Few Southern Baptist ministers have had such long-term ministry experience and influence on SBC life as has Morris H. Chapman, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
(BP) – Few Southern Baptist ministers have had such long-term ministry
experience and influence on SBC life as has Morris H. Chapman, president of the
Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee.
And from that unique perspective on
Baptist life, Chapman offered his thoughts on the Southern Baptist Convention’s
present state and future challenges as a guest on New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary’s Baptist
A native of Kosciusko, Miss.,
Chapman professed faith in Christ when he was 7. He answered the call to
vocational Christian ministry at the age of 12. He earned both the master of
divinity and doctor of ministry degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He served as pastor of four churches
– three in Texas and one in New Mexico. Under his leadership, each
church demonstrated strong support for Cooperative Program giving, baptism and
He served as president of the Southern
Baptist Convention from 1990-92 and in October 1992 he became president and
chief executive officer of the Executive Committee. Since then, Chapman has
continued to lead at the denominational level just as he did as a local church
As a guest blogger on the BaptistCenter for Theology and Ministry’s website,
Chapman addressed many of the current issues facing the Southern Baptist
Responding to questions by the moderator,
Chapman addressed the “greatest” issues facing Southern Baptists, the
convention’s greatest strength, weakness, challenge and opportunity. Not
surprisingly, his responses drew connections between each.
“The passion for, experience with and
funding of world missions has been and is the greatest strength of the Southern
Baptist Convention,” Chapman said. “In Southern Baptist churches, God continues
to stir the hearts of increasing numbers of church members of all ages to go
wherever He leads to witness to the saving power of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ultimately, Southern Baptists’ passion
for missions grows out of the conviction that the Bible is God’s Holy Word,
Chapman said, conceding that those strong biblical convictions often lead
people outside the convention to characterize Southern Baptists as
“narrow-minded, unengaged in today’s culture and apathetic to the world’s
However, rebutting such
post-denominationalism views, Chapman underscored that, “No denomination is
better positioned to demonstrate the love of Christ and his power to save
mankind than Southern Baptists.”
Yet, Chapman noted that Southern Baptists
suffer when those biblical convictions are inappropriately expressed.
“Our greatest weakness is the tendency to
‘defend’ our faith with a degree of severe and unforgiving dogmatism that in
part creates a negative view of the Convention and helps perpetuate the idea
that we are little more than a denomination of prohibitions,” Chapman said.
Chapman repudiated internecine attacks
and called for a renewed commitment to speaking truth in love among Southern
Baptists as well as with those outside the convention.
“In the Convention there appears to be a
growing fondness for casting stones at each other, judging one another and
building our reputations at the expense of others,” he said. “A divisive
culture has been sown among Southern Baptists that does not honor Christ when
measured against the Word of God.”
Though Jesus expressed righteous
indignation while on earth, those instances were quite rare, Chapman said,
adding that among Christ’s followers today, expressions of indignation should
be no less rare.
“We are doing ourselves, our denomination
and our Lord an injustice if we let the world see only our dogmatism without
seeing the love of Christ,” he said.
The greatest threat and the greatest
weakness are inextricably bound, according to Chapman, who described the threat
as “the gradual deterioration of the collective heart that at one time beat
steadily and strongly with a sacrificial love for Jesus and the unsaved.”
Pointing out that divisions within the
convention will splinter the collective heart for ministry, Chapman explained
that the Baptist Faith and Message represents a consensus about core beliefs
and is not meant to be an exhaustive statement on every doctrinal issue.
“The Convention is a network of churches
that voluntarily bands together for the principal cause of world missions.
“If we insist that every doctrinal nuance
debated among Southern Baptists is a core belief, sooner or later our
missionary force will be depleted and the unsaved will be abandoned,” Chapman
If those divisions can be erased, he offered,
then the greatest opportunity for the convention becomes a united effort to
equip Southern Baptists to better impact the world in the 21st century.
Responding to other questions, Chapman
shared his views about such issues as the resurgence of Calvinism within the
convention, churches adopting ruling elders and the emerging church movement.
However, Chapman sees the greatest
theological issue facing Southern Baptists as the “sole sufficiency of Christ
“In the future, when a tidal wave against
Christ and Christ alone as the way of salvation threatens to sweep our witness
off the face of the earth, I believe we will pinpoint this moment in history as
the beginning of a rising tide,” Chapman said. “We have less time than we think
to fortify our witness for the ridicule and disdain that will come first upon
the organized church, make its way through the ranks of nominal Christians, and
finally slam against the people who are guided daily by the Holy Spirit and
whose only desire is to honor Christ and Glorify the Father.”
Chapman sees this coming barrage as
particularly perilous for Christians striving to keep one foot planted in the Kingdom of God and the other in the world.
“[They] are going to be shocked that
their faith will not stand up under the barrage of ridicule,” he said. “This
reason alone is enough to cause us to fall on our faces before the Lord,
confess our disobedience and unashamedly profess to the world that He is our
Savior and Lord.”
“We were honored to have Dr. Chapman as a
guest host on the BaptistCenter blog,” said NOBTS Provost Steve Lemke, who
serves as acting director of the Baptist
Center for Theology and
Ministry. “His answers to our questions provide valuable insights on some of
the opportunities and tension points in Southern Baptist life. Our students and
all our readers will appreciate his candor and unique perspective on these
Past bloggers who have addressed these
same issues include SBC President Frank Page; Rick Lance, executive director of
Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions; Emil Turner, executive director of
Arkansas Baptist State Convention; and missiologist Ed Stetzer of the North
American Mission Board. These responses are archived on the BaptistCenter
blog. For more information on the Baptist
Center for Theology and
Ministry’s blog and upcoming events, go online to baptistcenter.com.
In addition to
serving as guest host on the Baptist
Center blog, Chapman
posts comments periodically on his own website, www.morrischapman.com.