Feb. 14, 2022
By Sharayah Colter
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Two-years ago, mere weeks before a worldwide pandemic brought most of the world to a rare halt, a group of Baptist pastors and laymen launched the Conservative Baptist Network, a grassroots effort to guide the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) back to a biblically conservative position. Individuals of the Network’s founding Steering Council noted in 2020 increasing concern among Baptists in the pew with what many have described as a progressive direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, citing more specifically a departure from long-held Baptist distinctives, capitulation to culture, and a functional embrace of worldly ideologies and practices.
Among the issues Baptists said they found concerning were a steep decline in salvations and baptisms, an influx of Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other Marxist-linked ideas into seminary education, a growing acceptance of female preachers and even pastors in some SBC churches, a softening toward the sin of homosexuality, and a decrease in accountability and transparency between SBC entities and Southern Baptists. Conservative Baptists say that two years later, each of those issues remains. The problems, they say, have only become more pronounced, making the Conservative Baptist Network more necessary in 2022 than at its founding in 2020.
Brad Jurkovich, pastor of First Baptist Bossier City, La., and Conservative Baptist Network spokesman, said his involvement in the formation of the Network stems from deep care for the denomination.
“I love our Southern Baptist family,” Jurkovich said. “Several years ago, when I began to see multiple levels of division, drifting, and efforts to undermine the unity and focus of our Southern Baptist family, I knew that I had the same choices as other pastors and churches faced. I could look the other way and hope the problems went away on their own, I could leave, or I could prayerfully become part of a movement to help our Southern Baptist family become strong and passionate again for all that we know God’s sufficient Word calls us to do and be.
“The Conservative Baptist Network was formed so that we could have a focused effort of all who seek to see our denomination strong for the next generation. Is there a price to pay when you take a stand? Absolutely. What I have seen God do since I was a teenager is that when you stand for what is right, then there are always challenges, but there are also numerous blessings, and it has been a tremendous blessing to get to know so many fellow pastors and churches from across our denomination these first couple of years.”
Lewis Richerson, pastor of Woodlawn Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, La., said the creation of the Network has illuminated the reality that many Baptists share serious concerns about the direction of the SBC.
“Prior to the launch of the Conservative Baptist Network, those of us who expressed concerns were easily dismissed as just being a small group of malcontents who were vituperative with our tweets,” Richerson said. “The Network has revealed that the concerns many of us had as individuals were actually concerns of a whole host of people to the extent that we helped turn out the largest messenger participation in the last 20 years. More Southern Baptists engaged in our convention is a great thing!”
Corey Smith, pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Schreveport, La., echoed Richerson in gratitude that an increased number of Southern Baptists have become more engaged in the denomination since the Network’s founding.
“I believe the greatest accomplishment of the Conservative Baptist Network in these first two years is that it has given hope to the Southern Baptist layperson that our voice can and should be heard,” Smith said. “I am thankful that because of the Network, more and more Southern Baptists are seeing the danger of worldly ideologies like Critical Race Theory seeping into the denomination and our churches.”
Ronnie Rogers, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., also noted the advancement of worldly ideologies within the nation’s largest conservative Christian denomination, citing it as a reason for increased engagement among Baptists in the last two years and his own support of the Network as a Steering Council member.
“I became a part of the Conservative Baptist Network to stand with others for the truth and wonder of what God has given us in the SBC and to courageously stand against all spiritually corrosive ideas and accommodations to sin that have penetrated the ranks of the SBC,” Rogers said. “God provides us hope through the Conservative Baptist Network!”
Along with the sentiment of hope shared by many involved with the Conservative Baptist Network is a commitment to fervent prayer, which the Network selected as one of nine core values prior to its February 2020 launch. Gerald Harris, former pastor and retired editor of the “Christian Index,” elaborated, sharing his specific prayer for the Conservative Baptist Network.
“I am praying that the Conservative Baptist Network will have a positive influence in Southern Baptist life to encourage the kind of changes necessary to bolster the Cooperative Program, encourage disenfranchised churches to remain in the Convention, give evangelism the priority the New Testament gives it, and highlight the absolute importance of the infallibility and sufficiency of Holy Scripture.”
Sherri Martin, co-founder of The Martin Foundation and executive vice president of The Martin Organization, serves as a trustee of the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes. She said she joined the Network because it affirms that God’s Word holds the answers to all areas of life.
“My prayer is that people will humble themselves and make God preeminent in the SBC once again,” Martin said.
Javier Chavez, pastor of Amistad Cristiana International, said that in the past two years, he has been a witness to the Conservative Baptist Network’s public commitment to the Word of God, to prayer, and to evangelism and missions.
“What many do not know, however,” Chavez said, “is that the Conservative Baptist Network partners with ethnic churches and pastors in different states. Surely this is something social media won’t tell, but heaven will. I share with the Network my love and concern for the future of the SBC as well as my commitment to seek a brighter future in unity.”
For those leading the Conservative Baptist Network, the words of the late Adrian Rogers provide context for the unity they seek with fellow Baptists—a unity in truth rather than unity in error.
“Let me tell you something, friend, it is not love, and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God,” Rogers said in 1996. “It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It’s better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude.”
Certainly, the Conservative Baptist Network has attracted opposition – some describing the group as an unnecessary redundancy, some viewing it as pointedly harmful, and some asserting the Network would never last longer than one year. Yet, on the second anniversary of its founding, those within the Network express only increasing determination to work toward “positive, biblical solutions that strengthen the SBC in an effort to fulfill the Great Commission and influence culture,” as codified in the Network’s purpose statement.
“The Conservative Baptist Network is on the front-end of ministry impact,” Jurkovich said. “But, even in these first couple of years, the Lord has done more than we ever dreamed and certainly more than our critics ever thought. We trust the Lord to stir pastors and churches to seek His Word and ways and to live courageously for His glory in all things.”
Read more about the Conservative Baptist Network at conservativebaptistnetwork.com.