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Allen wants to ‘make the main thing the main thing’ in the SBC

NASHVILLE (BP) – David Allen has been preaching the Gospel for a long time. That’s because he got an early start. Allen said God called him when he was only 16 years old.

Allen, 67, is one of the known candidates to be nominated for SBC president at the 2024 SBC Annual Meeting and said he’s blessed to have been in church all his life, literally. “Actually, I was attending nine months before I was born,” he told Baptist Press.

Growing up in Rome, Ga., his family was active at West Rome Baptist Church, and it was there that he heard the Gospel. He came to faith in Christ when he was 9.

As a junior in high school, he sensed God calling him to ministry, and he began thinking about “what that would mean and what I would do.”

Before he knew where he wanted to attend college, he knew he wanted to go to seminary – even which seminary he wanted to attend.

He calls having clarity at a young age “very unusual,” but he knew he wanted to attend Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary – a school that has played a significant role in his life for decades.

Allen was a charter member of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, and in February 1977, became the first staff member ever hired.

He graduated from college in May 1978, got married in July and started Southwestern in August. He served at Prestonwood until 1982.

Over the years, he’s served as a senior pastor, a trustee of Southwestern and a faculty member there. He is currently teaching at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary and investing in preachers through his ministry called preachingcoach.com.

Encouraging others to give to an ‘absolute genius’ idea

“The Cooperative Program (CP) is … the absolute best method of allowing a group of churches to pool their resources together in a significant way to do far more for the kingdom of God than they could ever do individually,” Allen said.

During his years of pastoring and serving as an interim pastor, he regularly encouraged churches to increase their giving through CP.

Allen, whose son and daughter-in-law served as International Mission Board missionaries, calls CP the “bloodline and lifeline of Southern Baptists.”

He said he knows there are concerns in the SBC, but he doesn’t believe they should be used as a reason to stop giving to CP.

“When I travel around and churches … tell me their concerns about some aspects of the Convention, and they tell me that they have diminished their giving or they’ve cut back or curtailed their giving to the Cooperative Program,” he said, “while I understand those concerns, in fact, share some of them, but, nevertheless, I encourage those churches don’t stop giving to the Cooperative Program. No, please continue to give and increase your giving because there are so many wonderful things that the Cooperative Program supports, and I think it’s vital that we be supportive of it.”

Allen has taught thousands of students over 18 years at Southwestern Seminary and has encouraged them to lead their churches to lean in to CP and being Southern Baptist.

“Churches do need to have a proactive plan of promoting what it means to give through the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “Stewardship involves not only teaching the biblical parameters of stewardship, what all is involved in that, but also explaining what does it mean to be a Southern Baptist, who we are and how we operate and the Cooperative Program is crucial to that.”

He encourages pastors to find ways to help churches increase giving through CP to 10 percent of their annual budget.

The role of SBC president

Allen acknowledged the SBC president “surprisingly, has a minimal amount of authority”, but he believes the role is still important, especially due to the president’s role in naming the SBC’s Committee on Committees.

“The reason that’s crucial is because that committee then appoints a Committee on Nominations and … that committee … winds up essentially recommending people to serve on the boards of trustees of our agencies and our entities in the Southern Baptist Convention … because all of our agencies and entities are governed by boards of trustees,” he said.

“If I am elected president that would be something that I would give very careful prayer and attention to. … I would only recommend only place people on … committees who are solidly Southern Baptist, doctrinally solid and cooperatively solid, committed to cooperating in the Southern Baptist Convention.”

He would be looking for Southern Baptists “who believe in truth, trust and transparency,” he said.

Allen also sees the helpful role the president plays in being “a cheerleader and a spokesman” for “all of the good that we do as Southern Baptists.”

Concerns among Southern Baptists

Allen believes transparency is an appropriate concern for Southern Baptists. First, because “Southern Baptist are the ones who pay the bills,” he said, they deserve financial transparency. Second, there is a desire for openness. “This is an issue of trust,” he said.

“If Southern Baptists feel that their entities or agencies or leaders or boards of trustees are trying to hide things … then perception is reality. Those are three words I’ve tried to live by in my ministry. Perception is reality, even though it may not be reality, it’s perception is reality to people.”

He believes a good starting point is “forthright answers” from the floor of the annual meeting.

“When we lose trust, we lose the foundation of cooperation,” he said. “And when we lose the foundation of cooperation, we lose ministry effectiveness. And that’s why I think transparency is really crucial at this point.”

When it comes to sexual abuse among Southern Baptist churches, Allen said from talking to pastors, he believes, “We don’t have a crisis, but we do have a problem.”

And, it is a problem that must be addressed, he said.

“It cannot be swept under the rug,” he said. “It cannot be denied.”

He listed five things he would to address the issue if he’s elected president:

  • “No. 1 is that we have to do it by biblical principles. We have to have justice but it must be biblical justice.
  • “We have to have genuine compassion for those who are survivors of sexual abuse.
  • “We have to have a financially prudent plan to address this issue.
  • “We have to have sound legal strategies to address it.
  • “And finally, a methodologically wise blueprint for action.”

Another issue in front of messengers headed to Indianapolis in the so-called Law Amendment and the role of women in pastoral ministry.

“Well, first of all, regarding women in ministry, where would Southern Baptists be if women did not serve in roles of ministry?” Allen said. “I can tell you where we would be – nowhere . Because if you look at the history of the Southern Baptist Convention, the role of women in ministry service in our local churches is crucial. It’s vital.”

While he believes the Baptist Faith and Message is clear on who can serve as a pastor, he also believes there is a need for the clarification to be added to the SBC Constitution.

“We believe Scripture addresses it clearly,” he said, “that the role of pastor or elder or overseer – those three terms that are used interchangeably for the office of a local church pastor – that that should be filled only by men.”

Focusing on the main thing

If he becomes SBC president, Allen said he does not have new initiatives he would launch.

“I’ll tell you what I am interested in doing and that is supporting all of the great things that we are doing and refocusing on the main thing,” he said.

“All of these problems that we face as a Convention have become distractions, and unfortunately, they have distracted some of us, I’m afraid, from the main thing. The main thing is missions, evangelism, preaching and church planting.”

When it comes to problems in the SBC, he said, “let’s address the problem. Don’t ignore them, don’t sweep them under the rug, but let’s try to refocus and make the main thing the main thing.”

    About the Author

  • Brandon Porter

    Brandon Porter serves as Associate Vice President for Convention News at the SBC Executive Committee

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