"If they mean to have a war, let it begin here"

Photo © Dean Tabor (Flickr ID: four12)In the pre-dawn hours of April 19, 1775, a large intimidating contingent of British soldiers advanced upon the village green of Lexington, Massachusetts. Their mission: to seize and destroy military supplies held by the colonial militia in nearby Concord.

What they did not suspect, however, was the accuracy of intelligence that had been gathered by the unassuming patriots, a small group of whom were waiting in a local pub for news of their arrival. Various accounts of what exactly transpired at dawn may differ, but nearly every American remembers the meaning of the “shot heard ’round the world” and the ensuing Battles of Lexington and Concord that led to the Revolutionary War and the founding of a new society, a new people, and a new government free from tyranny.

One memorable quote has been inscribed on a stone marker in the Lexington Common, attributed to Captain John Parker, leader of those 77 Lexington minutemen: “Stand your ground; don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

There are so many similarities—not literally, of course—between the powerful forces of the British military versus the rag-tag patriots of colonial America and the current scene in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), particularly in the state of Florida. A handful of believers, who embrace a common theological perspective, are just trying to engage in meaningful ministry and to experience “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There’s only one problem. A powerful, well-funded, and intimidating enemy keeps invading their paradise and making it impossible to do what our patriot forefathers died to preserve, and what our infinitely more glorious Lord and King has died and risen to give us. According to recent disturbing news reported here and in the crystal-clear intelligence gathering of a dear brother on the front lines, I suspect the recent skirmish in Simbo’s Restaurant, Bonifay, Florida (see this PDF file), may well be the beginning of the battle some of have suspected, feared, and/or anticipated for a long time.

Having served on staff of the Florida Baptist Convention for nearly seven years, I know the stakes are high for John Sullivan, executive director-treasurer, and Cecil Seagle, director of the Missions Division. Like Major John Pitcairn, leader of the 700-man advance party of British regulars, these powerful denominational “generals” have grossly underestimated the commitment and resolve of the men and women in Florida (and beyond) who love the doctrines of grace because those doctrines represent the Truth. And I also know how high the stakes are for them: they are willing to stand their ground—if allowed to do so—but they are also willing to go to war, if necessary.

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9 thoughts on “"If they mean to have a war, let it begin here"

  1. Bill,
    I know you don’t generally write about things concerning Roman Catholics, but I would like to pose a question. Why is it that it seems so peaceful on the Rome side of the fence while battles continually ensue on the Protestant side? Does it all just come down to men jockeying for the right to say that they have the correct interpretation of the Scriptures?

    These do more harm than good. They only serve to distract the body of Christ from it’s true purpose – to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

    I am deeply saddened by this move by the FBC. It’s troubling to our family as we head back to our church in OKC. We just recently got a new pastor, Tom Lambert from Mississippi. I don’t know how he feels concerning this issue but my husband and I feel that it is important to find out. (I hope this link works.)


  2. Pingback: The Reformation? Again? « One Truth

  3. Lynn: There’s a lot more acrimony and division within the RCC than is generally discussed publicly. The RCC knows the importance of being able to disagree “in-house,” yet to not let those disagreements be open widely to everyone else.

    If they mean to have war, I think I’ll go join up with another army. I don’t want to fight with fellow SBCers on this issue. I want my life to be spent fighting *for* the Kingdom. In the end, the Fundamentalists will find themselves much like the French did after they murdered and expelled the Huguenots… lacking vast numbers of their citizens who brought stability, support, hard work, and piety to the land. France was sent into a tailspin that ended eventually in the morally bankrupt revolution.

  4. James:
    Wow! and well said. The RCC MUST be good at keeping their acrimony under wraps. Kudos to them for that. And those people that France expelled, if I remember correctly, left us a wonderful, godly legacy.

    I don’t want to go to war either, and I’m not sure any army would have me anyway ;0)

  5. Lynn: I’m glad James bailed me out on the RC question, because I had no idea how to answer your question. By the way, it’s TONY Lambert who’s been called to FBC, Dell City. He was my pastor in Omaha until we moved to Florida in 1994. A very winsome man—from my home state of Mississippi—who is a real pulpiteer. I haven’t kept in touch with him over the years. Maybe someone else can fill you in.

    James: I hope you know that I don’t advocate war either: just using the Revolution as a metaphor. Wars are ugly business. People die. But like the main character played by Mel Gibson in The Patriot, sometimes war has a way of drawing unwilling people into conflict . . . people who just wanted to be left alone. Obviously, I’m no longer in the USA, but I still have a lot of dear friends and supporting churches in Florida.

  6. Bill,

    I find it interesting that the Church at Rome has been brought up during a discussion about the abuse of power within the Florida Baptist Convention… I have said so many times over the years (and taken some strong criticism for saying it) that there are some strong similarities between the conduct of the Leaders of the Florida Baptist Convention and the Roman Church.

    John Sullivan and Cecil Seagle are not acting very… well… not acting very “Baptist”. Where is their respect for the autonomy, freedom, and rights of every Baptist Church, Believer, and Pastor? Are their edicts and actions now to be considered above question? Do they no longer have any respect for our Baptist Confession of Faith?

    XIV. Cooperation

    Christ’s people should, as occasion requires, organize such associations and conventions as may best secure cooperation for the great objects of the Kingdom of God. Such organizations have no authority over one another or over the churches. They are voluntary and advisory bodies designed to elicit, combine, and direct the energies of our people in the most effective manner.

    The Florida Baptist Convention is NOT a Church! It has NO authority and NO right to interfere with the work of a local church, inject the opinions of its leadership into local church matters, or attempt to call for the discipline of local church pastors who do not agree with them. All of this one could expect from the authoritative leadership of other denominations but never from the Executive Director of a Baptist state convention!

    This is an unbearable offence to Baptist principles and polity, and Baptists of all theological opinions should see the ultimate danger of this kind of conduct. Which begs the question: where is the governing “State Board of Missions” in all of this? Should not they be the ones who step up and say to John Sullivan and Cecil Seagle (who are their employees) that they have gone too far and overstepped their authority?

    Grace to all,

  7. Bill:

    ‘The Patriot’ is a great flick, isn’t it?!? The hero doesn’t want to go to war because he knows the horrors all around and the depravity that will surface from within, yet he is forced to fight to protect his family, home and friends.

    For some, they may feel like they have nowhere else to go (as far as denominational life goes). I’m at the point where, although the denomination is necessary for my livelihood (requiring ecclesiastical endorsement), I’m ready to “move.” In college, on one end, I was labeled as a “Bible worshiper” / “Bibliolater” because of my adherence to inerrancy, a “fool” for believing in a literal creation, and a “hard-liner” because of my position regarding abortion. That was at an SBC university. Then, on the other end, in seminary, despite the fact that I earned an MDiv in Evangelism/Missions and the PhD in Evangelism, I was often assailed as a “Follower of John Calvin,” a “Baptizing Presbyterian,” and a “Hyper-Calvinist” because I affirm the doctrines of grace. It wasn’t as mean-spirited as what I faced in college, but it was still discouraging. Despite leading the churches I’ve pastored to be evangelistic, starting outreach programs, encouraging tract distribution, etc., etc., I’ve faced uphill battles because “successful leaders” in the SBC like Adrian Rogers, Jack Graham, Johnny Hunt, Jerry Vines, et al, have made false claims and spouted inaccurate history. During a “new” pastorate, not having even been there but a couple of months, there were people passing out “Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not!” pamphlets along with offers of Vance’s ‘The Other Side of Calvinism’ to any members who would read it. Meanwhile, I was leading the church to organize its first adult mission trip in nearly three decades. My oh my. No, I’m tired of the SBC infighting, especially when it comes to this issue. I don’t think the denomination is worth fighting over, quite frankly.

    Bill, I didn’t think you were advocating war, I was just simply stating how I felt about what is taking place in Florida and elsewhere.

  8. There is no war as far as we are supposed to be concerned. We wrestle not with flesh and blood. Let us just state, practice, and live what we believe, while we treat our opponents with love. The Bible speaks of instructing in meekness those who oppose themselves. A spiritual war is what we fight, not with weapons of hate, but with those of love, kindness, gentleness, and patience. God asks to do the impossible, and He will help us with what He desires.

  9. They come for our homes even now in the wake of an economic crisis as has not been seen in recent memory. They are counting on the fact that we will not raise our arms in defiance against the powers that be. As in 1775, I say “If they mean to have WAR then let it begin here” and I am an American Veteran.

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