Southern Baptist Foot In Mouth—Again

I just received this little blurb in my email from Charisma Magazine about the latest controversy involving my former denomination and a visiting Baptist pastor. This is one of the very reasons why I left SBC behind.

Confessions of a Bapticostal
I discovered the Holy Spirit’s power in a Baptist church. So why are Baptists today trying to censor Him?

This past weekend I celebrated a spiritual anniversary of sorts. It was exactly 30 years ago last Monday that I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. What was funny about the whole experience, besides the fact that I was an 18-year-old kid with an Afro, is that I was sitting outside a Southern Baptist church when God zapped me.

It’s true. I first spoke in tongues on Baptist property!

“The Holy Ghost will not be censored. He will have the last word in this debate.”

I guess that makes me a Bapticostal. I don’t wear denominational labels, and I don’t attend a Baptist church today, but my Baptist roots go so deep you couldn’t pull them up with a bulldozer. I may act like a Pentecostal when I raise my hands, dance or shout hallelujah, but if you cut me open you’ll see Baptist blood. It runs thick in my family.

Some people think “Baptist” and “Pentecostal” are opposites, so to them the thought of matching the two is like pairing a hippopotamus with a hyena. I don’t see it that way. I never would have been drawn into a Pentecostal experience if I hadn’t been taught by Baptists to read the Bible for myself. Baptists taught me that if the Bible says it, I should believe it. So when I read that Christians in the early church spoke in ecstatic, unknown languages, I figured I could too.

And that is why I am so troubled by what happened last month at Southwestern Seminary, the premier educational institution of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). A visiting Baptist minister, Dwight McKissic—who happens to serve on the seminary’s board of trustees—told students at an Aug. 29 chapel service that he speaks in tongues “in his private prayer life.”

McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, told the audience at the Fort Worth school: “Not all Baptists believe that the gift of tongues went out with the completion of the New Testament. Some of the foremost thinkers and leaders and theologians among Baptist life believe tongues is a valid gift for today.”

He did not give a demonstration of his glossolalia, but McKissic testified that he was baptized in the Holy Spirit in 1981 while a student at Southwestern. Said McKissic: “I didn’t even believe in speaking in tongues. I was just going through my regular prayer time. As I was praying some strange words began to come out of my mouth.”

There we go again—zapped by God on Baptist property!

McKissic also criticized the SBC’s International Mission Board for its recent ruling that Southern Baptist missionaries who speak in tongues cannot serve on the field. “I think it’s tragic in Baptist life when we take a valid gift that the Bible talks about and come up with a policy that says people who pray in tongues in their private prayer lives cannot work in certain positions,” the pastor said.

Concerned that more seminary students might become Bapticostals, the president of Southwestern, Paige Patterson, officially rebuked McKissic and announced that his offending sermon would not be available on the school’s Web site. Now, some people are accusing Patterson and the seminary of religious censorship. Others are debating whether speaking in tongues should be “normative” in Baptist churches.

Normative? I’d like to ask Patterson and other SBC leaders a probing question. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with what is normative in the New Testament church than with maintaining a religious status quo? Is Jesus going to measure our spiritual fruit by a biblical standard or by a Baptist standard?

Baptists taught me from childhood that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. And my Bible says, “Forbid not to speak in tongues” (I Cor. 14:39). So why are Baptist leaders forbidding and censoring what the Bible promotes? Are they afraid that the Holy Spirit, who cannot be controlled by committees or religious policies, will misbehave?

I know hundreds of Southern Baptists—including many in prominent leadership positions—who have experienced Pentecost. They pray in tongues in their personal devotional time. They also believe in healing, spiritual warfare, casting out demons and many other biblical doctrines that are not on the list of “approved” Baptist beliefs. Many of them, like McKissic and me, were minding their own business when God invaded their ordered world with the Holy Spirit’s untamed passion.

I am praying that McKissic’s bold testimony—and the subsequent backlash against him—will spark a holy explosion among the nation’s 15 million Southern Baptists. The Holy Ghost will not be censored. He will have the last word in this debate, and He will do what He wants regardless of who owns the property.

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma .. Join him from September 27-30 for the Charisma Book Expo at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Go to for more information.

2 thoughts on “Southern Baptist Foot In Mouth—Again

  1. Dear Mr. Grady,

    I enjoyed your commentary and agree with it wholeheartedly. I have been a charismatic (Episcopalian) for 22 years and under the Lord’s direction, joined the Baptist church three years ago. The Lord spoke to me to join the Baptist church because he wanted to teach me about fellowship. He said He loves the church and if He loves it, then I must love it too. I have been in my current church, First Baptist Church Atlanta, just over a year now. I am just now becoming aware that my charismatic beliefs are considered controversial. We can sense these things you know. So I’ve decided to try to blend in rather than walk in a spirit of divisiveness. After all, we are one body and one spirit and scripture teaches us to honor and esteem others as being better than ourselves. You’re right that the Holy Spirit will not be sensored. God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. The wisdom that comes from above is peaceable and pure. In Him, Toni Wall

  2. Either God’s Word is true or it’s not. Cornelius was a gentile who received the Holy Spirit just as Peter had also received the Holy Spirit. And there is no prophecy in the New Testament that says otherwise for the gentiles who live today. The concern is the church’s spiritual battle. The secular term ‘charismatic’ is a recent addition to the English language, it is not found anywhere in scripture, and cannot truthfully describe the work of God’s Holy Spirit. Genuine Holy Spirit-filled Christians might use the term Pentecostal, but there is more to the original fruits, gifts and offices in the church than the word ‘charismatic’ can describe.
    In Christ,

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