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In David Dockery’s book Southern Baptist Consensus and Renewal, he lists seven different groups of conservative Southern Baptists:

  1. Fundamentalists: hard-lined people who often have more in common with “independent” Baptists than with the SBC heritage.
  2. Revivalists: true heirs of the Sandy Creek tradition, including their suspicion of education.
  3. Traditionalists: heirs of the Sandy Creek theology, including the strong commitment to evangelism and revivalism, but affirming of education.
  4. Orthodox Evangelicals: an irenic group that looked to Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham as models. This group wanted a theological course correction, a commitment to the full truthfulness of the Bible, serious intellectual and cultural engagement, while interacting with all who would claim to great orthodox Christian tradition.
  5. Calvinists: a group that wanted to reclaim aspects of the “Charleston” theological tradition. They have much in common with the “Evangelical” group above. Sub-groups include “Nine Marks,” “Sovereign Grace,” “Founders,” and others. Most among this group no longer tend toward isolation as in years past.
  6. Contemporary church practitioners: a group of pastors who wanted to find new ways to connect with the culture, resulting in new models for doing church, including “Willow Creek Models,” “Saddleback Models,” “Missional,” and even some “emergent church types.”
  7. Culture Warriors: another group of conservatives who desire to engage the issues of culture and society. This group includes a variety of approaches including “church over culture,” “church transforming culture,” as well as “church and culture / social justice types.”

One of the reasons I love the Southern Baptist Convention is because of the healthy tensions I see represented in our diversity. Each of these subgroups of conservative Southern Baptists has something important to add to our theological consensus.

The Fundamentalists remind us that Christians should be counter-cultural, always seeking to be separate and distinct from the world.

The Revivalists teach us that head knowledge without heartfelt passion can be detrimental to our faith. They also evangelize with a passionate sense of urgency that is often missing in today’s evangelicalism.

The Traditionalists bring together the best of the Revivalist tradition with the importance of education, showing that sound biblical scholarship and evangelistic fervor need not be separated.

The Orthodox Evangelicals help us avoid the tunnel-vision that sometimes characterizes Southern Baptists. They remind us of the great Christian tradition that Southern Baptists are a part of, and utilize the other evangelical streams in order to better our Convention.

The Calvinists provide a healthy corrective to the pragmatism that often characterizes the Revivalist and Traditionalist groups – emphasizing doctrine, ecclesiology and the importance of looking for signs of genuine conversion.

The Contemporary church practitioners challenge our preoccupation with traditional forms and help us to find points of contact with the culture. They seek to tear down any barrier between us and the lost that is not necessarily gospel-driven.

The Culture Warriors remind us that part of the church’s mission is to proclaim the lordship of Jesus outside of the church walls, seeking to influence the culture as salt and light, bringing Christ’s rule to bear in the political realm as well as in other areas.

We need each other! While most of us fall comfortably into one or two of these categories, we should not make the mistake of desiring the entire Convention to be the same. Each category has its own pitfalls and problems. Each group has its contribution to the Southern Baptist theological consensus. 

I probably fit best in the Orthodox Evangelical group, but I find strong points in many of the groups. Fellow Southern Baptists, where do you see yourselves?

written by Trevin Wax  © 2008 Kingdom People blog

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29 thoughts on “7 Types of Southern Baptists”

  1. Justin says:

    I have never thought about this in the way you presented it. Very insightful.

  2. Jimmy Fine says:

    I guessed you would fit best w/ the Orthodox evangelical group. I would guess I fit best into the culture warriors group. Do you agree?

  3. jessica says:

    I never knew, southern baptist are the umbrella for all the other baptist? Serious question, I’m confused.

  4. trevinwax says:

    No, Jessica.

    The above list is not official groups that one subscribes to. It’s merely a description of the different types of Southern Baptists that are out there.

    The SBC is indeed a big tent with a lot of different kinds of Southern Baptists inside.

  5. I haven’t read Dockery’s book yet, but look forward to doing so in the near future. One of the great things about the SBC is our diversity in so many areas. I would definitely fall under the Calvinist area. I look up to the Founders ministry in many ways, but also like Nine Marks in most all ways except plural eldership (to which I am opposed. I’m Baptist, not Presbyterian!).

  6. A cross between Orthodox Evangelical/Calvinist. But I consider myself a classical calvinist. But I agree with your post, and I find strengths and weaknesses within each.

    What about the McKissic/PPL types?

    What about the Erwin McManus/emergent types?

    Or was this just pointing out what was in the book?

    Good post.

  7. Mark says:

    You say, “The Calvinists provide a healthy corrective to the pragmatism that often characterizes the Revivalist and Traditionalist groups – emphasizing doctrine, ecclesiology and the importance of looking for signs of genuine conversion.” I would say, or at least HOPE, that this group goes beyond this statement. What doctrine(s) do they emphasize? There are LOTS of doctrines, and each group emphasizes one or more. Calvinists emphasize sound, Biblical doctrine — The Doctrines of Grace, to be exact. Calvinist doctrines emphasize the eternal and absolute sovereignty and the amazing Grace of God rather than the “will” of dead men in effecting regeneration and justification. They also emphasize the proclamation of the Gospel and the ability of God to work through that proclamation to draw His people, His elect, to Himself, to faith which justifies. And yes, the Calvinists also believe in the sovereignty of God over who will believe — His unconditional election, along with particular redemption of the elect. Soli Deo gloria!

  8. Dr. James Willingham says:

    Sirs: The Gospel of Sovereign Grace is the message, the theology, of the Great Awakenings and of the origins of the Great Century of Missions. It is also the message and theology that, in conjunction with the dropping down of the heavens, the presence of the heavenly, will produce the ultimate Great Awakening of the whole earth in one generation and perhaps for a thousand generations. Such is my prayer. The promises eluciated by Jonathan Edwards in his Humble Attempt which became the tract that prompted the Second Great Awakening and the Great Century of Missions and surely inspired William Carey, the promises Edwards set forth, can still be pleaded in this day and time. God grant such an Awakening is my prayer and, no doubt, is the prayer of a multitude of others. God speed the day.

  9. Funny, how the Sandy Creek Revivalists are supposed to be so suspicious of education, etc…, and yet the very impulse for education among Baptists came from the labors of two men of Separate Baptists background, namely, Richard Furman and Basil Manly, Sr.

  10. Dr. Gerald Sentongo says:

    I like the independent baptists for their music which is the same as seventh-Adventist music. But why do you disregarg the sabbath?

  11. PJ Tibayan says:

    I think I fit in the orthodox evangelical group, the Calvinist group, and the 9marks group. Thanks for the post and for the ways we need to learn from each other!

  12. Question: Where would the Reformed group fit in? Would that be a different group? Or are you saying that Reformed fit in within the Calvinist group and also in The Great Commission too. I can understand being in the Calvinist group (but not everyone in my church is Calvinist) and in The Great Commission group not listed up there. But we all are strongly into Preach the Word in expository and not entertain.

  13. Dawson says:

    So, I see this is an old post but I had to ask, “where would a guy like myself fix” I hold to a Reformed veiw of soteriology, but a third wave view of the doctrain of the Spirit (please don’t make me say the C word). It is the second that cause waves though not a big deal (secondary doctrain) unless You’re dealing with methodological and ecclesiological issues…….. So why no mention at all? I have been treated like the crazy uncle you don’t talk about so I get it. Lol.. Just curious of your thoughts.

  14. Jacob says:

    I’m a mix of 4, 5 and 6. (rhyme intended) :)

  15. Victoria says:

    Odd how he didn’t even bother to individually define “Independent” as one of the types (which would actually make it 8 types then), but yet he clearly acknowledges the existence of “Independent” as one of the types while defining the very first one in his own list! The closest he came to defining “Independent” was by saying that the “Fundamentalist” type are hard-lined people that have more in common with the “Independent” type. Ok great, but that tells me nothing about what the “Independent” type actually IS by its own definition…which in turn is also essentially not telling me what defines the “Fundamentalist” type (except to say they are a hard-lined people with more in common with Independents) because he wrote the first description on this list as being dependent upon the description of what’s probably the MAIN type of Southern Baptist that he doesn’t even bother to number in this list, much less define it! I’m just sayin’…cuz I’m still gonna have to keep searching to get a complete & clear understanding of what little bit he left out, when he did so well in defining the other types. (Sigh)

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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