Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Read This!

If you are a young Southern Baptist, I encourage you to read this.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Toward a Great Commission Resurgence

Many years ago, while I was still a child and long before I was a Southern Baptist, conservative Baptist leaders began what would come to be known as the “Conservative Resurgence.” I was a late comer to this resurgence, attending my second Convention in Orlando to cast my ballot for the 2000 Baptist Faith & Message. I am grateful for those leaders who led our denomination back to a firm belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

Over the past year, and many times at this year's Convention, leaders have been calling on the need now for a “Great Commission Resurgence.” For this resurgence to occur, however, there will have to be a different strategy. Put simply, the Conservative Resurgence occurred because the Convention elected conservative presidents who in turn appointed Conservative committees who nominated Conservative trustees. Over time, as political battles were won on the Convention floor, and with the 2000 BFM as a capstone, the Conservative Resurgence came to pass. If a Great Commission Resurgence is to occur, however, it will not be won by politics alone. We cannot vote our way to such a resurgence.

Such a resurgence will require two things. First, a GC Resurgence will require us to cooperate with each other to accomplish the larger tasks of world evangelization. To a certain extent, there is still a need for action at the Convention level. The needed action, however, is not in electing men passionate about evangelism and missions. I believe we consistently have done that in recent years. Rather, we need to return to a cooperation among the variety of conservative Baptist expressions for the common goal of Great Commission work, or, as David Dockery puts it, we need consensus and renewal. Electing men committed to such cooperation is a step, but we must each make a personal commitment to such cooperation. Second, and more significantly, a GC Resurgence will have to begin in my own life and the lives of each Southern Baptist as we renew not only our “commitment” to evangelism and missions, but actually change our practice and actually do evangelism. The problem cannot be fixed merely at the denominational level. As Frank Page stated in his president’s address, “Blame the denomination if you wish, but the problem is me.” I share in that culpability. Each of us should take a hard look at our own lives and seek revival in our personal evangelistic fervor.



Friday, June 13, 2008

Why I have signed the IMB Change Petition

I am appealing to all Southern Baptists with a concern for missions. Many of you are aware of the personnel policies put in place two years ago concerning Baptism and "Private prayer language." Recently, Allan Blume, a North Carolina pastor, and his wife Pam, a former IMB trustee, started an online petition to reverse these policies. At the Convention this week, I had the opportunity to have dinner with the Blumes and hear their heart on this issue. Heidi and I have added our names to this petition and encourage you to do the same. You may do so at http://imbchange.info. Of course, I realize the decision to add your name to such a list should not be taken lightly, however, I ask that you prayerfully consider doing so.

Previously, I have blogged on my reasons for opposing the “eternal security” clause of the baptism policy. This clause is the most personal for me, because it is the point of disqualification for me, were we to be called to international mission service. I was baptized, though by immersion and as a believer, in a church that did not believe in eternal security. I have come to believe that the baptism policy should be reversed in its entirety as well as the policy on private prayer language. Here are my reasons.

On the Baptism policy:

The policy goes beyond the BF&M 2000 and adds restrictions not included in the language of this consensus doctrinal statement.

The proper place for making decisions about baptism is the local church. The policy usurps the authority of the local church in determining whose baptism is valid and whose is not.

The policy makes a blanket restriction which does not allow for a more careful analysis of each situation – the local church is the best place for such a careful analysis and the proper place where such decisions should be made.

The remedy required, requesting (re)baptism by one’s local church is not practical in many cases. Many missionary candidates are pastors who have themselves baptized many members of their church. Others belong to churches who, because of their (correct) doctrinal stand, will not baptize the person again.

There is no biblical warrant for rebaptism of someone who has been baptized by immersion as a believer.

On the Private Prayer Language (PPL) policy:

PPL is a doctrinal issue, not a moral one, and is not addressed in the BF&M 2000 nor any resolution of the SBC. While I believe PPL to be a incorrect understanding of Scripture, I do not believe that a belief and/or practice of PPL should disqualify one from service, especially given the Convention’s silence on the issue up to this point.

PPL is part of a person’s private devotional life. There is no evidence that PPL practice among some Southern Baptists leads to Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine or practice. Further, PPL is by definition a “private” practice not a public one.

Finally, it is absolutely bad form to pass a personnel policy which the current president of the IMB would himself be disqualified. The passing of this policy gives the appearance (whether or not this is actually the case) of intentionally embarrassing the current president. If there is a legitimate problem with Jerry Rankin, then by all means ask for his resignation. If not, then at the very least wait until Rankin retires to pass such a policy. To pass a policy which disqualifies the president, especially when there is no evidence of a pressing need to do so, is just plain wrong and in poor taste.


Well, for what its worth, these are my reasons. If you are familiar with the issue at all, there is probably nothing here that you have not heard before. Because of these policies, I would be disqualified from service with the IMB. I know several highly qualified persons, fine Christian servants, who also are disqualified from service with the IMB.

If you are concerned about this issue, I encourage you to sign the petition. At this time, I believe this is the best course of action to see these policies reversed.



***Addendum (June 19, 2008): Let me add that a significant reason these policies should be reversed is that there is no where near a consensus of opinion among Southern Baptists on either PPL or alien immersion. While I do not support imposing a rule on how trustees can govern their entities, I do believe that mission board trustees have a responsibility, on doctrinal matters, to reflect the consensus of Southern Baptist belief.

Ten Highlights from the Convention that Have Nothing to do with Politics

With all the post-Convention blogging about various issues, I thought I would offer my favorite non-political aspects of my Convention experience this year. Here are my Top 10 experiences:

10. I got to reunite with old friends from across the Convention.

9. I got to hang out with my former college roommate for an afternoon.

8. I got harassed by my pastor’s wife because of my former college roommate.

7. I got to meet a pastor and his wife who are rightly opposing the IMB Personnel Policies, a seminary professor with whom I disagree a lot but was genuinely a nice guy, a church planter who used to grade for my professor, two staff members from a mission-minded church in NW Indiana, and I got Shane Hall’s autograph.

6. I ran into my former pastor (who gave me a signed copy of his new book).

5. I got to hang out at the NAMB and IMB displays and talk to missionaries.

4. I got to pray with and for fellow believers.

3. I got to stay up late and watch Indiana Jones.

2. I got to have butter on my popcorn.

1. I got 15 free pens, 6 bags, 2 coffee mugs, a T-shirt, 5 free books, 3 highlighters, 2 foam basketballs, a miniature bottle of hot sauce, and a tie tack.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A quick thought about the SBC President elect

It’s Wednesday morning and so far all has been well. I have been able to touch base with a number of old friends and was pleased that the Convention has for the most part been uneventful.

Johnny Hunt, I believe, will make a good President. His election on the first ballot among six candidates is remarkable (for the record, I voted for Avery Willis). I believe Hunt will bring two things to the Convention that we need at this time.

First, as Southern Baptists, myself included, have come to the realization that we need a Great Commission resurgence, Johnny Hunt can effectively lead in that resurgence. Hunt is respected across the spectrum of Baptists as a man passionate about evangelism and missions and his passion is contagious. To the extent an SBC president can promote, model, and spur on Baptists to Great Commission work, I believe Johnny will do so.

Second, I believe Johnny Hunt can lead us in the direction of unity around the gospel. No factions on either side of current debates can claim victory because of their endorsement of one of the other fine candidates. Hunt will be in a better position to bring together the various groups around the cause of the gospel. (I also sincerely hope Hunt will inform himself about the “narrowing of doctrinal parameters” issue and will appoint men and women who will not further that narrowing.) He has done so in the past. I trust his presidency will continue that trend.

That’s all for now. More Convention analysis after I get home.