Last month I came across a very interesting discussion of the loss of discipline in Southern Baptist churches. This topic has been much discussed recently, but what made this essay particularly interesting is that it was written 50 years ago as part of a discussion held at Southern seminary when it was much less conservative. This quote from Theron Price seems to be all the more accurate as the decades have passed and is fruitful for consideration in light of the upcoming conference at Union.
“Finally, there is a current need to recover the sense of the dignity and authority of the church. This is increasingly difficult for Southern Baptists to achieve within the greatly changed patterns of Southern life. In principle Baptists have viewed a church as a congregation of saints, have stressed informed and responsible discipleship on the basis of personal regeneration. The Christian life has been viewed as one of ‘separation from the world and unto God.’ But success itself has risen up to threaten this! In becoming a mass movement and, in the South, all but a territorial church, Baptist have found it difficult to ‘separate.’ The Southern Baptist Convention is no longer in actual practice of a group of ‘gathered and disciplined churches.’ The more Southern Baptists succeed – at the surface level of mere numerical increase without
corresponding growth in biblical knowledge, theological competence, and ethical sensitivity – the more difficult it will become for them to be as Baptist in fact as they are in name. It is to this situation that a proper discipline must be directed. And it is, moreover, to this that realistic attention and earnest prayer need to be given.”
– Theron Price, “Discipline in the Church,” in Duke K. McCall,, ed. What is the Church? A Symposium of Baptist Thought(Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1958), 184-185.