Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., a prominent theologian and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, detailed what he believes is the most pressing issue facing the church today — “the bottom-line question of faithfulness.”
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Mohler said during an interview last month with CBN’s Faithwire it boils down to a single question: “Is the church going to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ — stand by the entirety of biblical truth?”
He continued, “Everything else basically is derivative of that great challenge, and you can say that it’s been the perpetual challenge of the church, and will be until Jesus comes.”
Mohler said there have been times throughout church history when the faith is “tested from many different sides, on many different issues, many different dimensions at one time.”
He believes the faith faces one such moment today.
Mohler, who made his comments during the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Orlando, Florida, also said he’s “hopeful” but “honest” about the massive issues facing Southern Baptists as the denomination gathers this week for its annual meeting.
“I don’t think anybody’s got an easy way forward,” Mohler said. “If you’re serious about doing anything, you’re going to have controversy.”
The faith leader said the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) 2023 Annual Meeting & Pastors’ Conference, underway in New Orleans, is unfolding during a time of deep disagreement within Baptist circles.
“Some of them are kind of surface-level [issues]; some of them are deeper,” Mohler said. “And I think we’re now at some deeper … issues of disagreement, particularly over women serving as pastors, particularly over how to approach these big cultural issues, [and] how to speak publicly about them.”
Watch Mohler discuss these conundrums:
The issue of female pastors is one of the most publicized controversies after the SBC’s Executive Committee voted to oust five churches, including California megachurch Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick Warren.
Saddleback and at least one other church are appealing the decision at this week’s meeting.
Though he didn’t intensely wade into these issues during the exchange, Mohler said he’s a “conservative confessionalist” and believes everything comes down to the inherency of Scripture and the importance of defending the faith.
“I don’t think there’s any way to make the world like us more,” he added. “We need not to be obnoxious. Yes, we need to be kind and respectful, but the fact is the world’s not going to like us a whole lot more for being respectful.”
Mohler also addressed declining membership in the SBC — another issue attracting some attention. As CBN News reported, a recent Annual Church Profile from Lifeway Research found total membership within Southern Baptist congregations is at 13,223,122, down from 13,680,493 in 2021.
The theologian said believers should “expect” such changes, noting cultural shifts that have made decreases in affiliation and attendance an inevitability.
“We have to expect it, and it doesn’t mean we celebrate it,” Mohler said. “But there was a time when the Southern Baptist Convention was riding the crest of a largely churched and Christianized culture in which people gained social capital by joining our churches.”
He said those tides have changed, though, with people now realizing they “cash out social capital by joining” Baptist churches due to the cultural value diminishing.
“You’re not more likely to be made partner in your law firm because you’re a member of a Southern Baptist church,” Mohler said. “If it’s preaching the Gospel, you’re probably less likely you’re gonna make partner in your law firm if your church membership becomes an issue.”
After COVID-19 and the impact the reaction to the virus had on churches, Mohler said it became apparent “who was with” the faith once the dust settled. Regardless of current numbers and trends, Mohler said he’s grateful God has “preserved so much” within the SBC.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity the Lord has retained for us, and so I’m not pessimistic,” he said. “But you’re honest, I’m honest, and…I don’t think Christians should ever be optimistic; I think we should be hopeful. Optimism is presumptuous; hopefulness is Christian.”
Watch the above interview for Mohler’s take on other contemporary issues as well.
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