When the SBC Mission Board Stayed at a Holiday Inn Express

John ArmstrongSouthern Baptists

You’ve seen the television commercials. A man falls from his bike. A man stops to help and begins to examine the guy’s injured leg as if he were a physician. In another commerical a man is in a science lab working on a major experiment and is asked by the attendants, "Where did you go to school doctor?" He answers, in both cases, "I am not a doctor but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." The idea is simple. Those who stay at a Holiday Inn Express will have judgment that allows them to go well beyond their normal abilities and expertise.

I thought about this when I noted last week the decision of the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention, by a vote of 50-15, to no longer appoint candidates for overseas missions who speak in tongues in their private prayer life. Several years ago the IMB voted to not appoint a missionary who practiced tongues, or encouraged this practice, in public. Now they have decided to go even further and stop any new missionary appointee who prays in tongues in their private prayer life. Even though God clearly does not forbid speaking in tongues in private the SBC overseas mission agency (IMB) must know better than God, or they stayed at a Holiday Inn Express and learned things the rest of us poor Bible believers do not understand yet.

The IMB also refuses to appoint candidates who come from local churches that do not teach "believer security and practice only baptism by immersion." Read that very carefully, and slowly, to get the hard sectarian edge of clearly it in mind.

I find this utterly amazing. This is the largest mission agency in the world, currently supporting 5,122 missionaries, serving 1,194 people groups. I was called to the ministry through the work of this agency. I owe my life, in many ways, to the wtiness of the SBC overseas missions witness. At age twelve, through an SBC missionary, I heard God’s call to me.

This decision, by the IMB, is really part of a larger picture of the conservative take-over of the SBC over the last twenty-plus years. Many, like me, prayed for these conservatives in the SBC but now the present leadership leaves us seeking to make some sense of these kinds of decisions. 

I have no desire to be offensive I assure you, but what on earth were these folks thinking at the IMB when they passed a decision to inject their brand of Baptist politics into the private prayer lives of future missionaries? This is more sectarian than the old Landmark Baptist heresy which I fought as a child. (This heresy suggested that the Baptist church was the true church!)

I would hate to answer to God for passing a policy statement that bands what God makes permissible. I would also hate to explain Holiday Inn Expres theology to serious Christians who wanted to go to the mission field with my denominational agency.