"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

My Commitment Not To Exclude The SBC Minority


Now that Lifeway has affirmed that my views on the gifts of the Spirit are held by the majority of Southern Baptist pastors and churches, I affirm my commitment to not remove those Southern Baptists who hold to the minority view of cessationism from future SBC leadership, missionary assignments, or trustee service.

There is room in the SBC for us all, even those of you who disagree with what the majority of Southern Baptists believe. By the way, I have a tendency to put more trust in a Lifeway study - an official, scientific survey of the 'majority opinion' - than I do a subjective fiat from an institutional leader of what 'most' Southern Baptists believe. Of course, some might now argue that the 'majority' opinion is not what counts, but what Scripture teaches. I think I have proven over the last two years that this doctrine of 'gifts' is a tertiary issue, one in which Southern Baptists disagree, but one over which we as Southern Baptists should not divide. However, I happen to believe the majority have it right as far as our interpretation. But I say to those of you in the minority, there is room for you in the SBC.

I promise not to make the gifts an issue.

Now that Lifeway has revealed the actual majority position on 'private prayer language,' I call upon all of you who are also in the majority to join me in not seeking to remove 'cessationists' from leadership. I love all my fellow Southern Baptists and will work hard to maintain a spirit of cooperation and fellowship with those SBC brothers and sisters who hold to the minority viewpoint.


In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

P.S. Alan Cross has written a brilliant analysis on this survey.


Wade Burleson said...

Robin, Jeff, Jermey, Bart, Jack, Brad, and others . . .

I also promise to not allege you are not a true Southern Baptist.



Bill Scott said...

May it be so!

davidinflorida said...

Pastor Wade,

Good news!!!

It looks like your smile, grin, is bigger than it was yesterday.

Wade Burleson said...

No, David, I just see that the SBC is coming to grips with the natural byproduct of fighting a battle to believe the Bible.

We are finally beginning to believe it.

blackhaw66 said...


You are right. A prive prayer language is not an issue ot divide over. I have never been in favor of the hubub about it. Personally I do not believe in it but I can fellowship with others that do. There are many churches out there where the gospel is not preached or doctrine is never taught. And worse even still there are many churches where love is not practiced nor emphasized. I hope that the kind of thinking you have shown in the post above trickles down (or up) to all sectors of the SBC. Then we can get down to the business of getting rid of some of the problems I stated above. Hopefully someday we can all stop fighting over issues like this and start acting like NT Christians.

Wade Burleson said...


With that attitude you and I can go into the trenches for Christ together for the good of the world.

Oh that others would display the same spirit.


"I call upon all of you who are also in the majority to join me in not seeking to remove 'cessationists' from leadership."

I'm in.

The Milkman said...

Bro. Wade,

One difficult thing about blogs is deciphering exactly when posts are using sarcasm. The more I read your post, the more confused I get.

In the event that this is a serious victory speech, I would like to point out that such a minute sampling rate of the Southern Baptist population, as reported in the Lifeway survey, would hardly be conclusive verification of anything. Furthermore, I don't believe 50% constitutes a majority any more than I believe that the Lifeway brand makes it "official". This info is enlightening as to the scope of PPL & tongues in Baptist churches.

I concur that you are correct- that SB's need not divide over these issues, and am elated that you have condescended not to remove dissenters from their posts.

okay, that was a little sarcastic.

Geoff Baggett said...


Interesting study. Since the study only included telephone calls to a sample of 405 SBC pastors, I would be interested in the "margin or error," as well as other statistical analysis. This would include ages of the pastors, level of theological education, etc...

Interestingly, recent seminary graduates do reflect a majority that affirms a cessasionist view. That is ample "meat" for an entirely different study. Is solid theological education a key factor?

You said, "Now that LifeWay has affirmed that my views on the gifts of the Spirit are held by the majority of Southern Baptist pastors and churches..."

As I examined the results on belief in "Private Prayer Languages," the results of the study among SBC pastors were:
Yes (Believe): 50%
No (Do Not Believe): 43%
Don't Know: 7%

I do not intend or pretend to dispute outright the results of this study, but as a student of statistics I have to point out a simple, but critical, flaw in your statement. 50% does not a "majority" make … in any analysis. In an electoral race or statistical analysis where there are three components, the largest of the three (if the largest of the three does not exceed 50%) is a simple plurality.

That same plurality was demonstrated in the cessasionist / non-cessasionist question.

I suppose that I am most concerned that 7-9% of our pastors, it seems, don't really know what they believe.

Indeed, I am somewhat suspect of the outcome because I am not quite clear regarding definitions used. What definition of "cessasionist" or "continualism" were used? How was "Private Prayer Language" described ... as cohesive language or ecstatic utterance? Again, much remains unclear.

What this study does reflect is two distinctly divergent, yet widely held views. Not a lot of middle ground has been revealed.

Personally, I would love to see a convention-wide study where every pastor is polled on this subject. Surely we have the capacity. I fill out those annoying "pastoral compensation" surveys almost every year.

Yes, an interesting study … but I would be a bit hesitant to jump to too many gleeful conclusions.

blackhaw66 said...


I think Wade's speech could be very sarcastic also. However I think it is better to just look at the spirit of the blog and not try to nit pick it. In this instance I have decided to take the Wade is saying that we need not fight over issues like private prayer languages or the whole women thing (okay that is me) but instead fight against the things that are real problems in the SBC. And we all know that the SBC does have problems. I have meant no offense to you in this post and do not want to be speaking for Wade. However I just wanted to give you an interpretation of what Wade is saying from one who has been critical of his blogs in the past.

Anonymous said...

I think a model of how the cessationist/non-cessationist relationship should work can be seen in the friendship of Al Mohler and C.J. Mahaney. Mohler is a committed cessationist and Mahaney believes that the spiritual gifts are still valid. Depite their differences Mahaney is invited to speak in chapel at Southern Seminary, Mohler speaks at the Sovereign Grace Churches and at their conferencesand, they seem to be the best of friends. They are united by the Gospel and can overcome the secondary issues.

John Moeller said...


No parade, no rubbing it in, no noogies in their heads? You want US to accept them? What’s the fun of that?

YOU want me to lay down my sword and hug their neck and say, “it’s ok, you were just misinformed.”

Gosh Wade, …heck...that would be….Christ like….We can’t have any of that around HERE!

I’ll just wait and see, this fight ain’t over… I’ll bet they want a recount. There must be hanging chads. Maybe they misunderstood the question….

John Moeller said...


58.3% of all statistics are fabricated……

Debbie said...

Wade: I give an amen and another amen.

Debbie said...

Anonymous: You are the first ever Anonymous poster that I have agreed with.

Robert Hutchinson said...

the people who did this study are sbc seminary ph.d. trained.

if you dis the results of the research either you don't trust any statistics ever, or you are a conspiracy theorist or you question the ability of our seminaries to provide us with competent, capable and objective researchers.

martyduren said...

That's 59.3%.

martyduren said...

Who's "Jermey"?

Bowden McElroy said...

Good social science research begets more questions and more research. I too would like to see more surveys.

At least those of us in the 50% can no longer be easily written off as a small - and therefore unimportant - minority.

milkman said...


The "whole women thing"??? Certainly, I think the majority (51% or more) of Southern Baptist men-folk agree with me and assuredly prefer their women whole.

As you instructed, I was trying to discern the spirit of the post-- thus my confusion as to the sarcasm issue.

And, yes, in the end I agree w/ both you and Brother Wade that we should not divide over this issue; though I dare not venture off into the women issue you spoke of.

One well-disguised point in my original comment was that triumphalism expressed by those who are in the (perceived)majority or in leadership/power can be very divisive and is usually not helpful.

I simply thought the post sounded more like the comforting words Al Gore spoke to G.W.Bush before they counted the Florida votes.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

It appears at first glance that the study contradicts itself in several places.

One might also question how 400 people resulting in 50% proves anything when there are over 40,000 churches in the SBC. I see if anything a problem with a few of the questions and I see a mixed report.

Maybe a convention wide study would be the most beneficial. I would not be smiling of victory nor frowning of being minority from this report. It is weak from a statistical standpoint at best.

Charles R. said...

Rule of Human Nature #1:
Majority rules...unless I'm in the minority.

Rule of Human Nature #2:
Any statistic in which we find ourselves in the majority is to be supported and quoted ad nauseum ad infinitum. Any statistic in which we are in the minority is to be declared suspect.

Anonymous said...

Tim Guthrie,

Are you then willing to say that there are many more 5 point Calvinists in the convention than the 10% quoted from Lifeway?

Either Lifeway Research has their act together, or they need to be disbanded. You can't pick and choose which survey you like.

Mike W.

Brad said...

This proves nothing but that the Burleson Blogger Coalition is more far-reaching than we thought! You got to Ed Stetzer, didn't you?! We should have seen it coming once he got involved with Acts 29! You see once you start drinking beer you'll accept anything.


In truth, I am really shocked by these numbers. I kind of like being in the minority. As a white guy in his 30s, I don't get to claim that very often.

Alan Cross said...

People who are calling this a weak study because they think that it is too small a sampling do not know anything about polling data or representative samples. It is amazing to me that people who have trumpeted that only a SMALL percentage of Southern Baptists even believe that PPL is biblical are not calling into question Lifeway's research. If you listen to the podcast, even they were surprised by what they found.

Come on guys. If this study, using 400 SB pastors had said that 90% of SB pastors were cessationists, I don't think you would question the study. You are proving the depth of your own bias here. Even when presented with facts, you refuse to admit that there is a sizable group of Baptists who are continuationists.

When will we begin to deal in truth?

Alan Cross said...

By the way, Wade. I will join with you in letting Cessationists stay in the SBC.

Jack Maddox said...

Hey Wade

thanks for not removing me from the SBC when even in your comment you misrepresent my position. I am part of the 62% that believe that it is the ability to speak in another language and I am a part of the 50% that believe it is still given to SOME believers.

It would seem that a whopping 28% believe it to be some kind of ecstatic PPL

So who is in the majority Wade...and who is in the minority?

But either way, I am grateful that "You" will "Allow" me and those like me to stay in the SBC. I could hardly sleep last night I was so tore up over the prospect that "You" might give me the boot!

By the way...I really did not know "you" had that kind of pull with the Kings of the SBC...if I did, I would have been a lot nicer to you : )

is there a resolution on humility out there somewhere?


Pastor Chuck Bryce said...

Wikedpedia is admittedly not the most trusted of sources but here is a link that may answer the question of whether or not this was a large enough sample to generate honest results. In other words is a sample of 405 SBC Pastors representative of pastors of, say, the round number of 45,000 churches?

There is a graph at the top of the first page which, if I understand it correctly, shows this number (405) would deliver a margin of error of somewhere between 5% and 10%. (Closer to the 5 than the 10.

There is an illustration about ¾ of the way through the article involving the statistics behind the polling of the 2004 US Presidential election. I notice there that a sampling of a little over a thousand voters was representative produced a slight edge for Mr. Kerry. Still, the actual results of the election were within the polls margin of error.

From this I “un-expertly” conclude two things. First, the sampling size of 405 seems large enough to deliver an accurate analysis. Second, even if the margin of error was as high as 10% there would still be a statistical result that revealed a very significant portion of SBC Pastors grant much more leeway over this issue than we have so far seen in the actions of some Southern Baptist entities.

Absent of any conclusive word in Scripture that renders itself an unassailable position we should keep the tent open to both cessationists and continualists.



G. Alford said...

Tim Guthrie

One might also question how 400 people resulting in 50% proves anything when there are over 40,000 churches in the SBC.

One might also question how only 9,000 people meeting at the convention each year proves anything when there are over 16,000,000 (their number not mine) Southern Baptist…

But I am sure you are not going to questioning the validity of the whole Convention system are you?

Grace to all,

Alan Cross said...


I think that you read the data wrong.

But, even if you were right, 28% is still a signficant portion - much larger than 10% of baptist pastors who are Calvinists. But, you're not right in that the 50% says that they believe in tongues as a prayer language to God. I take the 62% to mean that that many believe in tongues as a recognizable language as well. I am in that number too. That's why 1 Cor. 12:10 says there are "different kinds of speaking in tongues." Just saying.

I also answered your question on Bart's blog from last night.

volfan007 said...

i have a question about the study. if i understand correctly, most of the people questioned were not even sb's? is this true?

and, if so, how does this tell us what sb's believe?


Anonymous said...

As the brother ahead of me just posted, there is not a conclusive word in Scripture about the PPL debate...

And now we know that there are more SBC pastors who believe in the possibility of God giving a PPL, than there are pastors that believe the Holy Spirit does not give such a thing.

As brothers and sisters in Christ, this should be an issue than we can agree to disagree about but still respect and honor each other while partnering to share the gospel, send missionaries, and plant churches.

It's time for the NAMB and IMB policies, guidelines... to change.

This convention exists to do mission, and we are running off a lot of good people with these policy/guidelines. The former IMB policy trusted regional leadership to deal with abuses or errors when it came to PPL or use of spiritual gifts. Let's return to that. What say ye?

Darren Casper

Jack Maddox said...


I see your point...according to this study then it would seem that 50% of the 62% believe that we can speak in other languages (Known languages) as the spirit gives us utterance in our prayer closet? I do not see the point in that and most folks I know who hold to a PPL believe it to be a ‘angelic’ or ‘heavenly’ language.

I would be very interested in the questions posed...I think if anything this study shows that we are very confused over what this issue is...I know I am in a personal study myself concerning this issue.

Jack "Kileo my shundi who stola my honda an untida my bow tie" Maddox

: )

volfan007 said...




blackhaw66 said...


"The "whole women thing"???" I am referring to the woman clause (whatver it is officially called) in the BF&M. I do not think it should be in the BF&M. It is not an issue I want to die for. I have my own opinions about the role of women in the church and the home but I really do not think for the most part that it is an issue to divide over or to put in a creedal type of statement.

AS far as the rest of your post to me. Okay.

Brad said...

I do have one observation, whatever it's worth. Either here or on another blog about this same topic, I noticed you commented (at least I'm pretty sure it was you - can't find it now) that you were encouraged to see that the CR fought for the inerrancy of the Bible and this points to the fact that we are beginning to put it into practice (I'm paraphrasing, but I believe I got the point right). The Lifeway study, which I'm not disputing the numbers of, points out that the younger seminary grads are cessationists by a majority. I wonder if that includes people like me (you continue to mislabel me a cessationist) who are "open, but cautious." My point is that the younger seminary grads are the children of the CR, not the older.

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

g alford,

Why so broad in your response to my question. If you take the numbers and look at the questions, saying 50% believe something is possible yet not definable is not a stretch nor me proving or trying to prove anything. I am making a obvious critical analysis. Please re-read, I would not be smiling or frowning from this report period. There is no clear acceptable definition given. No discussion of that definition thus????????

As to the SBC - all are granted a opportunity to go and vote and I have no problem with that - I do not however adjust my belief on what a group of people vote - that comes from the Word of God not a convention.


Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...


I am impressed with your gift of the spirit, my boys were rolling as I read that one out loud!


Anonymous said...

It is interesting that in this study they polled a group of recent seminary graduates. I cannot remember if they did the same thing with the Calvinist study.

I would like to see a study done to see what percentage of recent seminary graduates are 4 or 5 point Calvinists. I thnk the results from all the seminaries would shock the older generation of pastors.

Ron P. said...

I would recommend the excellent analysis of Dr. Malcolm Yarnell on this "research":

Dr. Malcolm Yarnell's Response to Lifeway PPL Report

Ron P.

volfan007 said...

some stats from the report that say a lot to me are...

1. 62% of sb pastors believe that it's a known language.
...only 28% beleive that it's ecstatic utterance.

2. less than 6% of sb seminary graduates practice a ppl.

that should answer a lot about where we stand on this issue. mostly, we beleive that it's a known language...unknown to the speaker.

and, we see that there arent that many practicing it.

the one thing that the study shows that concerns me greatly is the one area where 50% of the sb pastors polled beleived in speaking in tongues in public. that's very troubling.

that is, if the study is really accurate.


RKSOKC66 said...


You have the patience of Job. Your MO is moving slowly and deliberately and picking up -- and turning over -- every stone.

You are making headway. Thanks for leading by example!!

I guess, I'd be too impetutous to make progress. I'd want quicker results.

I wouldn't be wasting my time getting my hands dirty like you are doing. I wouldn't be such a lightening rod. I'd probably do a cost-benefit analysis and not even go into the arenas that you are going into because the amount of "ruckus" is not justified by the importance of the activity or the liklihood of any "tangible" results.

Two that come to mind are the Carter meeting and the recent resolution you introduced. Both of them have generated quite a bit of heat -- with very little light -- in my opinion. But hey, over time my opinion my be demonstrated to be wrong. At least I hope so!

You have the gift of working in parallel in every facet of advancing you goal of openess and "fresh air" and never getting burned out. You are willing to roll up your sleeves and engage the issues and work incrementally over time in a tempered way.

That's why you are making progress. People are gravitating to your irenic message because in the final analysis it represents not only the best hope for the SBC but also it encapulates the essence of what it is to be in the SBC, to be a Baptist, to be an Evangelical, and to be a Christian.

The breath of fresh air is starting to circulate now into previously stagnant precincts.

Roger K. Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

G. Alford said...

Tim Guthrie,

As to the SBC - all are granted a opportunity to go and vote and I have no problem with that.

Are all really granted an opportunity to go and vote? Hardly! In theory perhaps… but in reality… No Way.

I was just pointing out that a fraction of Southern Baptist make the decisions for, represent the opinions of, the whole 16 Million (again their number) of us all the time and no one makes an issue of it.

(9,000 / 16,000,000 = .0005%) That’s 5/Thousandths of a one percent voter turn out… Ouch!

But then we Baptist are known for our Democratic government aren’t we?

Grace to all,

Bro. Robin said...


In reference to the comment you made on my site and the comment you made here (Actually, I consider it an honor I was first on your mind), I have posted my response to this report on my blog. It also contains a statement from Dr. Yarnell concerning this study.

I would not get giddy yet.

Bro. Robin said...


"If this study, using 400 SB pastors had said that 90% of SB pastors were cessationists, I don't think you would question the study."

Yes I would question the study because I believe in truth and fairness. BTW, I know what I am talking about when I mention the small sampling size.

Anonymous said...

Who at Lifeway did the study? It would be interesting to know the person/persons position on PPL who did the study.
A man joined our church after spending 42 years in the Navy always makes the following statement about surveys: "Surveys proved only what the person who does the survey wants to prove. They mean absolutely nothing." After being his pastor for 5 years, I have learned never to quote a survey concerning anything or he will challenge me.
I have tons of respect for people at Lifeway, yet I want more details about this survey before I put much "stock" in it.

Gleason, TN

Wade Burleson said...

Roger K. Simpson,

On behalf of my wife and children, I join them in saying thank you for a very kind comment. You, above anyone else I have read, have precisely nailed why I am doing what I am doing.

Though the opinion of others does not drive my train, it is enjoyable to hear, every now and then, from someone who really comprehends me.


Wade Burleson said...

I can't help but chuckle at the attempts to discredit Lifeway's research.

Bro. Robin said...

I chuckle at your inability to support the methodology in their research. :-)

Wade Burleson said...


Inability to support the research?

What happened to all the posts you wrote about 'trusting' those in positions of authority and the trustees who oversee them?

Where is your 'trust' in Lifeway.

Are you alleging they have done something wrong? Unethical? Immoral?

I frankly thank you realize Lifeway just disproved what many of you assumed.

It shows us all the dangers of assumptions.

Charles R. said...

Dear Cessationists,
Why does it really matter if your position "wins" majority position in the Lifeway poll? If another poll were taken with a higher sampling and you still came out in the minority, would it change your conviction regarding PPL? Or is this tempest in a teapot more about being a member of an "in crowd" -- like the cool kids table in junior high?

It's ok to be in a minority if it's reflects your core conviction. After all, Jesus definitely held minority positions when he walked the earth.

Bill Scott said...

G. Alford,
According to the figure you posted that is 5/ten thousandths of one percent....double ouch!

Winning Truth w/Tim Guthrie said...

I would recommend reading Yarnells response. As to chuckling about people questioning the research arm of Lifeway - maybe it is the same chuckle I have when I hear you and Ben and others question others in authority (at least I do not attack or suppose to represent others while spinning the attack.

g alford,
for the life of me I have no idea what your quoting these crazy numbers proves or is trying to prove. Do you not accept that a any report should withstand scrutiny? Even a vote of the SBC? And as for theory of practice in going to a convention etc, does your reasoning apply to the electoral process of our country? Just a thought!


Anonymous said...

Tim Guthrie,

I agree, I don't base my theology, nor "adjust my belief based upon what people vote."

My beliefs, which could be characterized as a cautious continualist position, are based upon the Word of God.

And that's the issue here isn't it? Many Southern Baptists are finding their beliefs regarding the gifts in Scripture, yet many are arriving at different conclusions. This should be a secondary, or tertiary matter that does not divide nor hurt partnership and cooperation for the sake of doing mission.

Would you agree?


David Eaton said...

I did read Yarnell's comment and I have to say, and I have no dog in this fight or much concern over the outcome of the survey, that his comment didn't touch at all on the statistical issues involved. In fact it was quite interesting for other reasons...I thought post-modern thought (we can't really know) was bad (because it weakens propositional truth), and yet one of his points was that using surveys is too dependent on modernity. So are the "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" books but no one seems to mind in that case.

Combining two surveys into one report? As long as you are reporting that multiple surveys were given (one to pastors/seminary students, one to laypeople or whatever the breakdown may be) that's not really a problem. It's only a problem when you try to combine the data into one pool. Reporting multiple related surveys in one paper is not an issue at all.

The basic, yet unspoken, assertion of many is that for whatever reason (which no one addresses), Lifeway wanted to find support for speaking in tongues. For what reason? Why would Lifeway, a for profit firm, want to rig a survey to alienate an overwhelming majority of the people to whom it sells its product? That makes no sense.

(By the way, if tongues are known languages, unknown to the speaker, why do we care if someone has the experience of praying in French in private, when they don't know French...it only seems to matter if we think the tongue is an ecstatic utterance).

There are legitimate issues with doing surveys (how do you account in a phone survey if certain demographic groups are far less likely to have land line phones, do you continue to call numbers until you get an answer or do you skip numbers with no answer, that was a problem behind some of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" issue) but sample size isn't one of them. A sample of 400 people has a relatively small margin of error, going to 4,000 people isn't going to buy you very much in terms of additional accuracy.

If Yarnell's critique of the survey was turned in for an assignment in my undergraduate research methods class, it wouldn't be graded as it spends very little time critiqing, only the concerns over the questions approach a critique of the survey.

To critique well you question whether you have appropriate data, whether it was analyzed using proper techniques, and whether you are asking the data questions they can answer. Yarnell, and most of the comments I've read on many blogs, don't focus on any of those.

David Eaton
Professor of Economic
Ph.D. Michigan, 1995
Major Field: Econometrics

(The last part is not bragging, but simply to assert the authority behind my comments regarding statistical methods.)

Malcolm Yarnell said...

Dear Dr. Eaton,

I would have to say that you need to read my critique again, for it certainly deals with the factors you say are worthy of critique, especially the last factor.

In Christ,

NativeVermonter said...

I grow so weary of this infighting and I don't even post! How about a Lifeway study on how Southern Baptists can't seem to give a reasoned and Biblical defense of the Faith?? How about a Lifeway study on how our youth are fodder for every whim of false doctrine as soon as they hit college? How about a resolution on Biblical illiteracy? How many rank and file SBC'ers are equipped to engage the Roman Catholic, the Mormon? Friends, there are souls in bondage and precious few soul winners. As a SBC layperson, someone tell me why I would want to waste precious vacation time to go to this convention? This Reformed Baptist sees little to gain from a trip such as that.

John in the STL

RKSOKC66 said...

I agree with Dr. Yarnell that there are some "defects" in the questions in the poll.

I don't know how significantly it would change the result if the questions were "tightened up".

Regardless of the explicit purpose of the study, and independent of the "defects" in the study due to ambiguities in the meaning of words, the study to me [I admit I'm just shooting from the hip here] seems to anecdotically suggest that some percentage of the respondents [maybe between 10% and 50%] are at least "tolerant" of PPL -- even if they don't embrace it themselves and/or know much about it.

I think that the polling should be redone along the lines that Dr. Yarnell suggests. For some subset of those polled, the results could be different than in the Lifeway poll. "Some" respondents however may have taken the meaning of ambiguous words in the same way as the pollsters assumed. "Other" responsents, like myself (if I was answering) don't have the requisite theological training to really parse the nuanced arguments that attach to charismatic activity in today's Baptist life so a more "nuanced" "teasing out" of their position on "gifts" might not be possible.

On balance, I think a "unsophisticated" interpretation of the poll suggests that the tolerance (not acceptance or practice) of PPL is between 10% and 50% across the SBC. I could be proven wrong, but I don't think a subsequent poll -- with defects removed -- would come up with a different result.

I don't think those who are PPL practitioners (by whatever definition) exceeds 50%. Also, I don't think the that those who use PPL are out in the 2 or 3 sigma region and are on the tail as stistical outliers.

Roger K. Simpson
Oklahoma City OK

Geoff Baggett said...

Excellent points all. More study is needed.

Robert Hutchison & Alan Cross,

Just in case your comments on "questioning the study" or calling it "weak" were aimed at me ... To clarify - I do not doubt the quality or results of this study, or of those who performed it. I would in no way characterize it as weak. Indeed, I commend our researchers for attempting to bring some clarity to the debate over this issue.

But, alas, it seems that this may have done little more than add a bit more "mud" to the waters. :)

My point is quite simple ... the definitions that we use for "tongues," "prayer languages," "cessationism," and "continualism" are so "spread over the map" that it is difficult to make sense of the questions themselves, much less the answers. We can be talking to one another about these issues, using the exact same words, but have completely different conversations. Other commenters have attempted to make that point. I am quite confident that any sampling of pastors could interpret (or misinterpret) these questions in many different ways.

Especially interesting to me is the fact that a distinct majority of recent seminary graduates (55%) hold cessasionist views. This would seem to indicate that theological education since the conservative resurgence has a distinct impact. Again, what is the impact of seminary training (or lack thereof) on the views of pastors queried in this survey? And I find it a bit curious that the views of recent seminary graduates toward "private prayer languages" is noticeably absent from the report ... at least I couldn't find it. (Does anyone know that figure, or why it was not reported?)

Personally, I question the value of opinion polls when it comes to issues of theology. I don't think opinion polls are a good way to "do church."

I especially wonder about such polls among pastors. In my neck of the woods, many of the pastors refuse theological education and affectionately refer to seminary as "cemetery." Indeed, I have encountered pastors who seem convinced that John the Baptist was the first Baptist pastor, that Jesus spoke in King James English, Paul and Silas carried a KJV Bible (The Authorized version), and that a church is apostate if it uses songs in worship that are not included in the Baptist hymnal (inspired version) ... and they lead their churches to formulate similar beliefs.

Something to think about ...

Wade, sorry for the novel. ;) I'm enjoying all of the rowdy debate.

Blessings to all. :)

Anonymous said...

Polls mean nothing when it comes to Christianity. If Noah was governed by a poll, he would have never gotten on the ark.
Gene Price
Gleason, TN

R. L. Vaughn said...

g. alford wrote "(9,000 / 16,000,000 = .0005%) That’s 5/Thousandths of a one percent voter turn out… Ouch!"

According to the Constitution of the SBC, each church is allowed one (1) messenger; one (1) additional messenger for every two hundred and fifty (250) members; or for each $250.00 paid to the work of the Convention; up to a maximum of ten (10).

If we take the number of churches (circa 42,000) X the maximum allowable messenger count from each church, the greatest amount that could "legally" vote would be 420,000. Nine-thousand (9000), if I am figuring correctly, would be a little over 2%. Still not that good of a turnout, but a little different from 5/Thousandths of a one percent.

Rob Westbrook said...

Dr Eaton,

It is my understanding that LifeWay is not a "for profit" organization but a "not for profit" organization.


Robert Hutchinson said...

brother baggett,

my comment was not directed to you personally.

the results were dramatic and i was surprised by the results myself. yet, i know a little bit about how sampling is done and that if done properly the results of a survey will have a significant degree of accuracy.

now, for me to think that the survey was improperly performed i have to conclude that the researcher was incompetent and unless another survey is performed by an independent authority i choose to belive that our sbc seminary trained ph.d. graduates know how to conduct good research.

that was all i was trying to communicate to whoever happened to read my comment.

i'm glad you asked.

Lee said...


I'm really surprised by the Lifeway survey, pleasantly so. With pastors divided right down the middle on this issue, it is clear that trustee boards enforcing one particular doctrinal position in their policies are disenfranchising half of their constituency, which is unacceptable any way you look at it. That means they are excluding members of churches that are likely providing half of their budget from participation.

I share Geoff's reaction to the 7% of pastors who didn't really know what they believe. That is disturbing. I'd say that the fact that recent seminary graduates lean more toward the cessationist side (though statistically not by much) is a reflection of what they learned in the classroom. But then, younger pastors who are recent seminary graduates do not have the experience serving the churches, and experience is a much more effective teacher than the seminary classroom. Reliance on the Holy Spirit isn't something that can be taught in a seminary classroom, and having been a recent seminary graduate once myself, I know the tendency is to rely on what you've learned in school when you get to a new church situation. It takes time to learn that you really need to rely on the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, the lessons are painful.

Predictably, those who favor a cessationist view are downplaying the survey, and finding ways to divert attention from the results, and those who are continualists are citing it as evidence that sits just to the right of inerrancy and infallibility. Setting aside those extremes, here is a wonderful opportunity for Southern Baptists to turn a disagreement into a win-win situation that benefits the kingdom, sets aside personal agendas, and doesn't disenfranchise a segment of the denomination. We really need for that to happen.

Wade Burleson said...

Never a better comment written on this blog.

G. Alford said...

R.L. Vaughn,

I concede the point… 2% of those messengers eligible to vote do so.

However if you are trying to discover what “the majority of all Southern Baptist believe” then I submit that the convention is not the place to do it.

As I understand it there are 45,000 churches in the SBC, however your number of 42,000 might be closer to the truth (we have a little history of over reporting the numbers in the SBC). I have been told that 2,000 churches were represented at last year’s convention, so here is another figure for you:

(2,000 / 42,000 = .0476%) That means that less than ½ of one percent of all Southern Baptist Churches were represented at last year’s convention…

Ok let me reverse that statement: Over 99.5 % of all Southern Baptist churches were not represented at last year’s convention… Again OUCH!

Regardless of how you run the numbers… it is a sad indictment on our claims of being a Democratic Convention, and for anything coming out of any convention as being a representation of the will of all Southern Baptist or what all Southern Baptist believe.

Grace to all,

Alan Cross said...

Regarding percentages, if we have 400 SB pastors sampled out of 45,000 churches, isn't that a little under 1% of all SB pastors surveyed? That is a huge sample.

To get a similar sample in presidential polls of registered voters, we would have to have a sample poll of over a million people per poll. Most political polls actually poll around 1000 people and they are pretty close to the mark. That would be 0.001% of the total voting population, yet they usually produce a poll that has a margin of error of 3-5%.

Just sayin'.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Greg, I agree that "if you are trying to discover what 'the majority of all Southern Baptist believe' then I submit that the convention is not the place to do it." (for several reasons).

My mention of the percentage of voters was just about perspective of how many people would actually be eligible to vote at the SBC. Concerning the 42,000/45,000 churches issue, that might be the difference between US churches versus the total international? Don't really know for sure.

Bro. Robin said...


I trust yet verify. I did so with the IMB, I have done so with Lifeway. I have not claimed anyone has done anything unethical or immoral, only that the methodology lacked good statistical standards.

Please don't put words into my mouth.

BTW, I am still chuckling.

Bro. Robin said...


And we see how well polling has done in previous elections. BTW, we aren't talking about 45000 churches, we are talking about 16000000 people.

Bryan Riley said...

Thinking about polling and the percentage who believe it can happen and the lower percentage of those who practice it made me think that I shouldn't at all be surprised by that. I hope that 100% of pastors would claim to believe in love, forgiveness, bearing, giving, laying down their lives, seeking more to serve others than to serve themselves, seeking more to win souls for the Kingdom than to be right, never saying anything unwholesome, never complaining or arguing, and the like, but it seems that the evidence suggests (not the evidence of a poll but what we see here and on other blogs) that a much lower percentage practice these things.

Anonymous said...

"Now that Lifeway has affirmed that my views on the gifts of the Spirit are held by the majority of Southern Baptist pastors and churches, I affirm my commitment to not remove those Southern Baptists who hold to the minority view of cessationism from future SBC leadership, missionary assignments, or trustee service."

Your most arrogant statment yet.

Oklahoma Joe

OKpreacher said...


We need to do all we can to unity Southern Baptists. The report showed that many Southern Baptists believe the proper response to PPL is freedom. I hope the IMB and SWBTS will change thier rules concerning PPL. I hope that at the convention instead of focusing on PPL, people can focus on unity and getting back to the business of sending missionaries and spreading our faith around the world.


Wade Burleson said...

Oklahoma Joe,

If I had a dollar for every time someone who does not know me called me arrogant I'd be a rich man. I accept your comment that you perceive the statement to be arrogant, but I wrote the statement in a slightly whimsical mood to point out what the real problem is within our convention ---

Our problem is not the continuationist or cessationist doctrines -- our problem is the attempts by people in one camp (the cessationist) to exclude from the mission field or convention leadership those who hold to a continuationist position on the field experientially.

Wade Burleson said...

You trust and verify (and agree) with the IMB because they did what you wished . . .

You (dis)trust and verify (the distrust) with Lifeway because they verified something with which you disagree.

Sorry Robin, that's the truth.

Bro. Robin said...


You talk about not making assumptions about anyone's motives, don't make assumptions as to why I have made my decisions about the Lifeway report other than what I have stated. Faulty methodology.

Still chuckling.

LivingDust said...

This whole issue (cessationists vs continualists) reminds me of the Dr. Suess story of the Sneetches. The story says that some of the Sneetches had big stars painted on their belly and some of the Sneetches did not. The Star-bellied Sneetches expressed their superiority over the Plain-bellied Sneetches. Star-bellied Sneetches would not associate with Plain-bellied Sneetches. One day a guy named Sylvester McMonkey McBean came along told the Plain-bellied Sneetches that he could fix them up with a star on their belly for $3 per Sneetche. Before long all Sneetches had stars on their belly. The original Star-bellied Sneetches still insisted that they were the superior Sneetches. Then McBean, knowing an opportunity, returned later to offer the removal of stars for $10 each. Before long he had taken all the money the Sneetches possessed. In the end the Sneetches realized that they were all Sneetches and that no Sneetch was better than another Sneetch.

The SBC seems to be at a point in time where the Star-bellied Baptists are insisting that they are superior to the Plain-bellied Baptists.

The fact is, as belivers, the same blood covers our sin, we follow the same risen Lord and we are filled with the same Holy Spirit and we are children of the same Father.