Price’s other responses. […]


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