The next generation of Baptists?


While Marv’s editorial is getting most of the buzz around the blogosphere, I found the Second Opinion piece by Ken Williams, minister to students in Dripping Springs, more interesting. Ken — who apparently is a younger guy — talks about why he’s a Baptist and what he sees developing in young Baptist circles around him.

I’m particularly interested in what you think about these paragraphs. We’re always talking about the next generation of Baptists. From what you see, is this an accurate description of up-and-coming Baptists? And if Ken’s accurate, what do you think of these characteristics as hallmarks for a generation?

This is a new time, and I am part of a new generation of Baptists—a generation that is rising up all around the nation. We are a generation that finds great value in the principles of our Baptist heritage and yet finds it unacceptable to define ourselves by the principles of our recent predecessors. We believe the people of God are called to participate in the kingdom of God. We believe social justice speaks louder than political coercion. We believe in serving the world, rather than withdrawing from it. And we will no longer capitulate to a system that promotes intolerance and injustice in the name of dogma.

I see it all around me: I see it in the seminaries, I see it on the blogs, I see it in college groups and in the Emerging Church that is sweeping the nation. We are young, we are passionate about our values and we are mobilizing all across the country because we are unsatisfied, and we will no longer be silenced by the tyranny of a few powerful men. We are looking toward the future, and we are desperate for something new.

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24 Responses to “The next generation of Baptists?”

  1. spiritualsamurai Says:

    Sons and daugthers prophecy
    old men dream dreams
    And young men will see visions.

    Thnaks for the article

  2. David Lowrie Says:

    I believe we need to listen. The young adults in my church desire a vision not just worth living for, but a vision worth dying for.

    The mission statement of our church states that “we exist for the glory of God by discovering, developing, and deploying fully devoted followers of Jesus”. A key component in our efforts to reach this generation is “deploying” them for the glory of God and for the advance of the Kingdom. This value explains why we currently have 15 young adults scattered around the world on mission for the Kingdom. Our young adults are Kingdom people first, and Baptists second.

    As I sit at my computer there is a picture that looks me in the eye and reminds me of the stakes of our mission. It is a picture of David and Niki McDonnall. You may not remember them, but David was gunned down on the streets of Iraq as a young missionary with IMB. “Crazy Dave” as he was nicknamed was a part of our church family as a college student and was “infected” with a passion for the nations on his first mission trip he took with a group from our church. Just weeks before his deployment to Iraq he joined us for a missions banquet, and shared his heart for reaching people. He knew of the dangers of going to Iraq, but he also knew he was called to go.

    After his death Buddy Young, a dear friend of his and a BSM director, noted to the students at the BSM that David McDonnall did not really die in Iraq…HE DIED THE DAY HE GAVE HIS LIFE TO JESUS. Buddy was so right. This generation takes very seriously the call to take up your cross and follow Jesus. If we are going to keep them, we may have to “catch up” to them.

    David Lowrie

  3. Big Daddy Weave Says:

    As a young Baptist, I too found Ken’s piece refreshing. Perhaps it would be helpful if you added a link so that others can read the full-length version of his piece in the Standard?

    From my experience, young Baptists like Ken correctly understand that evangelism and social justice are but two sides of the same missional coin. We choose cooperation over isolationism. And we sincerely are interested in engaging and participating in the broader global Baptist community. In my opinion, all of Ken’s characteristics bode well for the future of young Baptists.

    Also, there is an organization (formed as a project of the BGCT’s CLC) that through recent dinners and discussions has created a network of over 250 young Texas Baptists like Ken scattered across the state. Here is a link to the Texas Baptist Young Professional Network.

  4. John Says:

    Aaron, thanks for the comment. Here’s a link to the entire piece:

    And thanks for the link to the Young Professionals Network. Alexis is doing a great of leading that effort.

  5. BT Says:

    Whoa! What a motivational gem. It leads us all into attending the New Baptist Covenant Celebration. I can go rub elbows with Jimmy Carter. The former President that believes that Mormons worship the Jesus that is in my Bible? I can attend a workshop entitled “Sexual Exploitation” while former President Bill Clinton will be on the platform?

    I just received a letter from the former Presidents of the BGCT inviting me to come hear “two Baptist Nobel Peace Prize recipients, President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Al Gore.”

    This may have been written by a young Baptist. I will even agree with Bro. Lowrie that our next generation is more motivated to “Go” than any other. But if what this young Baptist wrote is real, this generation could care less about going to some pep rally with some famous faces from history. (Not all are famous for “Baptist” or Christian behavior.) The young Baptist I know are looking past denominations, names, and calls to collective causes. They are headed straight to the mission fields. With us or without us, they are headed for front lines.

  6. Eric Guel Says:

    I was a young Baptist minister living in a time when the leaders of my denomination were more concerned with the sexual orientation of Disney characters than the fact that roughly 7,000 children were dying of malnutrition each night.

    That’s a classic Straw Man Fallacy, and it’s a bad way to set up his piece.

    I was embarrassed that my denomination chose to use its resources to defend archaic scientific theories

    Is he an evolutionist then? I’m not sure what he’s trying to say here. In any event, the scientic theories our generation holds as dogma these days will likely be considered “archaic” in 200 years.

    We are young, we are passionate about our values and we are mobilizing all across the country because we are unsatisfied, and we will no longer be silenced by the tyranny of a few powerful men.

    There’s a lot of good vision there, but the reality is in 20 years he won’t be “young” anymore. Will this new, “emerging” vision stand the test of time? If it’s Gospel-oriented, let’s hope so.

    values big enough to include renewed sense of social justice and racial reconciliation.

    Again, that’s some good vision. What worries me sometimes about emerging type folks is that the idea of “social justice” is especially ambiguous. If social justice is something that comes with the Gospel, then that’s great! But I’d rather pass on anything that looks like Liberation Theology.

  7. Big Daddy Weave Says:


    Liberation theology is a school of thought within the Roman Catholic Church. I find it hard to believe that a Baptist of any stripe would promote such a theology. Or perhaps you meant the Social Gospel – a thoroughly Protestant movement? Let’s get our terms correct first.

    As a young Baptist, I’m disturbed by those who readily dismiss efforts aimed at relieving poverty and righting social injustices merely because those efforts bear similarities to movements of the past. Like I said above, we must remember that evangelism and social justice are but different sides of the same missional coin. And this means that the “mission field” (attention BT) is not just abroad but here in Texas in your own local community and neighborhood.

  8. Eric Guel Says:

    Big Daddy,

    I’m definitely aware of the origins of liberation theology within Roman Catholicism. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough, I wasn’t saying that Williams’ position is LT per se (obviously there’s no real leaning toward Marxism in there, etc.), but that, to me, some of the themes he touches on smack of LT (though he’s not a RC) and, of course, as you mentioned, the protestant social gospel.

    Like I said before, it’s the ambiguity that often times accompanies cries for “social justice” that concerns me. I’m not trying to “readily dismiss efforts aimed at relieving poverty and righting social injustices,” I’m just wanting a concrete definition of what “social injustice” actually means before I offer my unfailing support.

    Heck, I’m a member of the One Campaign — give me a break. 🙂

  9. BT Says:

    Hey BDW,

    No need to call my attention to your comment. I never mentioned which mission field, because I meant THE mission field. The young Baptist I know are ready to go across the street, county, country, or oceans.

    Sorry, I’m not a member of the One Campaign. Please, give me a break, too.

  10. Eric Guel Says:

    It’s ok, BT, you can just go to and sign up. It’ll take you 2 minutes. 😉

  11. Bennett Willis Says:

    What are some of the qualities that the vision should have?

    World wide impact?

    Something that makes a difference to whole continents?

    Something that we can readily (philosophically and physically/financially) support?

    Something that we can ALL get together behind?

    Something that makes a physical difference to a lot of people?

    It might be that if we put enough “qualities” together that the vision would become obvious.

    Bennett Willis

  12. Lee Says:

    In general terms, I believe evangelism and Biblically defined social justice do indeed go hand in hand. Christians should be motivated to service by Christ’s example. And just for the record, it is not only younger Baptists who are motivated to social justice, or other missions ministries, though I have observed that younger people often become passionate about missions as a result of being involved in places where their service makes an obvious difference in other people’s lives, and discovering the blessings and rewards that come from working for Christ on behalf of other people.

    I think people are afraid of the term “social justice” because they tend to equate it with “the social gospel,” which is an entirely different thing. And I think, too, they are afraid that some kind of involvement will be interpreted as making some kind of political statement, or that somehow, because the people involved happen to live in America, that their poverty is really a figment of their imagination and they are simply taking advantage of the generous spirit of others. True social justice is defined by the scripture.

    I don’t believe we are going to capture the interest of younger Baptists by encouraging them to become involved in the convention structure, and make changes in accordance with the procedure. It would take almost half a generation’s time to do that, anyway. I think that eventually, the convention structures are going to have to adapt to accomondate the younger generation of Baptists in terms of both technology and procedure. And that’s exactly why I don’t really follow the author’s reasoning behind attending the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant. Big gatherings like that are not the M.O. of the younger generation of Christians, whether they be Baptist or not. They would be better off attending the SBC as messengers, where they could at least vote to change the leadership.

  13. BT Says:

    Your final paragraph makes my point! This was nothing but a “Get-on-the-Bus” motivational speech. May I paraphrase the way I read this article? (Well, I am going to anyway.) “I’m a young Baptist tired of all of this convention stuff, so, I am going to a convention to show you how I am fed up with this convention stuff! Even though my generation has convictions, I am going to compromise them to be with others that may not even have convictions.”

    Aside from this article, I am excited for what is happening with the younger generation. All of the conventions may very well go the way of WMU. Declining participation due to a disconnect with the younger generation. We better wake up!

  14. simplyanother Says:

    I have to completely disagree with your interpretation of Ken’s article. It has nothing to do with convention structure or not, but of ideas and how we put them into practice. The Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, first of all, is not just another convention. It is an opportunity for Baptists from a variety of different backgrounds to come together and fellowship with each other, hoping to learn a little bit more about our different faith and missions practices all under our Baptist understanding. The focus on working together on practical ways to achieve social justice and racial reconciliation appears to many young people to be something new that Baptists are doing, and that’s what they want to be a part of. I think that has more to do with what Ken is talking about.

  15. WHO ARE WE? « Baptist Young Professionals Says:

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  16. Tim Dahl Says:

    I’m curious as to how many young baptists there really are. It seems that Ken may be speaking of a wonderfully motivated minority. Churches are in decline. The vast majority of youth don’t come back to church after they leave high school. Not very many of my generation (I’m 33) are left in church. I can agree that there are some greatly motivated young baptists. I just don’t think there are all that many of them.


  17. simplyanother Says:

    There are more than you think…

  18. Big Daddy Weave Says:

    I’m curious if Lee or anyone cares to offer a definition for “Biblically defined social justice.”

    Also, how would one distinguish between “social justice” and “social gospel.”

    Historically, the social gospel has been characterized by mainline liberal theology. But there have been very few social gospel thinkers that were bred in the Southern Baptist tradition. Even Southern Baptist progressives such as JM Dawson and TB Maston were committed to a conservative theological approach. Some have chosen terms such as applied Christianity or social Christianity to describe their efforts for justice. But their “activism” (whether it be through the Texas CLC or another Baptist group) is merely the “social gospel” of yesteryear called by a different name minus the liberal theology.

  19. Lee Says:

    I would say that Jesus pretty well defined social justice in his teaching, as well as by his actions. That’s what I mean by “Biblically defined” social justice. “Applied Christianity” is also a good term, since that is really what we are talking about. It’s the fruit of the indwelling Spirit, the result of salvation. I guess the term “social gospel” for me is more synonymous with the liberal Protestant theology of the 60’s and 70’s, which more or less focused on works, and ignored the spiritual and scriptural aspects of Christianity.

    Ken’s op-ed piece in the Standard was not the only thing I read this week from a younger Baptist. BT, I tend to agree with you, and I doubt the Standard would have run Ken’s piece had it not included the puff for the Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant, which Texas Baptist leaders seem compelled to push, for some reason. Here’s a piece from a 17 year old Baptist blogger in the D.C. area, which will inspire you. It’s about a four or five page article, along with the blog post. Notice his response to my question in the comment section. This is a young man whose blog has logged three quarters of a million hits. And I think he’s right on target.

  20. BT Says:

    “Biblically defined social justice” is an oxymoron. Social justice is a term that has grown with the decline of Christian influence. Within man, God put it there, is the ability to see things that appear to be unfair. This motivates many to action. Social justice thrives to make things “fair.” Tax the rich to give to the poor. Redistribute funds so that all have a fair chance. Others try to correct social injustices through free market. More competition breeds more jobs and more opportunities. This supposes that the unemployed desire to be employed.

    Everyone reading this blog knows what the Bible says. We are to help our neighbor. Not to right a wrong. Because God said to help your neighbor. Is this social justice? No it is obedience. If our world were following the Creator, there would be no need for “social justice”. We would be living it.

    I believe what Lee was saying is do the Biblical thing. The world cries out for social justice and cannot define it. Their God given nature tells them they should be helping their neighbor. They unfortunately reject God and are left to define the “feeling” the best way they can. Do the Biblical thing and introduce them to Jesus so they can reconcile their need to help with the One that place that desire in them.

  21. wk Says:

    So many comments about “being Baptists”. I’m a believer in Christ that happens to go to a Baptist church.

    Conventions and Baptist doctrine are not my ultimate authority, the Word of God is.

    By the way, Southern Baptists were created because they wanted to be able to keep their slaves, but “regular” Baptists said no. Don’t hold any religion in such high regard. Hold a relationship with Christ and His Word in the Highest regard.

  22. BT Says:


  23. furtherupfurtherin Says:

    First, let me say that I thought Ken’s piece was a good OpEd piece and I am glad the Standard ran it. With so much change on the horizon for the BGCT I am glad they made the choice to allow at least the whisper of the voice from the 20something generation of Church leaders be heard.

    I think this debate is good, even as it exemplifies many of the divisions between generations as well as the rhetoric that has driven many 20somethings away from the church.

    Here are a few observations from a 26 year old Baptist pastor on his generation of Baptist servants.

    1) We are not as great in number as the number of Baptist leaders of our parents generation. But we are out there. We are serving. We have a voice and it is worthy to be heard.

    2) We DO want something new. If you ask many my age about Baptist Distinctives they will list Business meetings, endless committee meetings, pot-luck dinners, Lottie Moon, Annie Armstong, and Mary Hill Davis.

    The beauracracy of church polity, associational, and convention life does not hold great appeal. At best it is tolerated. But no good alternative has yet to emerge.

    3) We want to go. This isn’t just our generation, but use the monwe are much less prone to send a check to a missions agency than we are to simply go ourselves. Wherever that mission field maybe. And we may not go through a Baptist sending agency.

    4) The label “Liberal” does not apply to most of us, but it doesn’t strike fear and loathing in our hearts either. For that matter, neither does “Conservative.” If we are not liberal, and many of us are by Baptist standards, we have many friends and influences who are and we feel we are the better for it. For many of us, Fundamentalism, is a much scarier label. Let’s just really try to limit the labels.

    5) We do desire to unite instead of divide, but for most of our lives we have been taught division instead of multiplication or even simple addition. Therefore the BGCT Annual Convention may not hold the appeal that the NBC does, because it is not seen as just another meeting, but at a chance to unite to some degree. We would never misunderstand a session about “Sexual Exploitation” with the misdeeds of Former President Clinton.

    6) Most of us identify (like WK said) ourselves as Follower’s of Christ who happen to be baptist. Not as Baptists.

    7) Many of us may not know the exact definition of Social Gospel or the differences between the social gospel and social justice. We know we want to serve our neighbor. And for us that includes righting wrongs. Whether our neighbor literally is the person next door or happens to be an entire people. If the world were following our Creator, there would be the need for social justice, the problem is that all of us aren’t, so the need is there.

    None of this is new or terribly enlightening. It just adds to the discussion. Thank you Ken for the article. Thank you Baptist Standard for running it.

  24. Young Baptist Discussion « Further Up, Further In Weblog Says:

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