AM ’09: SBTC president offers remedy for decline by standing firm and faithful to Baptist distinctives







LUBBOCK–Standing firm and staying faithful to Baptist distinctives provides the key to growth in the denomination and local churches, according to Bob Pearle, pastor of Birchman Baptist Church in Fort Worth and president of Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

“There are voices today within our own Baptist Zion that are advocating the way that we are to reverse decline in the Southern Baptist Convention is to be less Baptist and more evangelical,” Pearle told the opening session of the annual meeting Oct. 26. “We need to go back to who we are in our distinctives.”

Persecution, false teaching and temptation threaten the stability of individual Christians, local churches and ultimately denominations, Pearle warned. Just as Paul advised in I Thes. 1:4-6 and 3:2 that Christians not to be shaken by the threat of persecution and affliction, Pearle said some churches fail to stand strong today and succumb to political correctness in order to gain applause and approval of the world.

From 2 Thes. 2:2-3 he warned that false teaching undermines the gospel. Though liberal teaching has impacted most denominations, Pearle said the more common threat today is from syncretism as churches “take a little bit of this and a little bit of that,” instead of staying true to the gospel message. Temptation lures people away from the truth of the gospel and their love and devotion to Christ, he added, citing I Cor. 10:12-13.

“The difficulties you and I will experience before the coming of the Lord may cause some to stand away from Christ and even deny the truth,” he said. Southern Baptists must stand firm in their confidence in Christ’s return

The first part of the remedy for such decline is found in 2 Thes. 2:13-15, Pearle said, reminding Southern Baptists to stand firm in their confidence in Christ’s return and the truth of salvation. “We have those who explain it away or deny it, but the Bible teaches us this blessed hope we have in the imminent return of Christ,” he reminded, compelling believers to be redeem the time they have left, sharing the gospel with the nations.

Further instructed to stand firm in the truth of salvation, Pearle said, “Paul makes it very clear that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, not just a good way or one way, but the only way.” Denominations that have backed off of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ in salvation and allowed universalism to creep in are experiencing decline and instability, he said. “Don’t think we are exempt from that,” he added.

Secondly, believers are to stay faithful, holding to the traditions they were taught, he explained. Truth must be faithfully handed down from one generation to the next, he said. “The Word of God will never be accepted by our culture and society. We who believe the Bible will always be swimming upstream within our culture.”

By standing firm and holding on to those distinctives that make Baptists who they are, Pearle said, “We will continue to reach this world and not go the way of every other denomination.”

“I believe that’s why we’re seeing a rise in networks,” Pearle said, noting that many churches associated with denominations that have lost their distinctives still have “a heart for the Lord” and desire for planting churches, finding more in common with such fellowships.

“So understand that what has made us great and made us strong is not standing away from who we are, but standing firm in who we are and taking the gospel to the entire world,” Pearle said. “God help us to stand firm and to stay faithful.”

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