[This is the third of five posts reflecting on my experience at the Southern Baptist Convention in New Orleans, LA in 2012. For more information, or to see the other posts in this series, click here.]
A resolution was brought to this year’s meeting that sought the convention’s approval of the use of the Sinners Prayer as a Biblical expression of repentance and faith. Discussions regarding this resolution were some of the more frustrating discussions of the entire convention. The resolution itself was worded in such a way to defend the Biblical practice of urging sinners to cry out to God in repentance and faith for salvation. Those opposing the motion spoke of the frustration of counseling those in their congregation who were resting their assurance on their having repeated a “sinner’s prayer,” who had not truly believed on Christ for salvation. One saw great value in it’s use evangelistically. The other, saw it as a dangerous hook upon which to hang one’s assurance.
Neither side was willing to concede to the other’s valid point. Those in support of the resolution spoke of the Scriptural command placed upon sinners to receive Christ and be saved. No argument can stand in light of Scripture in repudiation of that fact. However, those opposed to the resolution repeatedly decried the misuse of calling sinners to, “Pray after me. Dear Jesus, I know I’m a sinner…” and assuring the one repeating the prayer that, “if you prayed that prayer, you can know that you are saved.” This, they argued, places the assurance not in Christ, but in a magical incantation.
Perhaps the entire discussion would have been better served had the original author of the resolution removed a few quotation marks. Many who had difficulty stomaching the idea of affirming the use of a “sinner’s prayer,” would have had no such problem with affirming a sinner’s prayer. Nevertheless, the resolution carried and was adopted by the messengers by an almost 2-1 vote.