I was a messenger to the Southern Baptist Convention from 2006 until 2011. I took a more active part in some than in others, but I was always encouraged by the fact that the churches, through their messengers, set the tone for and control the direction of our great cooperative enterprise. Though I was without ballots in New Orleans in 2012, and though I missed them greatly, I was more encouraged following this convention than I have been following any other. The spirit of cooperation I sensed, even from those with whom I have been opposed on various issues in the past, contributed greatly to that encouragement. Equally encouraging was the sense that, in the business sessions, the messengers were heard and their will was carried out. I am more grateful than ever to be a Southern Baptist following this most recent meeting.
In this post, I will share my reflections on the various sessions of the convention, explaining my reaction to the various items presented and my hope for the future based on the actions of the convention in session. I will divide these reactions based on the various types of business conducted, reacting in order to the motions presented and their disposal by the convention, the election of our officers, the reports of the convention entities, and the report of the Committee on Resolutions. I will close with general observations gleaned from my observations of the mood in the convention hall, as well as various conversations over meals, in the exhibit hall, and elsewhere. Read more
It has often been said that, thanks to the battles of the last generation in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to return the convention to a commitment to biblical inerrancy, we can be grateful that theological discussions in the SBC can be conducted on that basis. We do not spend our time debating and arguing the veracity of the creation narrative or whether the teachings of Paul on gender roles and homosexuality are culturally conditioned. We have been set free to have robust theological debate on the basis of a firm reliance on scripture, and our disagreements are family ones among brothers and sisters in Christ. David Dockery has contributed greatly to the family discussion in this presentation of essays, compiled from two conferences held at Union University, where he presides. The topics addressed are the ones we ought to be discussing, not allowing less important issues to sidetrack us. I was privileged to attend the second of these conferences, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to review this important book. Read more
Purves, Andrew. (2001). Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition. Louisville, Kentucky, Westminster John Knox Press.
This little book seeks to address the author’s concern that the practice of pastoral care “is, by and large, uninformed by historical practice.” (5) Purves identifies the need for “a profound reappraisal of core working assumptions in pastoral theology,” (5) and to this need, seeks to apply wisdom gleaned from five figures in church history: Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter.
His selection of these five was directed by the fact that they wrote directly about the work of the pastor, rather than addressing specific issues of theological debate. Read more
Thom Rainer & Eric Geiger, Simple Church. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group 2006. Pp. 257. $19.99. Hardcover.
Bringing their experience and research to bear on the organization of the local church, Rainer and Geiger argue that less is more. Specifically, they argue that a church that does less, but does so with a clear focus on their process for the making of disciples is more effective than a very active church that is not intentional about moving people to greater levels of faithfulness in their walk with Christ. This effectiveness is measured by consistent growth in worship attendance. Read more
Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. 1964. Reprint by The Baptist Standard Bearer, Inc. Pp. 292. $24.00. Paperback.
The work Verduin seeks to accomplish in this volume is thoroughly to describe the major issues that separated Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli from those who believed their reforms did not go far enough. These he identifies as the stepchildren of the reformers, justifying this moniker by their treatment at the hands of those in whom they had early placed such great hope. With a focus upon the relationship between the ecclesiastical and the civil authority, Verduin details the distinctions between these two groups as they arose around various beliefs and practices of the stepchildren. Read more
I wonder if readers can identify the source of this quote, in which the speaker is asked to explain why churches are growing:
Two ways. One is a demand answer; one is a supply answer.
The demand answer is simple. There are so many young, educated people who are struggling with ambition and isolation. They come out of a blue-collar background or a farm background and find themselves working in the jungle of Los Angeles or Cincinnati. They need something to offset that intensely competitive, high-pressure, high-stress environment. They need something that they may not be conscious of, but something that restores balance and sanity. They need community. Read more
Alert readers (and both of you know who you are) will notice that significant changes have been implemented here. Many thanks to Jesse Heath for his help in updating the look of the blog. Now if only I can come up with the content to match. If you’d like Jesse to help you with your web project, contact him via Twitter.
I recently had a Facebook conversation with a pastor friend in another city who was sharing his frustrations over difficulties he was having with a staff member. Apparently his youth pastor was leaving after a short tenure because “God was telling him” it was time to leave. Leaving aside my skepticism for anyone who claims to be getting direct revelation from God, this conversation caused me to think more about the kinds of relationships churches often have with ministers other than the pastor.
Of course, there is no mention of a “youth minister” in the Bible. But I know they exist, because I used to be one, and it is a curious relationship. Each of the four churches I served in this capacity insisted that I meet the biblical qualifications of an elder as laid out in the pastoral epistles, yet none of them viewed me as someone serving in the role of an elder. In fact, I’m convinced that some of them desired me to function more like Julie McCoy on “The Love Boat.” Read more
Last week my son, who is six years old, responded to an invitation given at a vacation Bible school he attended at another church in our community. From what I understand, there were many who responded, and he left there expressing confidence that he was now saved because he had prayed a prayer. My boy is asking some very good questions concerning the gospel, and I believe that he is moving toward the point of having saving faith, but I don’t think he has an adequate understanding of his own personal guilt, the punishment it deserves, and Christ’s work in bearing that punishment in his place. By God’s grace, he will get there. He’s headed in the right direction.
But this episode has caused me to think about the practice of VBS invitations, and I believe there is much more caution needed than there is caution exercised in our churches when it comes to this issue. Read more
According to my SiteMeter stats, I still get between 30 and 40 daily visitors, and for the life of me, I have no idea why. Oh, sure, I’ve written some compelling stuff, but it has been nearly two years since I posted anything, and longer than that since I posted with any kind of consistency. I’m hoping to change that.
Much of the break has been due to my studies at Liberty University. Twenty years ago, when I should have been pursuing my education, I was instead pursuing my dream of becoming a major league baseball umpire. Sadly, that didn’t work out as planned, but by the time it became clear that it wasn’t going to work out, life had intervened, and a college education seemed to me to be out of reach. It pretty much stayed out of reach, from my perspective, for the next decade.
Then my friend and SBC Today co-founder Joe Stewart told me about an organization called the Liberty Baptist Fellowship. Founded by Jerry Falwell in the early 1980′s, the group has two primary functions: to plant Baptist churches, and to certify chaplains to the armed forces of the United States. Only churches hold membership in this group, and one of the benefits had always been a tuition-free scholarship to Liberty University, either to study on campus or through their distance learning program. That scholarship benefit has tightened up considerably since Dr. Falwell’s death, but it still exists. When I began, the minimum contribution for a church the size of the one I serve was $25 per month, and this made a scholarship available for all full-time staff members. As of January 2011, the minimum contribution became $200 per month per scholarship, and the scholarships are limited in number. I understand that there is now a waiting list.
Even at that higher rate, discerning readers will recognize that this is still an absolute bargain, and I took full advantage. I began studies in the spring of 2008, and on May 14 of this year, I walked across the stage at the Tolsma Indoor Track Center to shake hands with Dr. Elmer Towns and to receive the degree of Bachelor of Science in Religion.*
I’m sure this won’t be the end of my educational journey. I recognize that in order to be fully effective in the role to which God has called me, pastor of a local church, I need yet more training. I’ve done some investigating of various seminary options, and look forward to beginning work on my M. Div. just as soon as I figure out where to begin it. In the mean time, I plan to return to regular posting here. I will continue to focus on issues of interest to Southern Baptists, or at least to this Southern Baptist. I will continue to write in advocacy of a robust ecclesiology, and against forces and ideas that would weaken our distinctives as Baptists. And I’ll look forward to opportunities for interaction with readers.
I had a couple of opportunities last week in Phoenix to reflect upon the beginning of my blogging in 2006. The issues we faced then are not the issues we face now, but in many ways they are similar. What I remember most fondly about those days is the relationships formed, some through heated exchanges in the comments sections of various blogs. Time and time again I was forced more deeply into the scriptures, and forced to be ever more careful in articulating what I learned there. I don’t imagine this new phase of blogging will be anything like that, so different is the landscape today from what existed five years ago. But I look forward to making my contribution.
*Dr. Towns didn’t actually hand me my diploma, of course. It was a fundraising letter with a ribbon around it.