It is true that in any arena of life, people have the capacity to position themselves intentionally or inwardly hope that they will rise to a certain platform.  While we wish that was untrue in relation to ministry, it unfortunately exists there as well.

As a pastor, I see the attempts around me and notice the trends inside me to advance our personal agendas.  But as someone who teaches the truth for a vocation, obviously, I should beyond such trivial pursuits.  When I teach from the Bible, I should be able to come from a grounds of moral and leadership superiority and yet I often discover that quite the opposite is true.

Sometimes the religious leaders are the problem.

As I study the life of Jesus, I notice that he was the kindest to the blatant sinners and roughest on the religious elite.  

Jesus rebuked and reeked havoc on the religious leaders of the days.  Addressing the prideful sins, judgmental stances, and blatant haughtiness of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, scribes, and the like, he confronted the ones who should have needed no confrontation.

Realizing this truth, it frightens me.  When I look at the seminary degrees, theological education, ministry opportunities, and networking situations that have passed my way, I realize an eerie reality: as a pastor, my résumé would read more like a Pharisee’s résumé of Jesus’ day.  My spiritual pedigree looks more like a scribe’s than a sinner’s.

If Jesus entered my world today, would He classify me as a religiously blinded know-it-all or a gratefully forgiven dependent for-it-all?

For many years, the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting was not viewed as newsworthy.  The extended business meeting of the largest Protestant denomination was never seen as an intriguing gathering by the culture at large.

As the SBC gathers June 12-13, 2018 in Dallas, more eyes are on us than ever before.  Due to some significant departures and dismissals of pastors, presidents, and professors within our Convention, people are curious as to what is going on.  In addition to the departures of key leadership, we are experiencing rising tides of significant disagreements regarding leadership directions, theological distinctives, political partnerships, and cultural issues.

As I have prayed, read, listened, and discussed with others regarding these issues, I keep coming back to one haunting question:

Who are the Pharisees in the Southern Baptist Convention?  Am I one of them?

Jesus pronounced condemnation upon those religious leaders of the day who never realized they were the problem.  Listen to these summaries and see how and if they apply:

  1. Woe to those who by their words and actions actually close the door of the Kingdom on others (Matt. 23:13-14).
  2. Woe to those who are active in missions yet are only discipling more legalists like themselves (Matt. 23:15).
  3. Woe to those who get caught in the minutia of religious service and offerings and argue about the most trivial of things (Matt. 23:16-22).
  4. Woe to those who major in the minors and minor in the majors – adamantly keeping the traditions of men while slyly neglecting the commands of God (Matt. 23:23-24).
  5. Woe to those who polish themselves as religiously elite on the outside for the others to see but their hearts are sinfully obsessed with their own advancement (Matt. 23:25-26).
  6. Woe to those who try to broadcast their righteousness to be praised by others and yet are spiritually lifeless on the inside (Matt. 23:27-28).
  7. Woe to those who memorialize a dead theologian, minister, or leader, and yet persecute the living work of Jesus happening right now (Matt. 23:29-39).

Jesus pronounced these 7 woes upon the religious leaders of His day.  This living and active Word is finding its mark on me.

With all the accusations and movement taking place, I know one thing: I don’t know who is guilty and I also know that all of us are guilty.  I’m not making a call on who deserves this and who doesn’t deserve that.  I’m just taking this opportunity to heed the reckoning.

There is sin in each of us.  God is using these travesties as a wakeup call – are you hearing it?

Jesus has no problem sifting through the religious leadership.  How would Jesus sift through the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention?  How would He label our existing pastors?  What group would I fall in?  What group would you fall in?

Who are the Pharisees in the Southern Baptist Convention?  It might be them, but it might be me.  It could be you.  Humble yourself before Jesus has to do it for you.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matt. 23:12).

Travis Agnew is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. He serves as the Senior Pastor of Rocky Creek Baptist Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is What God Has Joined Together.