A Scripture-centric Southern Baptist Convention is worth preserving says Kentucky Pastor

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By Jessica Pigg

May 18, 2023

Nestled among the Cumberland Plateau and scenic sites of southeast Kentucky is the continued legacy of a third-generation Southern Baptist pastor. Mark Keith, a member of the Conservative Baptist Network family and Kentucky State Chapter, is a born and bred Southern Baptist who is grateful for the faithfulness and legacy of the countless others who have come before him. 

More than 50 years ago, while a freshman at Cumberland College, Keith surrendered to Christ and has served local churches and pastors ever since. Desiring to continue on the path that was paved before him, Keith has served as a lead pastor and as evangelism and prayer director for the Utah—Idaho Southern Baptist Convention. Currently, he serves as the association missional strategist for Knox Association of Baptists in southeast Kentucky. 

Now a member of Poplar Baptist Church in Corbin, 80 miles south of Lexington, Keith has dedicated these later years of ministry to standing right beside local churches and pastors as they navigate the beautiful blessing and weighty responsibility of ministry in a wavering culture and convention. 

When Keith was asked why he is distinctly Baptist, he shared a story about R.G. Lee, the great pulpit orator. When Lee was asked what he would be if he wasn’t Southern Baptist, he replied, “I would be ashamed!” Keith echoed that sentiment in describing fondly his upbringing and equipping.

“I was born Southern Baptist, my upbringing has only been in Southern Baptist churches, my ministry experience has been with the Southern Baptist Convention. My education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was even funded by the faithful giving of Southern Baptists through the Cooperative Program,” Keith said. 

Keith believes the Southern Baptist Convention is worth saving from a liberal drift. 

Citing deep concerns such as the current state of the North American Mission Board, the asserted need for an analytical tool to interpret Scripture, and errant description of Southern Baptists as hierarchical, Keith says he desires Southern Baptists to return to the Book that has historically guided them in the past—the Bible.

“It is important that we trust God’s Word as sufficient, inerrant, and authoritative,” he said. “We have witnessed other denominations that have died or declined because they fell away from believing in the sufficiency of Scripture.” 

It is this passionate conviction–God’s Word as sufficient, inerrant, and authoritative–that compelled Keith to join the Conservative Baptist Network family. 

“I joined the Conservative Baptist Network because of their priority to the sufficiency of the Bible,” he explained. “Despite a liberal drift happening in the SBC, I appreciate the way the Baptist Network is seeking to correct this. I really enjoy the fellowship with those in the Conservative Baptist Network and others who are like-minded in their high view of Scripture,” Keith said. 

This rich, long-time Southern Baptist heritage of a high view of Scripture is what Keith holds closely, despite being “deeply concerned” with the Convention’s wavering direction. 

“I have and will continue to encourage our local churches to not give up on the SBC,” he shared. “My heritage is Southern Baptist, and I will not give up without seeking to rescue our Convention.

“My prayer for the SBC is that God would grant us a spirit of repentance to return to His Word. I pray that God will raise up godly leaders who will honor His Word and lead us to return to our conservative roots.”