Why You Should Support Russell Moore, Even If You Disagree With Him

Do Christians want leaders or lemmings? The recent controversy concerning Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), suggests we’d prefer the latter.

Moore is in hot water because he opposed Donald Trump during the campaign, accusing Trump of lacking a “moral compass,” inciting racial division, and harboring an attitude toward women like that of “a Bronze Age warlord.” This didn’t sit well with many Southern Baptists, who largely supported Trump. Exit polls showed a walloping 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump, many of whom, I’m sure, are Southern Baptists.

I’m not sure prominent Southern Baptists want leaders. They seem to prefer lemmings — people who will poll their constituency and then speak only what the majority want.

In addition, some very prominent Southern Baptist pastors stumped for Trump, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas, a church with a congregation of 12,000. Now, some of these Southern Baptists are trying to oust Moore, and are calling on churches to stop financially supporting the ERLC if Moore continues to lead it. “There are a number of churches that I have heard of in the SBC, fairly large churches, that are going to withhold their funds from the ERLC until this gets straightened out,” said Bill Harrell, a pastor who served on the SBC committee that created the ERLC. Similarly, Pastor Jeffress told the Wall Street Journal that supporting the ERLC may not be the “wisest expenditure.”

But the reasons Baptist leaders give for firing Moore have nothing to do with his fidelity to the gospel or the mission of the ERLC. The ERLC ostensibly exists to assist churches “by helping them understand the moral demands of the gospel” and applying “Christian principles to moral and social problems and questions of public policy.” This is precisely what Moore did when he highlighted the moral failings of Donald Trump. Even if one decided that these failings weren’t sufficient to disqualify Trump – or that the alternative was so awful that supporting Trump was warranted – it’s hard to argue that Moore didn’t do his job.

Moore argued his convictions based on his understanding of Scripture, despite overwhelming pressure to stay silent. Agree or disagree with his position, one has to admit that this is precisely what good leaders do. Yet I’m not sure prominent Southern Baptists want leaders. They seem to prefer lemmings — people who will poll their constituency and then speak only what the majority want.

Moore argued his convictions based on his understanding of Scripture, despite overwhelming pressure to stay silent. Agree or disagree with his position, one has to admit that this is precisely what good leaders do.

“I am utterly stunned that Russell Moore is being paid by Southern Baptists to insult them,” said Governor Huckabee. Similarly, former SBC President and megachurch Pastor Jack Graham, who serves on Trump’s evangelical advisory board, said of Moore’s anti-Trump comments: “There was a disrespectfulness towards Southern Baptists and other evangelical leaders, past and present.” Graham added that “(Moore’s) going to have no access, basically, to President Trump.”  

So apparently, Baptists don’t want a leader at the helm of the ERLC who speaks prophetically into the culture. Instead, they want someone who will curry favor – not just with prominent Southern Baptists, but with people in power. They don’t want prophets like Nathan, who confronted even King David; they want ones like Balaam, who for a price, considered cursing Israel, and eventually gave a pagan king information on how to entice Israel to sin.

We have plenty of leaders who… speak quite indignantly about moral issues when it applies to someone outside their tribe. But if it applies to a cherished ministry partner or friend, they go dumb. 

This is precisely what’s wrong with evangelicalism today. It’s full of Balaams. We have plenty of leaders who will say either what popular culture demands, or their constituency wants. They’ll speak quite indignantly about moral issues when it applies to someone outside their tribe. But if it applies to a cherished ministry partner or friend, they go dumb. Or, if their constituency changes and now approves of immorality, they’ll switch positions. We’re great at preaching to the choir. But swimming against the current? Not so much.

A friend of mine, Wendy Seidman, spent nearly two decades spearheading training and development for the Willow Creek Association, and now owns a consulting firm called GotInfluence?. Over the years, Wendy’s clients have included megachurches, Christian schools, and one of the largest Christian relief organizations in the U.S. She confirms what I have long suspected – that evangelicalism is suffering because its leaders lack courage.

These leaders often start out well, she said. They come up with a great plan and begin initiating that plan. But inevitably, they hit a wall – a crisis that demands that they take action that is painful and risky. Sadly, the majority of these leaders succumb to fear and fail to take courageous action at this crucial crossroads, she said. And instead of leading their organization to the next level, they enter what she’s termed the “doom loop” – a series of bad and cowardly decisions that lead to their decline, and the decline of their organization.

I fear evangelicalism is in this doom loop today. We’re increasingly succumbing to culture – and we’re often led by people who are more concerned about offending friends than honoring God. If we’re ever going to thrive, it’s going to take real leadership – leadership that’s willing to say what’s unpopular and follows God, rather than men. It’s also going to take a constituency that supports prophetic leaders, even if they sometimes disagree with them. No leader will be right 100% of the time. Yet as Proverbs 27:6 says: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Christian leaders who are willing to speak the unpopular truth are an endangered species. Rather than attack them, we should cherish and encourage them.

Christian leaders who are willing to speak the unpopular truth are an endangered species. Rather than attack them, we should cherish and encourage them.

I have some supporters who do that. Like many Southern Baptists were with Moore, they were upset with me after the election. They didn’t support Trump in the primaries. But when he won the GOP nomination, they got behind him in an effort to preserve religious freedom and the sanctity of life, and also to save America from Hillary Clinton, whom they regarded as thoroughly corrupt. I agreed with their assessment of Clinton, and published articles expressing my thoughts. Yet I also published articles openly critical of Trump, which they felt went too far and undermined Trump’s candidacy.

In the past, these friends have financially supported projects I’ve led. They’ve also supported me with prayer and wise advice when I’ve need it. Yet when we met after the election, I fully expected them to withdraw their support. But they didn’t. Yes, they aired their disapproval and pointed out where they felt I erred. And I listened. I deeply respect these friends. But at the end of the meeting, they reiterated that they believe in me and what I’m doing. They knew I acted according to my convictions. And even though we didn’t see eye-to-eye this time, they expressed that they would prefer I follow my convictions than violate my convictions to please them.

Every Christian leader should be so blessed to have friends and supporters like that. I risked far less than Russell Moore did when I spoke out during the election. The organization I work for, Moody Radio, didn’t pressure me one way or the other. And though some of those who follow my blog or read my articles on facebook expressed dismay, few rejected me for my opinion of Donald Trump. But Russell Moore put his job and livelihood on the line to do what he thought was right. He should be rewarded for that, not censured. And I’m heartened that thousands have rallied to his side, using the hashtag #IStandWithMoore to express their support. Russell Moore is a rare and courageous leader at a time when evangelicals desperately need courageous leadership. Southern Baptists need Russell Moore. Evangelicals need Russell Moore, and more leaders like him.    

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14 thoughts on “Why You Should Support Russell Moore, Even If You Disagree With Him

  1. “But Russell Moore put his job and livelihood on the line to do what he thought was right. He should be rewarded for that, not censured.”
    If what “he thought was right” was from the Lord, then the Lord will reward him for his faithfulness.

    • Moore was very, very wrong. Nothing worse than a political pastor shilling for a candidate. Would he rather have Hillary Clinton as President?

  2. Gary

    To answer your question, I want leaders. But I don’t see RM as a leader. He’s typical of elite, celebrity “pastors” who speak condescendingly to us normal people. I didn’t vote for DT, but I was greatly bothered that RM scolded people for doing so, yet supported John M in 2008. That’s straight up hypocrisy.

    • Gary

      One of the main Evangelical criticisms of Trump is that he’s a womanizer, been married several times, etc. Most folks (I’m guessing you too) don’t know that McCain was previously married and that marriage ended due to his cheating on his wife. If you’re going to claim that as a Christian, you can’t vote for Trump, on moral grounds, then you can’t support McCain, on moral grounds either. On a separate note, McCain is a first rate warmonger like no other, so I have no earthly idea how any Christian can have voted for him back in 2008.

  3. Alfred E. James

    I actually like Russell Moore. I did not vote for Trump or Clinton. It is time for followers of Christ to understand that conservatism or liberalism is not what we are called to, we are called to be faithful. I think Mr. Moore is one of those Christian leaders to examines things and commits to it or opposes. There are times when I think he does things to stir us up or make us think as we need to do more of this. It would do many of us good to read Daniel and understand one of the purposes of the book, to help God’s people to understand that no matter who is in power on earth, God is still ultimately in control and is able to use whoever to bring about His plans. It is He who changes the times and seasons, He sets up leaders and He takes down, the goal is to be on God’s side.

  4. Gary

    Sorry Julie, but as Janet Mefferd points out, you missed the boat on this one. The Russell Moore issue is much, much deeper than DT.
    http://janetmefferd.com/2017/01/russell-moore-vs-conservatives-this-isnt-just-about-trump/

    It’s astounding to me that you can decry what’s happening at your alma mater, yet at the same time support Moore. Let me connect the dots for you: Moore is, under the guise of Christianity, pushing the same leftist ideas that you claimed to be opposed to at Wheaton.

  5. JA Grant

    My objections to Moore came long before the Donald Trump thing. He has an agenda and could care less what other Christians think as he’s in the regular business of blocking those who even respectfully question him.

  6. Gary,
    I don’t agree with everything Russell Moore has done or not done. But Mefferd does not offer a balanced picture. She omits that Moore has not only taken on the Religious Right, but also the Evangelical Left. My esteem for him grew when he took the stage at the Justice Conference and boldly challenged the Left-leaning group on abortion, sexual ethics and the reality of hell. His talk evoked gasps and reportedly caused some liberals to walk out. https://juicyecumenism.com/2016/06/05/russell-moore-justice-conference-dont-silent-unborn-sexuality-hell/
    As fellow conservative Rod Dreher noted in an article on Moore, Moore is not a useful idiot of either the Republican or Democratic Party. Yet my concern, and the concern of some others like me, is that that is exactly what the church has become — on both the Right and Left. I don’t agree with everything Moore espouses, and I am probably more conservative on some political issues than he is. But he’s no liberal. And at least, he’s shown himself to be principle-driven, not party- or power-driven.
    If we’re going to criticize Moore, let it be because he has stated a wrong position. but not for pointing out the immorality of our candidate, or for offending our sensibilities by pointing out how bombastic some Christian radio is, or how ridiculous we behave in our “race for fundraising success and media platform.” I don’t think we’d be nearly as offended if we didn’t realize that he’s often right and it hurts.

  7. Gary

    OK Julie, but now we’re back to square one. Back to the very point of this entire post you made. I don’t support RM, and I don’t support him because he’s wrong on too many issues. In stating this, I’m doing exactly what you said in your most recent comment, in your last paragraph (“if we’re going to criticize Moore, let it be because he has stated a wrong position”). You’re the one though who has continued with the straw man that the only reason people don’t support RM is because of his position on DT.
    The comment above from JA Grant is spot on and is quite ironic to your post. You asked in the OP is Christians want lemmings or leaders. This was obviously a rhetorical question making the point that we don’t want or need lemmings. The irony that JA Grant pointed out is that by blocking those who even respectfully question him, Moore is showing that he’s only interested in having lemmings around him.

  8. Jim

    I read with interest both Janet Medford’s blog post, and the “Juicy Ecumenism” piece. It appears Mr. Moore enjoys stirring the pot wherever he goes. He’s a leftist activist when addressing conservatives and, to paraphrase his “Justice Conference” comment, a polyester-wearing conservative when addressing evangelical SJWs. So what is he really accomplishing? Only the Lord knows.

  9. Samuel Dijk

    Russell Moore is a lemming, not those who are trying to get rid of him. Here is a man who wrote “A White Church No More” for the New York Times and slandered every Trump supporter as a racist: “This election has cast light on the darkness of pent-up nativism and bigotry all over the country. There are not-so-coded messages denouncing African-Americans and immigrants; concern about racial justice and national unity is ridiculed as “political correctness.” Religious minorities are scapegoated for the sins of others, with basic religious freedoms for them called into question.”

    Talk about painting with a broad brush! What evidence does he give of these horrible crimes. Well, none, actually. This is being a slanderer–not a prophet.

    And, instead of printing this in a newspaper which actual Baptists read, he prints it in the New York Times. Why? Because it gets him brownie points with the costal elites, which is all he seems to be after.

  10. Robert Hamilton

    It is time for him to go. His views, positions and theology do not represent the majority of the SBC. He states him opinions as if the are scripture and belittles anyone who disagrees. This is not the kind of person we need in any leadership position.

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