Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Secular Is A Four Letter Word…

Written by: on January 18, 2019

In the world of Southern Baptist life, secular is a four letter word. The SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) affiliated churches are where sermons can be heard about the secularization of society and all of the ills that brings. It is an us vs. them mentality and it can be very divisive. The definition of secular they would use is secular3, “a move from a society where belief in God is unchallenged and indeed unproblematic, to one in which it is understood to be on option among others, and frequently not the easiest to embrace.” [1] Taylor’s book A Secular Age and Smith’s guidepost book How (Not) To Be Secular are a map to “What changed? How?” [2] within a religious society. 

In the SBC churches I have served in as youth minister, the “secularization” of society has been a topic the pastors have had a preoccupation as a topic from the pulpit. As a result, most of the members of those churches have also had the same preoccupation. I have to admit, I have dallied with the same thing myself over the years, what always pulled me out of the focus on that was an issue that needed, not an explanation, but just a minister. People did not need to hear how I thought by having God removed from society led to societies ills. They needed to hear that God was still in control no matter what.

Perhaps, as James Smith argues in his article, Cracks In The Secular, “we might notice that many supposedly secular movements are characterized by a kind of religious ardour and devotion, not least the environmental movement” [3]. I have long argued a secular world view and thus an atheistic world view is just as much a religion as Christianity, Islam, or any other. It has it’s own set of beliefs, which, if you do not agree with them you are not able to think on your own. They are taught at the highest level with disdain and even hatred of other thoughts. There is a cult like following for their belief system.  Smith goes on to argue that what we see now from a secular society may just be the death throes of a failed ideal. He posits “What if secularism is loudest precisely because it is a final cry before it is unveiled as implausible and unsustainable? After all, the emperor shouts loudest about the beauty of his clothing precisely when he least believes it himself.” [3] This is a fascinating thought. What if society is tired of elitists telling them they are small minded if they believe in God, what if they are the loudest before the fall. It is an interesting thought. 

If this is true, and we are witnessing a rebirth of faith, it will not be the same faith that some in our society yearn for. In older SBC churches I have often heard, it was a better time in the 50’s (or insert decade here) because it was ok to be Christian. Inevitably I bring about the question of “Better for who?” Certainly not people of color, not for people of different faiths (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, etc.), not even for you if you were living in a town where everyone was one denomination and you were a different denomination. This has been written about extensively by writers more adept to this than I. The argument I would make is the old way of doing things was certainly not the best way. I have friends who have been run out of their pastoral position because they dare to reach out to the changing community around them and minister to hispanic youth, I sat in a meeting with him only to see an elder stand up and say “We don’t want those people in our church” speaking of young hispanic youth. My friend stood his ground and was fired. I bet if you cornered that man he would yearn for the church of his youth, where we did it like his grandparents did, black or brown or yellow or whatever color was not his was not welcomed.

The rebirth of faith gives leaders the opportunity to lead in a way they may not have if the secular3 had not come about. What if instead of large mega churches we have small house churches where we are not bound by walls and having to take care of the building but are free to reach the world around us without hinderance. What if, instead of spending millions of dollars each year on new buildings, we spent that money lifting up those around us? Feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, loving the unlovable.

This falls in line with my problem. We, as a church, need to be more focused on those who need the love of Christ than we are on our buildings, what music we like, what decorations are to our liking. If we are going to yearn for anything, we need to yearn for Christ to lead, not our desires. This does not mean I am against a church building though, I understand there is a social need for a gathering place, but it does not need to dominate our thoughts, our needs and our money.



[1]Taylor, Charles. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2018. 3.

[2] Smith, James K. A. How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015. 23.

[3] Smith, James. “CRACKS IN THE SECULAR.” Policy Options 36, no. 1 (2015): 16-18.

[3] Ibid.

About the Author

Jason Turbeville

A pastor, husband and father who loves to be around others. These are the things that describe me. I was a youth minister for 15 years but God changed the calling on my life. I love to travel and see where God takes me in my life.

6 responses to “Secular Is A Four Letter Word…”

  1. M Webb says:

    Welcome back and great introduction and summation of the foul definition of secularization in the SBC. I like your argument about who yells loudest “may just be the death throes of a failed ideal.” I wish we could apply that to our current political structure. They keep yelling louder and louder with no end in sight. Like Shawn said in his post, we are in a time when people, large groups of them, will “not endure sound teaching (doctrine), will have “itching ears” and align themselves with anyone who will tell them what they want to hear, and will “turn away from listening to the truth” (Scripture). (2 Tim. 4:3-4)
    I hear you and your argument over “buildings” and the “money” spent to erect these symbols. When people build structures today, it is to house people, programs, and offices for the staff. When they built structures in the Old Testament, they were to house God and His Glory. With the 2nd Covenant through Christ, I wonder what is the right type of structure(s). I wonder if the prosperity style mega churches are what the Holy Spirit was thinking about when he inspires, convicts, and draws people praise and worship Jesus Christ. Great post sir!
    Stand firm,
    M. Webb

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I too am worn out with the yelling in our government. It seems the call of the day is whoever can make the most accusations (whether they are true or not) the loudest gets the win. Rhetoric is a dead art, the art of the argument with sound reason is seemingly dead, but within the realms of God there is still hope. The argument for Christ does not go to the loudest, but to the truth, the Holy Spirit. Thanks Brother…

  2. Dan Kreiss says:


    I believe you have captured some of the critical issues the Church faces in our contemporary world. The tension you mention in the SBC churches is exactly what Taylor/Smith argue against when they demonstrate how thoroughly secularism has encompassed society, even those churches that most fear it.

    I hope the future of the church looks more like your vision than what we currently see. I am convinced that only then will emerging generations be able to see past the negative stereotypes they often hold of the church, enabling them to be introduced to their Creator and loving Saviour.

    • Jason Turbeville says:

      I too hope the church of the future looks more like the ancient church. I saw a quote the other day, can’t remember where, that said if you left the church because someone hurt you then your faith was in people not God. I think this speaks to our age of whatever feels right do it, my experience with the church needs to be seen in the light of the mercy and grace given to us through Christ’s work on the cross, not by my friendships or enemies.


  3. Jay Forseth says:

    Hello Jason!

    To me, this was a worthwhile quote from your own words, “I have long argued a secular world view and thus an atheistic world view is just as much a religion as Christianity, Islam, or any other. It has it’s own set of beliefs, which, if you do not agree with them you are not able to think on your own.”

    Thanks for your honest appraisal of the SBC affiliated churches, and for stepping outside your tribe to assess shortcomings. I also appreciated your sincere pointing out, “We, as a church, need to be more focused on those who need the love of Christ than we are on our buildings, what music we like, what decorations are to our liking.”

    There you go, right back to our first semester studies on Western consumerism and meisms. Well done!

  4. Kyle Chalko says:

    Jason great job. Excellent post. Interesting to read more about your denomination as well. I wonder if it’s worth beginning enlightening the conversation to your peers at the SBC, or if it would just make you look like the bad guy, and siding with secularists? Im praying God will use you to deconstruct the us vs them mentality that puts up walls to those we are called to reach.

    Your last paragraph is excellent and our best reminder this week.

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