One of the reasons why I don’t fit in with the Southern Baptists anymore is a certain amount of skepticism that I’ve developed over the years under their teachings. Eventually I saw incongruity with their words and actions that looked suspiciously like hypocrisy. Finally I had to cut ties in order to save my sanity and what little faith I had managed to salvage from the wreckage that was the culmination of their teachings. I now attend a Methodist church, but I’ve begun to notice a troubling sign of things to come: many “Bible studies” (Studies written by wealthy men and women who have little or no practical life experience with Bible verses thrown in, but not once are believers asked to study from their own Bibles and draw conclusions, the authors have already done that for us) are from well-known Southern Baptist personalities and they are accepted without question or criticism.
Understand this, Southern Baptists emphasize and value a literal interpretation of Scripture whereas Methodists have this handy little quadrilateral that asks believers to filter their understanding through reason and experience. That’s how Methodists arrived at the conclusion that women can be preachers and teachers who teach men and women together, which is the opposite position of the baptists who believe that the Bible’s instruction is clear that women may only teach other women and children and they cannot be preachers and teachers of men.
I’m not saying that every single Southern Baptist “Bible study” will take you down that road that’s inherently incongruous with your own teachings, but some of them will made an aside, a subtle nod, or a gentle push that’s more in keeping with a Southern Baptist understanding and less in keeping with a Methodist understand of the same passage. If you don’t question how the authors arrive at the conclusions they do, you might miss out on the implications of what they teach. It makes it easier the next time they build off of that point into a teaching that’s further away from the understandings you hold dear. You’re also directly financing the aims of the Southern Baptists in their interests that you both agree on (like serving Christ) and in their interests where you stand opposed (like everything else.)
Not long after we left the Southern Baptist denomination, we stumbled into a non-denominational church that was a refreshing place to heal from the wounds and hurt and disappointment that was left over from our departure with the Southern Baptists. One day, the pastor delivered a sermon explaining that it’s not the people that are going in the opposite direction you have to worry about, it’s the ones that are very nearly (but not quite) headed in the direction you’re going. The more you adjust your course to match theirs, the more you leave the original path. It’s not long before you’ve stopped going to north and are going north-east and then you’re going east – having complete diverted from the way you were going. Methodists, the more you align yourself with Southern Baptists, the more you lose your way. Then you lose people like me who left the Southern Baptists and aren’t interested in the Southern Baptist-lites you’ve become.
I’m not saying that you should just throw away the materials you’ve already bought from the Southern Baptists nor that you should never, ever buy anything that they produce ever again, but I am saying that you should question every conclusion they draw and ask yourselves: “Would Methodists have reached this conclusion? What other valid interpretations exist for this passage?” Please ‘filter’ the Southern Baptist teachings through reason and experience! Look up culture and history and explain how the original audience understood it. Don’t just accept the author’s brilliant insight as obviously true and move on from there – ask yourselves how she arrived at that conclusion! Ask yourselves what she missed! You’re Methodists and don’t you forget that as you study what Southern Baptists have to say. Don’t let yourselves give up the the things that make you who you are.