BAPTIST MADNESS 2017: First Round, Part 1

The 2017 edition of Baptist Madness begins with two compelling match ups. Actually the whole tournament is filled with great match ups. We have some competitors returning from last year, including last year’s winner–C. H. Spurgeon. Will he be able to repeat this year? As they say, this is why we play the games!

Now on to today’s match ups…

Match Up #1

R. G. Lee

[Adapted from “The Life of Dr. R. G. Lee” on the Union University website:]

R G Lee
R G Lee

Robert Greene Lee was born to sharecroppers in York County, South Carolina [on November 11,] 1886. Growing up working the farm, picking cotton and going to Fort Mill Baptist Church, he made a profession of faith and was baptized at age twelve. From that moment, he felt both a call to preach and the need to be properly educated to fulfill that call. Though his access to formal education was limited in his early life, he exhibited a love of learning that stayed with him throughout his life. As a boy, he trapped rabbits and sold peanuts to earn money for tutoring in Latin. When, at sixteen, he met Dr. Edwin Poteat, President of Furman University, he learned of Furman Fitting School where he would eventually do his preparatory work for college. Despite his desire to receive an education, he vowed to stay on the farm and help his family until he was twenty-one. He then borrowed the money for passage to Panama where he worked on construction of the Panama Canal for nine months to raise enough money for his first year of preparatory school.

After graduation, Lee continued to pastor churches and also took positions teaching, first at an elementary school and later as principal of a high school. His first full-time pastorate was the Red Bank Baptist Church in Saluda, South Carolina. When, in 1918, Dr. Poteat offered Lee the position as Chair of Latin at Furman, Lee could see the realization of his dream to combine his preaching with teaching. In the spring of 1918, he resigned his position in Saluda and headed to New Orleans for graduate work at Tulane to prepare for the position at Furman. Upon returning from New Orleans, however, he was informed that the Board of Trustees had decided that no new professor could hold a pastorate concurrently. Lee’s response was to resign his new position with the university. It was several months before he was called to pastor First Baptist Church, Edgefield, South Carolina.

While in Edgefield, Lee completed a correspondence course with the Chicago Law School with work in ethics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and international law. He was awarded a Ph.D. after the one year residency requirement was waived on the strength of his previous academic work. It was also in Edgefield that Lee originated his most famous sermon, Payday—Someday. He would preach this sermon more than 1200 times in his lifetime.

On December 11, 1927, Robert Greene Lee began his tenure as pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Despite numerous opportunities, Dr. Lee remained at Bellevue until his resignation, February 1, 1960. His time at Bellevue was also marked as a time of great denominational service. He served as president of the Tennessee Baptist Convention 1931-1935 and as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1949-1951. He was a trustee for Union University from 1941-1954. The Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Union University twice asked Dr. Lee to consider the presidency of the university. Fully dedicated now to his preaching ministry, Dr. Lee refused.

In April 1977 Dr. Lee suffered a series of heart attacks in Oklahoma City while there for a revival at First Baptist Church. He died in Memphis sixteen months later July 20, 1978.


[Adapted from “Jerry Vines: American Preacher” at Wikipedia website:; and “About Jerry Vines” at his ministry website:]

Jerry Vines
Jerry Vines

Jerry Vines was born in Carrollton, Georgia near Atlanta in 1937. Before attending seminary, he pastored his first church, Centralhatchee Baptist Church, at the age of 16. He was educated at Mercer University, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and Luther Rice University before pastoring in churches in Alabama and Georgia. While pastor of Dauphin Way Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama he was elected President of the Alabama Pastors’ Conference. He relocated to Jacksonville in 1982 to co-pastor the First Baptist Church with Homer G. Lindsay, Jr.

In June 1988, he was elected President of the Southern Baptist Convention, served two terms, and was supportive of the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence. During his first 20 years at First Baptist Jacksonville, he baptized 18,177 people and was influential in starting the First Baptist Church Pastors’ Conference which drew thousands of ministers and church works from across the world. Vines announced his retirement from First Baptist in May 2005 and preached his last sermon as pastor of the church in 2006 at the close of the 20th annual Pastors’ conference.

He has since started his own ministry, Jerry Vines Ministries. This ministry is an outreach to further educate pastors in different areas of the ministry. His ministry website also includes these tidbits of information: “My ministry has taken me from country and neighborhood churches in Georgia to a large city church in Alabama and then to the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida.The purpose of Jerry Vines Ministries is the same as my purpose has been during these 60+ years – to win people to Christ and to help those who know Christ grow in their Christian lives.” And “Dr. Vines’ interests include Alabama football. It’s a year-round passion! He also enjoys spending his free time in the Smoky Mountains with his family, especially his grandchildren! While there, it is a tradition for him to frequent The Old Mill restaurant for breakfast in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.”

Dr. Vines is married to the former Janet Denney and they have four children and seven grandchildren.

Match Up #2

Mark Dever

[Adapted from “Mark Dever” at Wikipedia website:; and from “Ministry in the Capitol: An Interview with Mark Dever” at Ligonier website:]

Mark Dever
Mark Dever

Mark Dever, born August 28, 1960, is the senior pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and the president of 9Marks (formerly known as the Center for Church Reform), a Christian ministry he co-founded “in an effort to build biblically faithful churches in America.” He earned the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, from Duke University, Master of Divinity, summa cum laude, from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Master of Theology from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Doctor of Philosophy in ecclesiastical history from Cambridge University.

Dr. Dever grew up in rural Kentucky where he was an avid reader. He began reading sections of the World Book Encyclopedia and the Harvard Classics before he was ten years old and based upon his reading and thinking considered himself an agnostic in his younger years. Later rereading and thinking about the Gospels and the change that he saw in the life of Jesus’ disciples led him to become a Christian.

In an interview Dr. Dever commented on his call to serve Capitol Hill Baptist Church and his perspective on the Nine Marks of the local church:

“CHBC is more than a hundred years old. It was the first church of any denomination in the northeast quarter of Washington, D.C. They had a long and healthy pastorate in the first half of the twentieth century, followed by eight shorter pastorates in the second half, many of them not so healthy. Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, a member of CHBC since the mid-1950s, wrote me in January 1993 to let me know of their need for a pastor. I first met Carl Henry some years earlier and had gotten to know him fairly well. He encouraged me to teach in a seminary, so I was initially surprised when I got his letter asking about my interest in pastoring the church on Capitol Hill. I then visited the church and through much prayer and conversation, both the church and I concluded that I should come to be their pastor. This was clear to me and my wife by the summer of 1993, and the congregation there voted to call me in December 1993. After a couple of weeks of prayer and reflection, I accepted the call. They understood that I wouldn’t be able to start serving until the second half of 1994. My family and I moved there in the middle part of 1994, and they graciously allowed me to simply attend throughout July, August, and September so that I could get used to what their culture was like. I was finally installed as the pastor on the last Sunday of September 1994; I began preaching the first Sunday in October 1994; and I’ve been there ever since.”

“The nine marks of a healthy church are expositional preaching, biblical theology, the gospel, conversion, evangelism, church membership, church discipline, biblical church leadership, and discipleship and growth. These marks are not merely important because they are biblical; there are in fact many more biblical marks of a healthy church that could be considered. It’s that these are so often and unwittingly neglected. For example, while there may be widespread misunderstanding about worship, missions, or prayer, there has been lots of emphasis on all three from different camps for decades. Vast conferences are organized for worship leaders, for missions, or for concerts of prayer. All of these are good, but these topics are not neglected. Biblical theology, however, is often simply left to the academics. Conversion for many people is a paragraph in a systematic theology book. Church membership is downplayed or even denied by many churches. And yet these issues are absolutely vital for pastors and church leaders to understand.”


[Adapted from “James Milton Carroll” at Wikipedia website:; and from “James Milton [J. M. Carroll. D. D.” at Baptist History Homepage website:; and from “Dr. J.M. Carroll Set SMA on Path to Success” at San Marcos Academy website:]

J M Carroll
J M Carroll

James Milton Carroll (January 8, 1852 – January 10, 1931) was an American Baptist pastor, leader, historian, author, and educator. He was one of twelve children born to Benajah and Mary Eliza (Mallard) Carroll. His father was a Baptist minister. Born near Monticello, Arkansas, he moved in 1858 at age six with his family to Burleson County, Texas. Carroll was orphaned by age seventeen. On December 22, 1870, at age 18, Carroll married Sudie Eliza Womble from Caldwell, Texas.

Dr. Carroll founded and led the Education Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas through its first ten years. He later served as secretary and statistician for the Convention. He was also involved with the regional Southern Baptist Convention (which became a national organization). At his graduation, from Baylor University, Dr. Carroll became pastor at Anderson, Grimes county, Texas, in addition to which he was pastor of the church at Oakland, and so continued for two years. During that period he became Corresponding Secretary of the Sunday School Convention of Texas, and from that time forward was in some way connected with denominational interests in addition to his regular church work. From Anderson he went as a missionary pastor to Corpus Christi, Texas, where he remained for very nearly three years, and subsequently spent something less than five years at Lampasas, Texas, as pastor. A writer in Carroll’s day stated, “It was here that he probably did his best pastoral work. He still has a warm place in the hearts of the older members of that church.” Dr. Carroll also pastored in Taylor, Waco, and San Antonio.

Dr. Carroll eventually turned his focus to writing with the intention of devoting several years to the writing of a Texas Baptist History, for which he had been gathering material for thirty years, but by the time he had gotten under headway in this work, the call came for him to accept some work in Southwest Texas, in the building of a school for that section of the State. Five years were given to the planning and building of San Marcos Baptist Academy. A friend told him “It may be that God wants you to make history now instead of writing it.” So, Dr. Carroll accepted the offer to serve as president and began to oversee the building process.

The original Academy campus was located about a mile or two from the courthouse square in San Marcos. In July of 1907, Dr. Carroll and his daughter helped guide the cornerstone for the first building into place. The building was a very impressive structure, as you can see in the postcard on the right. It was completed in time for the school to open its doors September 24, 1908, to about 200 students. By that time, the building had been named Carroll Hall, in honor of Dr. Carroll. He would later go on to serve as the first president of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, as well as Howard Payne College.

His lasting legacy among Baptists is his booklet entitled The Trail of Blood (1931). This collection of five lectures describes Baptist history as a direct succession from apostolic times of early Christianity. The Trail of Blood promoted the Landmarkist view of Baptist origins, a movement that developed in the mid-nineteenth century among Tennessee and western congregations, and has had lasting influences.

Well, this is day one of the First Round. Check back in daily to cast your vote for your favorite in these contests. The next match ups of this round will be posted on March 5.



    • While I am inclined to fully agree that his trail of blood is highly aberrant, as league commish the decision to accept him into the tournament is as irrevocable as a Baptist’s view of the security of believers. The best one could do is vote for the other candidate…um competitor…um contestant (possibly even the ‘lesser of two evils’ or genuinely a better choice… O:-) ).

      AND, his status as the initial president of that fine Oklahoma Baptist bastion of higher education helped to clinch his inclusion in this year’s tourney–though, again, I am thankful that my alma mater does not retain advocacy of his position regarding Baptist history.

      • Not exclude Mr. Carroll from the tournament, but my reason not to vote for Mr. Carroll. My apologies for not making myself clear earlier.

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